Every morning you jump in the shower. Without thinking, you call upon an essential element of our modern comfort: the water heater. Often neglected by homeowners, the water heater is responsible for most water-related damages in our basements. And you, can you tell the age of yours? Do you know its condition? Do you know when it needs to be replaced? Read this article from our experts and understand your water heater better to maximize its service life and reduce risk to your home.
In Canada, consumption of hot water per average household of 4 people is estimated at 300 liters per day, which results in total energy costs of about $400. In fact, the water heater is the device that consumes the most energy in our households (19% of all energy consumed) after the heating system (63%). Although it is possible to use various means to heat water (oil, natural gas or solar energy) in Quebec, more than 9 residential water heaters out of 10 run on electricity. Some factors explain their popularity: the low cost of our hydropower, their relatively low purchase price (between $ 300 and $ 500, and some companies even give you the option of renting a unit), their ease of installation and durability (a dozen years on average to avoid problems). But to ensure the sustainability of this appliance and prevent damage, there are some points to consider:
1. The sacrificial anode
The standard heater is constituted by a cylindrical steel tank within which a vitrified lining is applied to slow corrosion. As additional protection against rust, these water heaters also include a protection anode generally made of magnesium which, when decomposing, prevents corrosion to attack any submerged metal elements. Since the role of the sacrificial anode is precisely to fall apart, it is recommended to replace it every 5 years, or before it is fully decomposed. The anode is inserted through the top of the water heater and most models allow for an easy installation.
There is also an impressed-current anode that can replace the sacrificial magnesium anode that, unlike the latter, does not disintegrate. This anode generates an electric current of only a few volts which releases the required electrons in the water, thus allowing the protection of the tank from the corrosion process. According to the Société d’Habitation du Québec, the use of such an anode can significantly increase the longevity of the water heater, and may even triple it in some cases.
2. The pan
The Régie du bâtiment du Québec requires that a pan be installed under a water heater when it rests on a wood floor or wherever there is no nearby drain. The purpose of the pan is to accumulate water that can spring from the safety valve when the pressure is too high in the tank. But a good practice, even if it is not mandatory, is to install a watertight pan under the water heater, no matter the circumstances. Thus, if the water heater should leak slightly, the water will leave traces at the bottom of the pan that will allow you to intervene before it is too late. For added security, you can connect the tank to a nearby floor drain that will channel water from a leaking water heater directly to the drain. Furthermore, you can install a leak detector in the pan directly. When it detects the presence of water in the pan, an alarm will sound and the main water valve will automatically shut off. You can even connect this device to the main home alarm system (see technical sheet available in French here in the documentation section).
3. Water temperature and energy saving
In general, the type of residential water heater used throughout the province has a storage capacity of 180 or 270 liters of water. Two heating elements – one up and one down – keep the water at a temperature of 60 ° C (140 ° F). This temperature corresponds to the default settings of water heaters when leaving the factory, which is no coincidence.
Some people believe that adjusting the water temperature in the tank at a lower setting will reduce the electricity bill. Big mistake! Keeping the water at a temperature below 60 ° C reduces the amount of hot water in reserve in addition to promoting the development of harmful bacteria that can cause Legionnaires’ disease. To maintain the safety of the water, the building code requires that the water temperature never drops below 49 ° C. To the contrary, water whose temperature exceeds 60° C significantly increases the risk of burns if there are no safety devices, unnecessarily increases heat loss, promotes fouling and accelerates corrosion, which has the negative effect of reducing the life of the device. Therefore the temperature should never exceed 65 ° C (150 ° F).
Another myth: adding an insulating jacket on top of the water heater. Research done by our experts has shown that adding extra insulation on the water heater does not prove to be a wise choice. In fact, the little heat loss from a heater only adds to the ambient heat of our homes and cannot therefore be considered a loss per se. And what about summertime, when we cool our homes? Well, the cost of the additional insulation is by far superior to the energy expenditure necessary to compensate for the minimal heat loss.
In other words, if you want to save on expenses related to your water heater, it is much more profitable to act on your lifestyle than on the appliance whose performance is already maximized. Since the energy cost is directly connected to the hot water you use, reducing hot water consumption will have a positive impact on your next hydro bill. To do this, simply take shorter and cooler showers, opt for the cold water cycle when using the washing machine and never forget that every little gesture counts.
Inspect the water heater
All in all, the surest way to minimize the damage when it comes to water heater is to ensure that the installation meets the manufacturer’s indications. To this end, we must respect the many standards that apply (size of wire, type of pipe and valve, the ground, etc.). According to the experience of the Legault-Dubois inspectors, over 60% of the water heater installation inspected have malfunctions that may affect the durability of the device and the safety of the occupants.
You can now take advantage of our expertise by mandating Legault-Dubois for the inspection of your water heater installation. You will receive a compliance certification or, at the very least, a list of deficiencies to correct. Either way, you will know where to stand as far as your water heater is concerned.