Top 4 Questions You Should Ask Before Buying A New Water Heater

Water heaters are an appliance most homeowners don’t think about until something goes wrong; there’s no hot water, it starts making terrible noises, or in the worst of cases, it springs a major leak. Then the rush to repair or replace it follows and many customers spend hundreds of dollars on a solution they weren’t sure was the right one.

At Ben Franklin Plumbing, we work hard to ensure these expensive emergencies don’t happen to our customers. We’ve put together the Top 4 Questions our customers ask most often when their water heater is already going bad, with the intention of helping you make the best decision for your home and budget should you find yourself in the same situation in the future.

  1. How do I know if my water heater needs attention?

  • Age

Most water heaters last between 10 and 15 years. If yours is older or you aren’t sure when it was last replaced, it may be nearing the end of its life.

  • Rusty Water

If you have galvanized piping, you may have rusty pipes. A good test to avoid replacing a functioning water heater is to drain a few five-gallon buckets of hot water out of the water heater. By the third bucket, if the water from your heater is still coming out rusty, then most likely the water heater (not the piping) is at fault.

  • Noises

Over time, sediment will build up on the bottom of the tank and eventually harden as it heats and reheats. This process cause your water tank to make banging or rumbling sounds and operate less efficiently. Eventually, this will make the metal tank brittle, leading to cracks and leaks.

  • Pooling Water

It’s important to monitor when this is happening; the tank may leak when it’s hot and expanded, then stop once it cools down and contracts. Don’t be fooled into thinking the problem resolved itself. It means a bigger leak could be coming and it’s a warning sign to address it now. (As a precaution, check your temperature/pressure overflow pipe to be sure it is not the source of the leak. You don’t want to unnecessarily replace your water tank if that is not the source of failure and leaks. If the connections and fittings are dry, then it is time to replace your hot water heater.)

  • No Hot Water

First, make sure the temperature is set between 120 to 140 degrees. If it is lower than 120 degrees, your water will feel warm but not hot. If it is set within the proper range and still only warm, it’s most likely one of two things; 1) your pilot light is out or the circuit breaker has tripped or 2) your hot water heater is failing and should be inspected for replacement by one of our licensed, insured, and warrantied Ben Franklin plumbing professionals.

  • Metallic Smell or Taste

This could mean the lining of your inner tank is breaking down due to age and metal grit or flakes are mixing with your water supply.

  • Increasing Repairs

At the time, it may seem like paying for a repair is always less expensive than replacement. However, in relatively short order, you will have paid out the price of a new water heater to keep an aging one limping along, risking an eventual catastrophic failure.

  1. Which is better: Traditional (Tank) or Tankless?

With proper maintenance, and depending on the style of water tank you have, traditional or tankless, you may see a lifespan between 10 and 20 years.

A traditional tank-type water heater lasts an average of eight to 12 years. Inside the tank, an anode rod protects the interior lining by attracting all corrosive particles to itself through a process called electrolysis. When the rod has corroded to such an extent that it can no longer do its job, those particles settle at the bottom of the water tank, where they eventually destroy the lining. Once corrosion starts inside the tank, the water heater has entered into its final stage of life.

A tankless water heater can last up to 20 years, sometimes even longer. Also called “on-demand” water heaters, these appliances do not work continuously to maintain a supply of hot water—and, as a result, they last longer than their tank-style counterparts. Eventually, though, tankless water heaters (which do not use anode rods) will also suffer from corrosion and require replacement.

It goes without saying that regular maintenance will help you get maximum life and performance out of your water heater. Some normal “wear and tear” repairs are relatively simple and can be done yourself, such as replacing a pressure-relief valve or a heating element.

  1. How do I Decide Between Gas or Electric?

  • Existing power supply

This may be your deciding factor right out of the gate. If your home is wired for an electric powered water heater, that’s the obvious and most inexpensive choice versus installing a natural gas line. If you do have a natural gas line available, then you can more easily choose between gas or electric. There are even conversion kits on the market that will allow you to run a natural gas powered water heater off of propane.

  • Pay more now or later

Gas water heaters tend to have higher initial costs than comparable electric water heaters, but can also cost less to operate over time. In many areas of the country, the cost of natural gas is lower than the cost of electricity. While a water heater’s price tag is important, it shouldn’t be your only deciding factor. Cost of operation, efficiency, and performance should also play a role in your decision.

