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Frequently Asked Questions

While water heaters are an important part of our daily lives, they are seldom thought about until yours doesn’t work. Below are several frequently asked questions we receive about water heaters.

Should I repair or replace my unit?

We recommend that customers use a systematic guide in determining whether or not they should replace their water heater. Our technicians will use factors such as

  • The existing age of the water heater,
  • The average operational utilization
  • The expected home occupancy in years and finally
  • The present repair costs. Using this proprietary formula we can provide a recommendation of what we believe your best option is.

What is a water heater efficiency factor?

The Efficiency Factor, or EF, is the measure of how efficiently your water heater converts energy to transfer heat into you water. If you compare two identically-sized water heaters using the same amount of water, the unit with a higher EF, will use less energy.

Standard tank water heaters usually have an EF of .58-.62 (meaning 58-60% efficient), while Energy Star models are rated at .67 or higher. Electric tank water heaters have very high EFs, above .90, but the energy source is much less efficient, actually making them more expensive to run. Tankless water heaters offer high EFs (.92+) so they can offer energy savings throughout their lifetime.

What is a water heater first hour rating?

First Hour Rating is a calculated amount used to explain the performance abilities of a water heater within the first hour of use when recovered to the thermostat setting. In other words, when determining the first hour rating you will start with a fully heated tank of water.

Approximate first hour rating can be determined with the following formula:
Tank Capacity x .70 + Recovery = First Hour Rating.

Example: If the water heater is 40 gallons and the heating elements are 5,500 watts (electric water heater), 40(gallons) x .7(70 percent of the tank capacity) + 22.5(GPH at 80 degree rise in temp) = 50.5 gallons first hour rating.

Why multiply by 0.70? The amount of water in the tank is multiplied by 70 percent because as water is being used, new cold water is entering the tank and diluting some of the heated water. The thermostat senses the cold water introduced into the tank and begins the heating process again.

What temperature should my water heater be set at?

Most people are comfortable with their hot water set at 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which is pre-set by most manufacturers. If you have an older model water heater, set the thermostat at a medium temperature setting. On gas models there is often a white or black dial on the front of the gas valve. On electric models the thermostat (there may be two) is concealed behind one or both panels on the side of the tank. On even newer units it is possible that the control unit is more sophisticated – in those situations (and generally) please consult your owner’s guide for proper use before doing anything!

My water heater is making strange banging noises, why is that?

You are hearing boiling water that is trapped in sediment or a layer of mineral deposits inside the bottom of the inner water heater tank. Although not a cause for immediate alarm, it means the water heater is not operating efficiently and having to work extra hard to heat the water. Per the water heater manufacturer’s instructions, you should drain the tank for about five minutes every year. If your water is especially high in iron, calcium or minerals (like it is in Tracy, CA), you should drain it more often. You drain it by running a hose from the faucet on the bottom front of the tank to a drain or outside the house.

If your water heater is an older model that has not been drained regularly, the buildup of sediment may be too much to drain out, and it will gradually heat less efficiently until it must be replaced. Newer models have a feature that prevents or greatly reduces sediment buildup.

If you are unable or do not want to do this, please call our office and one of our experienced technicians will be glad to assist.

Why is my water heater leaking?

Hot water heaters are built with a glass-lined storage tank. Over time, the natural minerals in the water can calcify, and create deposits on the inside of the tank. These can crack the glass lining and cause the water heater to leak; also, as water is heated, it expands and over time this expansion creates stress on the glass lining and can cause it to crack.

Unfortunately, when this happens, your hot water heater will need to be replaced; the cracks in the glass liner are not repairable. Sometimes, these leaks will not affect the performance or function of the water heater and people elect to wait on replacing the unit. As long as the leaking water isn’t causing damage, this is fine, but ultimately the unit will need to be replaced.

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