Many of us don’t give a second thought to our hot water heater until there’s a problem which, more often than not, happens when we are hopping in the shower, tackling a sinkful of dirty dishes, or drawing a bedtime bath for the kids.
Our hot water heater is that piece of equipment tucked away in the basement, beside the furnace, quietly living its life, and providing us the modern means to live ours. However, when we run out of hot water too quickly or run out completely, that little piece of equipment becomes our number one priority over everything else.
Before you call your local professional, here are a few simple tips and tricks to try out first.
Help! I Have No Hot Water
You’ve turned on our faucet, let it run for longer than is necessary and wait. And wait. There is zero hot water. What to do?
Check Your Energy Source
If you have a gas boiler, it has a pilot light that heats the water in the boiler. Check to see if the pilot light has gone out, which it can sometimes do. Be sure to follow the safety instructions closely when you relight. Similarly, when you have an electric boiler, check the circuit breaker to see if your power has been tripped.
When you visit that small, technical room in your home where your water heater is, check the area for water. If your water heater is leaking, it could be the valve, the cap, or the heater itself. Call a professional and be careful! The water is very hot and can be unpredictable.
I Have Hot Water, But Not Enough
You have hot water but it slowly dissipates after one quick shower. Or a small sinkful of dishes. What is happening? And what can you do about it?
Adjust Your Tank Temperature
If you have hot water, but it doesn’t last as long as you need it to, try turning down the temperature setting on your hot water tank (yes, it does have one).
The Canada Safety Council reports that most Canadian households have their hot water tank set to 60 C (140°F). However, not only does this deplete your hot water supply more quickly, it can be dangerous, leading to third-degree burns in under six seconds (one second for small children). They recommend turning the temperature down to no lower than 54 C (and no lower than 49 C to prevent the growth of the bacteria that causes legionnaires’ disease) in order to preserve your hot water supply and prevent accidents.
Modify Your Laundry Routine
Due to modern advancements in both laundry detergents and washing machines, it is no longer necessary to use hot water for every load. Switch to warm or cold water to save your hot water supply and cut down on energy costs.
High Energy Costs
You receive your energy bills and notice that they are through the roof. Why is it costing so much suddenly? And is there anything you can do? Here are a few quick tips to take the sting out of your next heating bill.
Inspect your Faucets
Fix Your Drips
It is estimated that a tap or showerhead that drips six drops per minute loses 1,200 litres of water annually, the equivalent of 7 bathtubs full of water. Often times, this is hot water literally going down the drain. Not only is a leaky tap or showerhead annoying, but it is also costly and can drastically reduce your hot water tank supply.
Inspect your taps and showerheads for leaks: they are unassuming water-wasting culprits. With a quick fix, you can save hot water and money.
Install a Faucet Aerator or Low-Flow Showerhead
According to Natural Resources Canada, older faucets typically use up to 15 litres of water per minute. Luckily, today’s faucets are more efficient, using anywhere from 3.0 to 5.7 litres per minute of water.
If you have an older home, you can either install new energy-efficient taps and low-flow showerheads or, a more affordable option, install faucet aerators onto your older taps. This will drastically reduce your rate of water flow and save your hot water supply.
Upgrade Your Appliances
Unfortunately, many older appliances do not meet today’s energy-efficient standards. In Canada, EnerGuide is used as a system to measure the energy efficiency of household products.
Inspect your appliances that use hot water, such as your washing machine or dishwasher, for the Energy Star rating sticker: this will tell you if your appliance meets the current national standards. If not, you could be consuming more hot water than is necessary.
Insulate Your Hot Water Heater
You’ve seen them in your local hardware store: a cozy blanket for your hot water tank. Thermal Hot Water Tank wraps can cut down on standby heat loss, especially when in a cold basement or furnace room. This wrap can insulate the heat inside your tank, cutting down on the energy required to heat the water to maintain temperature. The result is less energy consumption and lower energy bills.
When you go away on holidays and your hot water tank isn’t utilized, did you know you can easily adjust your tank temperature? If fact, most modern hot water heater units have a built-in ‘vacation mode setting’ making it easy to switch to a low-efficiency, energy-saving setting when not in use.
If you don’t have this setting, simply turn your temperature dial down to between 54 C and 49 C for best results. Just don’t forget to adjust it back when you return!
Call In The Professionals
When you have exhausted all options, chances are you need a professional. Depending on the age and condition of your unit, it may be repairable or it could be time for a full replacement. The good news is that they may be more affordable than you think: and with today’s modern units, and tankless options, you’ll be luxuriating in a hot shower in no time.