FAQs About Electric Water Heaters

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on electric water heaters, your go-to resource for all the essentials you need to know about these popular household appliances.

As more homeowners seek energy-efficient and cost-effective solutions for heating water, understanding the ins and outs of electric water heaters has never been more important.

In this guide, we’ll dive into the most common questions surrounding electric water heaters. From the basic workings of these units to their advantages over gas models, cost implications, and maintenance tips, we’ve got you covered.

Whether you’re considering the switch to an electric model or simply looking to optimise your current setup, this blog will provide you with the crucial information you need to make informed decisions.

Stay tuned as we explore the benefits, tackle the technicalities and offer practical advice on everything from sizing to troubleshooting. Our goal is to help you not only choose the right electric water heater for your needs but also to ensure its longevity and efficient performance.

Here are the frequently asked questions about electric water heaters. Let’s get started.

What is an Electric Water Heater?

An electric water heater is a device that uses electrical energy to heat water for various uses around your home, such as bathing, cleaning, and cooking. Unlike traditional gas water heaters, these units do not require combustion of fuels. Instead, they contain heating elements − similar to those found in electric ovens − that directly heat the water.

Here’s how a hot water heater works: Cold water enters the tank and is heated by the electric elements at the bottom (and sometimes also at the top for faster heating). The heated water rises in the tank and is stored, ready for use, while colder water stays lower, getting heated in turn. This process ensures a constant supply of hot water on demand.

Electric water heaters are favoured for their safety, simplicity and the convenience of using existing electrical infrastructure. They’re particularly advantageous in areas where natural gas is unavailable. Plus, they are often easier to install and maintain than their gas counterparts, making them a popular choice for many households.

An electric water heater

How Do Electric HWS Differ from Gas Water Heaters?

An electric hot water system and a gas water heater serve the same purpose − providing hot water − but they differ significantly in how they generate heat. Electric models use heating elements to directly warm the water, while gas units burn natural gas or LPG (liquefied petroleum gas), using a burner located beneath the water tank. This combustion process heats the water from below.

One of the main differences lies in energy efficiency and operation costs. Electric water heaters are generally more energy-efficient, as they convert almost all the electricity they consume into heat.

However, depending on local utility costs, electricity can be more expensive than gas, potentially making gas heaters cheaper to operate despite their lower efficiency.

Another distinction is installation and maintenance. Electric heaters are simpler to install, requiring only an electrical connection, which makes them ideal for locations without existing gas lines. They also typically require less maintenance.

On the other hand, indoor gas water heaters need a venting system for exhaust, which can complicate installation and increase upfront costs.

What are the Benefits of Using an Electric HWS?

An electric hot water system offers several advantages that makes it a popular choice for many homeowners.

Here are some key benefits:

  1. Simplicity and safety: Electric heaters are straightforward in design and safer to operate as they don’t involve combustion, eliminating the risks associated with gas leaks or carbon monoxide poisoning.
  2. Efficiency: These units are generally more energy-efficient compared to gas heaters. They convert almost all the electricity used into heat, minimising energy loss.
  3. Installation and maintenance: Electric water heaters are easier and often cheaper to install since they don’t require gas lines or venting systems. Maintenance is typically simpler too, with fewer components to manage compared to gas heaters. If you need a replacement water heater, they are straightforward to install.
  4. Consistent supply: They provide a reliable and consistent supply of hot water, ideal for homes where natural gas is not available.
  5. Space flexibility: Electric models can be installed in a variety of locations without the need for venting. This makes them versatile for different housing types and sizes.

These benefits make electric water heaters an excellent option for households prioritising safety, efficiency and ease of use.

Electrician works on an electric water heater

What Size Electric HWS Do I Need?

Choosing the right size for your electric water heater is crucial to ensure it meets your hot water needs without wasting energy. Using traditional tank water heaters, the size you need largely depends on the number of people in your household and your peak water usage.

  • Small household (1-2 people): 125 litre (L) water heater.
  • Medium household (3-4 people): 160L water heater.
  • Large household (5 people or more): 250-300L water heater, or you may consider multiple heaters or a tankless system.

Besides household size, consider your daily hot water usage. If you have multiple bathrooms, large tubs, or appliances like washing machines and dishwashers running simultaneously, you might need a larger tank.

It’s also wise to consider the recovery rate − how quickly the heater can warm up new water after the hot water has been depleted. This is especially important during peak usage times. Choosing the right size ensures efficiency and uninterrupted hot water supply.

How Do I Maintain an Electric Water Heater?

Maintaining your electric water heater is key to ensuring it runs efficiently and lasts as long as possible. Here are some straightforward steps you can take to keep your heater in top shape:

  1. Annual inspection: Check your heater annually for any signs of leaks or corrosion. Look around the base and at the inlet and outlet connections for any moisture or rust.
  2. Flush the tank: Sediment can build up over time in your tank, reducing efficiency and potentially clogging water lines. At least once a year, drain the tank to flush out this sediment. This involves turning off the power and water supply, attaching a hose to the drain valve, and letting the water run until it’s clear.
  3. Test the pressure relief valve: This safety feature keeps pressure from building up too high in the tank. Lift the valve’s handle and let it snap back. You should hear a gurgling sound as water is released back into the drain tube. If not, it’s time to install a new valve.
  4. Check the anode rod: About every three years, check the anode rod and replace it if it’s heavily corroded. This rod protects your tank from rusting and can significantly extend the life of your heater.

Regular maintenance not only prolongs the life of your water heater but also improves its efficiency and safety.

How Long Does an Electric HWS Last?

The lifespan of an electric water heater can vary widely, but generally, you can expect it to last between 10 to 15 years. However, this lifespan can be shorter or longer depending on several factors, including the quality of the unit, the hardness of your water, and how well you maintain the heater.

To maximise the life of your electric water heater, regular maintenance is crucial. This includes annually flushing the tank to remove sediment, which can lead to inefficiency and increased wear. Additionally, checking and replacing the anode rod every three to five years can prevent corrosive elements from damaging the tank.

Installing a water softener can also extend the life of your heater if you live in an area with hard water, as it reduces scale buildup on electrical components.

Remember, the more proactive you are with maintenance, the longer your electric water heater is likely to last. Keeping an eye on these simple upkeep tasks can save you money in the long run by delaying the need for a replacement.

A woman tests the heat of the water

Keep the Hot Water Flowing

Electric hot water systems are a staple in many homes, providing reliable hot water for showers, dishes, and laundry. Understanding the basics about sizing, maintenance and lifespan can help you make informed decisions about your home’s hot water needs.

Choosing the right size ensures you have enough hot water without wasting energy, while regular maintenance like flushing the tank, testing the pressure relief valve, and checking the anode rod can significantly extend the life of your heater and enhance its efficiency.

Remember, the initial cost of an electric water heater is just part of the investment. The care you put into maintaining your unit can prevent costly repairs and replacements down the line. If you’re ever in doubt about how to care for your water heater or if it’s time for a new one, consulting with a professional can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation.

By keeping these tips in mind, you can enjoy a steady supply of hot water, manage your energy costs and ensure your electric water heater serves you well for many years.

Please note: This information is provided for advice purposes only. Regulations differ from state to state, so please consult your local authorities or an industry professional before proceeding with any work. See our Terms & Conditions here.