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How to Tell If You Have a High-Efficiency Water Heater

Most likely you’ve heard about the benefits of having a high-efficiency water heater. Higher efficiency means less energy wasted, which in turn saves you money on your utility bills. But if your water heater was installed before you moved in, or if it was installed a long time ago, you may not know offhand what kind it is. Here’s everything you need to know about having a high-efficiency water heater: what it does, why you need one, and when to replace yours.

What Is a High-Efficiency Water Heater?

Why is efficiency so talked about with water heaters? You may not realize it, but a lot of the energy you put into heating water for use in your home actually is wasted. There are three main places you lose energy: in the conversion from energy to heat, while the hot water is sitting around in the tank (if you have a traditional storage-tank water heater), and when the hot water is piped to different parts of the house. Since hot water is the second biggest demand on your energy bill, it makes sense to try to minimize the energy spent on it.

A high-efficiency water heater won’t do anything to solve energy loss after the water leaves the heater, obviously. That’s a different discussion. But a high-efficiency water heater improves efficiency both where the energy is converted into heat, and also in retaining the heat in a storage-tank water heater. Usually, this means more efficient burners, heat traps, and insulation in the tank walls. The most efficient water heaters even have a way to salvage heat from the exhaust gases, which would normally just be vented to the outside, via condensation.

Do I Have a High-Efficiency Water Heater?

Now that you know what a high-efficiency water heater does and why you want one in your home, it’s time to determine whether yours already is. Most likely, if your water heater is older, it is not going to be up to modern efficiency standards, so checking on the age is the first step. If your water heater is 10 years old or more, it’s time to replace it anyway, and you can take advantage of the opportunity to get a high-efficiency model.

To determine the age of your water heater, find the manufacturer’s label. Typically the month and year it was made is part of the serial number. If you have a high-efficiency water heater, there will also be a bright yellow Energy Guide label. Older EF (High Efficiency) labels provide the annual estimated cost and energy usage to run the water heater. Newer UEF labels display the same information, but also with a First Hour Delivery (FHD) rating on storage tank models or a Gallons Per Minute (GPM) rating on tankless models, so you know how much hot water it will actually be able to put out.

When Should I Replace My Water Heater?

If you’ve determined that you do not have a high-efficiency water heater, but you want one, it may be worthwhile to replace it anyway. Storage tank models older than 10 years are recommended for replacement, providing you with a perfect opportunity to upgrade to a high-efficiency model. You should also look for signs that replacement may be imminent, such as leaking around the water heater, excessive noise coming from the heater, rusty-looking water, or even just that the water heater isn’t producing as much hot water as it once did.

Even if you do have a high-efficiency model, you should look for signs that it should be replaced, and compare the ratings on the sticker to new models. Modern standards have improved dramatically, and you may be able to save money and energy and improve your home’s energy efficiency by upgrading to a newer model.

What Next?

Replacing your water heater isn’t as scary as you might think. Call Maeser today and one of our experienced technicians will help you choose and install a high-efficiency water heater that meets your needs.

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