Electric Water Heater Replacement: 5 Tips

Electric water heater replacement is never a fun job, but the tell tale puddle or cold shower means it is an important one to do fast. Unfortunately, all water heaters are not created equal and there are several things to look for when considering replacing an old heater for a newer one.


Before spending the money on a new water heater, be sure that the old one isn't salvageable. While leaky, rusted, or corroding water heaters cannot be repaired, a broken temperature/pressure gauge, leaky drain valve, or worn out element might be more cost effective to fix rather than completely replace.

Measure Before Purchase

New federal guidelines for energy efficiency standards now require a 5 percent increase for electric models. This means much more insulation and can add as many as 4 inches to the circumference of the heater. Be sure newer models will fit in the closet, corner, or other tight places before purchasing the water heater. If newer models won't fit, consider a tankless water heater.

First Hour Rating (FHR)

While capacity is the main way that heaters are ranked, even more importantly is the First Hour Rating (FHR). This number tells the amount of water available for one hour of use. With many people being gone during most of the day peak water usage occurs in only a couple busy hours, making storage for the rest of the time unimportant. To determine the amount of water needed, make a rough estimate based on the busiest hour of the day. When calculating, estimate 20 gallons for a load of laundry and each 10 minute shower, 10 gallons for each dishwasher load, 5 gallons for preparing food, 4 gallons for washing hand or face washing, and 2 gallons for shaving. Also be sure to factor in small children and growing teenagers so the water heater will last through years of extreme water usage.

Long Warranty

Though most warranties cover 6, 9, or 12 years the price difference is only about 20 dollars from the lowest to the highest. The difference inside the heaters can be quite a bit more extreme. With electric heaters, most 9 and 12 year warranty models have larger heating elements, longer corrosion-fighting anodes, and thicker insulation. If water softeners are necessary, a longer warranty model might also be something to consider due to the softener causing faster corrosion inside the heater.

Temperature Pressure Valve

Never reuse the temperature/pressure valve from the old water heater on a new one. The valve is one of the most important safety features on the water heater. If the valve fails, and the water heater becomes too hot, it can explode. Along with this, never install a shut off valve on the hot water side. Only install a shut off valve on the cold water. This safety measure ensures that the hot water can never be shut off and overly increase the pressure inside the tank. If the hot and cold water were to ever be shut off and the temperature/pressure valve failed the heater could easily explode.