Need to buy a new water heater? Or, wondering how to save money by operating your current water heater more efficiently?

Hereís some basic advice about hot water heaters and some tips on energy efficiency and safety.

We know: 1-Minute Lesson On Water Heaters

How do hot water heaters work?

Most hot water heaters use a large storage tank to hold heated water that is ready for use when you turn on your hot water tap. Hot water comes out of the top of the tank, and cold water replaces it in the bottom of the tank.

Less common are demand water heaters that heat water as you use it;  heat pump water heaters; and, indirect water heaters that use your home heating system like a boiler to heat the water you use.

How are water heaters fueled?

The two most popular kinds of energy used for water heaters are gas and electricity. Itís also possible to find water heaters that use propane, oil, and solar power.

Which type of water heater is best?

Depends on what your needs are.

For the average household, a gas or electric water storage hot water heater may be best. They are usually 30, 40 or 50 gallons. According to the Federal Energy Management Program, "Where natural gas is available on site, a gas water heater will almost always be life-cycle cost-effective relative to an electric model."

Depending on the climate and cost of fuel, a solar-powered heater could save you money.

If you donít need much hot water often, a tankless, on demand water heating system is the most cost effective.

How can I save money and energy with my water heater?

If your water heater has a storage tank, there are a number of ways to save energy.

  • Use a specially-designed hot water heater 'blanket' to help retain the heat in the tank.
  • Don't buy a tank that is bigger than you need, so that you donít heat water unnecessarily.
  • Set the heater temperature at the lowest setting that is practical, usually about 110 Ė 130 degrees F.
  • Turn you heater off or down while your on vacation. (With gas heaters, remember you must relight the pilot if you turn it off.)

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has a new voluntary standard for conventional tank gas water heaters. Beginning in July 2003, these heaters must be equipped with a new safety technology called a flame arrestor that helps prevent ignition of vapors in the room. Make sure you get this new technology.

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