  • Energy Factor (EF)

A gas or electric water heater’s energy factor (EF) is a measurement that compares the amount of hot water the heater produces per day to the amount of fuel it consumes. The higher the EF number, the more efficient the water heater. While the efficiency of gas and electric models tends to be fairly similar, especially when you’re looking at models of the same manufacturer and size, certain types of electric-powered models—including heat pump and hybrid heat pump units--have the efficiency advantage.

You can find a water heater’s EF rating either on its packaging or in the literature that accompanies the appliance. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires every new conventional water heater to have a bright yellow and black Energy Guide label that states the appliance’s energy factor as well as the following information:

  • The type of fuel the water heater uses
  • Its estimated yearly operating cost
  • The estimated amount of energy used yearly (BTUs or watts)
  • An Energy Star logo (if the water heater meets Energy Star requirements for water heaters)
  • Tank size (in gallons)
  • First-Hour Rating (FHR) and Recovery Rates (GPH)

First-hour rating (FHR) and Recovery Rates (GPH) are two numbers that help consumers determine if a unit will meet their household’s needs.

  • FHR represents how much hot water the heater can deliver in the first hour when the water in the tank is fully heated. The more efficient the water heater, the higher the FHR. For example, if a unit has a first-hour delivery rating of 56 gallons that means that after the water in the tank is fully heated it can produce 56 gallons of hot water in the first hour after you begin using it. Since they hold more hot water, larger tanks offer higher FHR ratings.
  • Recovery rates, represented as gallons per hour (GPH), indicate the amount of water that the unit can heat an additional 90 degrees (F) over a period of time. For example, if a unit has a recovery rate of 55.9 GPH; this means that in one hour it will heat nearly 60 gallons of water by 90 degrees.

Due to combustion, gas produces heat more quickly than an electric heating element. As a result, the FHR and GPH tend to be higher for gas water heaters than they are for comparable electric models with the same manufacturer and tank size.

  1. If I Choose Tankless, Does That Improve My Home’s Value?

Their slim, space-saving design makes tankless water heaters a great alternative to traditional models, which often require an entire closet or corner in the garage. Here are three ways a tankless water heater can add value to your home.

  • Energy Efficiency and Savings

According to, tankless water heaters are more energy efficient than the alternative, but depending on how much hot water you use, the magnitude of that difference changes. For example, as points out, if you use 41 gallons or less of hot water each day, a tankless water heater can be 24 to 34 percent more efficient. On the other hand, if you use an especially large amount of hot water, tankless water heaters are up to 14% more efficient. Depending on the amount of hot water you need, the value of a tankless water heater may go up or down. It’s worth noting that even though the relative efficiency of a tankless water heater may diminish with a larger volume of hot water needs, the savings you earn will still be greater in real dollars.

  • Increases Storage Space

A tankless water heater is often mounted on the wall, freeing up useful floor space and giving back about 10 to 15 square feet of storage to you and future prospective buyers.

  • Green Is the Future

Words like “sustainability” and “carbon footprint” hold increasing importance to the newer generations of home buyers. Energy efficiency and environmental responsibility play an important role in the decisions young adults make when it comes to purchasing homes, cars, and other large assets. Additionally, they are willing to pay more for sustainable products. Upgrading your home with energy efficient and resource conservative systems, like a tankless water heater, make it more attractive to this demographic.

Let our Ben Franklin plumbing experts inspect your water heater system for a fair and accurate assessment today. Additionally, replacing a hot water heater, in many counties and cities, legally requires the work to be done by a licensed, insured, and bonded professional who can arrange permitting and inspection. Our Ben Franklin plumbers are well versed on the code requirements in all of our service areas and we not only save you money, but spare you legal headaches related to improper work.

Rest assured, our Ben Franklin Plumbers are always standing ready to respond 24/7. We have the advanced tools and know-how to detect problems, make repairs or replace with quality new parts.

If you put “Best Plumbers Near Me” in your search engine, we’re at the top of that list, now let us be at the top of yours! Be it an emergency or routine plumbing service, we’ll respond quickly, quote fairly, and talk to you honestly. Our monthly service and product specials can also save you money!

Visit or call our 24/7 customer service line today 800.471.0809.