Water Heater Woes: How to Make Sure You Don’t Run Out of Hot Water This Winter

Run Out of Hot WaterHow many of you are loving the frigid, winter temperatures right now?

Okay, okay… I guess we’ve been pretty lucky as far as temperatures go this season. Example: It’s supposed to be a balmy 36° tomorrow afternoon in the Twin Cities. Break out the swimsuits! (No, not really.)

In any case, it’s still cold enough for some of us to dread leaving the warm confines of our homes in the morning – especially if your furnace is keeping you warm and toasty.

So what do you do when another household necessity – like your water heater – is lacking during the winter months? After all, it can be extremely unpleasant to run out of hot water during a chilly winter morning…

But how do you make sure there’s plenty to wash your clothes and dishes AND have a hot shower that lasts longer than five minutes? Here are five tips to help you maximize and improve the efficiency of your water heater this winter:

Check for leaks

Leaky faucets, pipes and showerheads can all impact the efficiency of your water heater. Carefully inspect all elements of your plumbing to ensure this isn’t the cause.

If you have a tank water heater and you’ve noticed the amount of hot water has suddenly or significantly decreased, check to make sure the actual tank is free of leaks since this could indicate a full replacement may be needed.

Bottom line: A leaking water tank can not only result in excessive damage to floors and walls, but also catastrophic flooding – the repair bills of which could REALLY hurt your wallet.

Flush your water heater

After you’ve made sure the hot water tank isn’t leaking, think about when you last flushed the system. On average, your hot water heater system should be flushed every 1-3 years to reduce the build-up of mineral or sediment deposits.

This is also a good opportunity to make sure the temperature-pressure relief valve is working properly. Lift or lower the handle, and if water doesn’t drain into the overflow pipe, the valve may need to be replaced. Contact a water heater repair technician if you’re unsure how to perform either process on your own.

Insulate your pipes and hot water tank

Does your plumbing system have pipes that travel through unheated areas like crawl spaces or garages? For pipes that carry water to your fixtures, cover them with fiberglass insulation or self-stick pipe insulation to help seal in the heat and prevent them from freezing.

Consider upgrading your appliances

Still running out of hot water quickly? Consider replacing your showerheads and faucets with low-flow fixtures to improve the rate of water consumption.

Other “culprits” that can use excessive amounts of hot water include clothes washers and dishwashers. You may want to consider purchasing more energy-efficient models, which can also help lower your monthly utility bills. (To know whether an appliance is truly energy-efficient, always make sure it has an ENERGY STAR® label.)

If you’re still running low on hot water, think about investing in a tankless water heater system or more energy-efficient model since your current model may be too small for your household needs. Contact your local water heater specialist to discuss your options based on your home’s plumbing requirements.

Remember: These are merely basic tips and suggestions for improving your water heater’s efficiency. Always consult a professional if you’re unsure about the cause of the issue, since a larger underlying problem could result in expensive repairs if not resolved quickly.