The Water heater is one of neglected appliances in homes, usually tucked away in some corner of the garage. We don’t pay much attention to it until it breaks. It has been around in its current form for a long time. It was invented in the 1889 by Edwin Ruud and it hasn’t changed much since then. It consists of a 40 or more gallon cylindrical container with a gas burner or sometimes an electric element. It heats the water slowly and keeps it hot all the time.
Its burner has a pilot light that is burning gas all the time and the main burner comes periodically into action to heat the water again because the water in the container has cooled off. Well, that goes on day in day out even if the water is never used. That is because the water loses its heat to the surrounding. It is like having a kettle full of water on the cook top all the time. The newer tank water heaters are better insulated than before to reduce the standby heat loss but never the less they lose heat and the water must be constantly reheated. In today’s times where energy has become expensive and will become even more that is a total waste of energy and money. It burdens the environment even unnecessarily and contributes to earth warming and climate change.
The tank water heater is also very inefficient, not only loses its heat, standby heat loss, but it also doesn’t do a good job heating the water through its inherent design. When new they have an efficiency of about 55%. Depending on the hardness of the water it can rapidly fall to 30 or so percent because of water sediments buildup at the bottom of the tank, just like the kettle in which water sediments build up when water in it is heated over and over. The tank WH has health issues as well. Bacteria and germs love the standing warm water and grow easily and rapidly in that environment.
The water is usually not hot enough to kill them. Over time there can also be rust build up in the water tank that reduces the heating efficiency of the WH in addition of it being delivered to the bathroom faucets and kitchen sink. Sometimes you can see the rust in the tile grout discoloration. Not all of that is unhealthy but a lot of times just undesirable. The tank WH does push out some of these sediments and some of it remains in the tank and keeps building up. It is not just in the bathrooms we use hot water although the most of it is being used for bathing. We use hot water also to wash dishes sometimes and prepare food. Now if you could see all those microscopic foreign elements, bacteria and sediments you would think again of using it for food or even bathing the kids in tub with that water https://www.residencestyle.com/understanding-the-knx-for-residential-applications/.
It has happened to all of us that we ran out of hot water taking a shower or a bath. And there is no quick heat up of the water. The WH is just not designed for that and it takes a lot of energy and time again to heat 40 or more gallons of water. A lot of families have to schedule their showers because in a household with multiple persons you quickly run out of hot water. To make that hot water last a bit longer you can run the WH at a higher temperature; say 180 degree Fahrenheit so that you mix more cold water with the hot water. Running the WH at higher temperature wastes even more energy and with it of course money.
Typically people take showers in the morning before leaving home for work. The WH is not intelligent to know that after the shower you all leave the house and won’t be needing hot water until later in the afternoon when everybody gets home again. So it heats up the water again and keeps it hot all day long by heating and heating it again and again. And of course it doesn’t know that you won’t be needing hot water after taking shower and going to sleep, so it heats up the water again and keeps it hot during the night.
Storage tank water heater leaks can be expensive.
Well, the other issue with tank WHs is that they tend to leak water over time. Sometimes this happens for a long time without being noticed. Since most water heaters are placed in the garage they are usually out of sight and nobody pays attention to them. So water damage because of a water leak can go on for a very long time unnoticed and cause considerable damage to the home and surrounding in addition to wasting water and energy. Water damage to subfloors or other structures of homes is not uncommon and the repair of it tends to be costly because it wasn’t detected early.
In earth quake prone areas water heaters pose a different problem as well. If not properly anchored they can tip over and cause water damage, physical damage and of course fire. Water heaters have fallen on cars parked close to them in the garage and considering the weight of a 40 or so gallon WH full of water is approx. 330 pounds plus approx. 120 pounds for the heater itself, so a total of 450 pounds falling let’s say on a car’s hood. Now that will do significant damage not just to the hood of the car but also to what is underneath it.
And in this case it will also disconnect the gas line and we will have a gas leak as well that can lead to fire and more damage. So it is very important to make sure that the tank WH is properly anchored to something that can hold the weight just in case. Bolts and steel straps should be strong enough and anchored to main wood studs or masonry walls.