While it might not be as sexy as a new faucet, a new water heating system will have a larger impact on your day-to-day life.

When you are considering a home remodeling or home renovation project – whether a kitchen or bathroom remodel or a home addition – a qualified professional remodeler will look beyond aesthetics to ensure that your home’s existing systems can accommodate the changes you are making. A true professional also will look to see whether upgrading those systems makes sense. One of the fixtures they should consider is your water heater.

While it might not be as sexy as a new faucet or have as much stylistic punch as a new sink, a new water heater might actually have a larger impact on your day-to-day life. Why? Because according to the U.S. Department of Energy, water heating is actually the second largest utility expense in your home, accounting for 14% to 18% of the average energy bill or approximately $400 to $600 a year. Selecting the correct type of water heater can dramatically reduce those bills and increase your home’s comfort level.

water heating types

How can you tell whether it’s time to replace a water heater? The Department of Energy says the average water heater lasts about 10-15 years, so if your existing unit is nearing that age, it’s time to think about a replacement before it fails. If you are adding water capacity to your system it’s also time to look at your current model. That’s why a remodeling or renovation project is such an ideal time to consider an upgrade.

Your contractor can help you determine which size water heater you need, by calculating your household’s peak hot water usage and using that number to determine the appropriate capacity.

water heating fuel types

While there is a range of water heating options out there – everything from solar to geothermal – most folks in the Charlotte area opt for either a traditional storage water heater or a tankless system. There are pros and cons to each.

The traditional storage water heaters are the kind you probably grew up with – big bulky cylinders that store hot water until it is required when you turn on the faucet. The advantage is that they are inexpensive to buy and easy to install. One con is that they have what is called standby heat loss – energy is wasted keeping the water in the tank hot even when it is not being used. To save energy, upgrade to an insulated tank that will reduce heat loss (and thus operating costs). Other negatives are they take up a lot of floor space and they have the shortest life expectancy of any water heating option at about 10 years.

tips for reducing water heating bills

In contrast, a tankless water heater is just that – a unit without a storage tank that heats water only when the faucet is turned on. Because it heats water only when it is needed, it is anywhere from 8% to 34% more efficient than a standard system. Tankless models also last far longer – generally 20+ years. However, that efficiency does come at a price. Tankless systems are more expensive than traditional models – up to three times as costly. Depending on your overall water usage, it can take quite awhile to recoup the higher up-front costs. Another negative is that unless your system is sized properly, simultaneous usage can severely tax the system. For example, taking a shower while running the dishwasher might reduce your rate of flow and/or your water pressure. You can get around this by installing an upgraded whole house system or even multiple tankless water heaters for appliances – such as one for the dishwasher and another in the laundry room – but obviously, that adds to your up-front costs. Many folks see the energy savings and longevity of these tankless systems as being worth the price, but again it depends on your family’s water usage and current budget.

No matter which version you opt for, make certain that your contractor considers these basic needs when remodeling your home to ensure that your new kitchen or bathroom doesn’t leave you out in the cold.