I recently had a customer ask me if there was a way to get more hot water from their water heater or if they just needed a larger water tank. This is a great question and i receive it every now and again so i figured i would share the answer here with you today.

photo of water tank data plate showing age courtesy of FixMyFurnace.com

The first thing that i look at with regards to a water heater is its age and condition. The average lifespan of a water heater is 7-10 years. If you have recently noticed over the past year or less that your hot water seems to be running out faster, you may have an issue with the water tank, especially if you haven’t performed regular maintenance on the unit. As a hot water tank ages, sediment begins to develop in the bottom of the tank. As this sediment builds up, it decreases the capacity of the water heater. For example, a 40 gallon water tank may only be capable of holding 38 gallons.You can avoid this by flushing the water tank regularly. Hot water tanks also contain a glass liner and if this breaks, the glass will fall to the bottom of the tank, causing even more deposit in the bottom of the tank. Once this happens you will have rapid capacity and efficiency loss. This is usually accompanied by the tank making a “popping sound” when the water heater is actively heating. If this is happening in your case, you will need to replace your water heater sooner than later. You may also have a leak in the tank or gas pressure issues, causing the unit to heat the water slower than normal.

photo of leaking water tank courtesy of FixMyFurnace.com

If the age and condition of the tank is are not an issue,I look at usage. i ask if there are any changes in the amount of people living in the home. More people, lead to more showers, baths, laundry, dishes, etc. I also ask if there were any recent additions to the home which include bathrooms. This will also lead to more water lines and heat loss. If you have added to your family size and/or bathrooms, your existing hot water tank may be undersized. Water fixtures can also play a big role is water consumption. If you recently installed new 2 foot wide rain sower heads in your bathrooms, you are certainly using more hot water than a smaller, low-flow shower head.

photo of large, rain shower head courtesy of FixMyFurnace.com

Another commonly over-looked issue is hot water line insulation. The longer a hot water line run is, the more opportunity for heat loss. So, a 3rd floor shower is going to naturally consume more hot water than a basement or first floor shower. You can help reduce heat loss by insulating any exposed hot water lines, especially if they run against an outside wall.

The last thing that you can do before replacing your water tank with a larger one, is to install a mixing valve. A thermostatic mixing valve allows you to turn the temperature of your water tank higher and then mixes in cold water at the top of the tank as the hot water exits. This will mimic a larger capacity water heater, giving you longer lasting hot showers that any teenager would envy! To install a mixing valve, all you need to do is tee into the cold water supply line, cut the hot water line and attach the hot water line from the tank to the hot water inlet side of the valve so that you have one side with hot and the other with cold, then connect the bottom of the valve to the remaining hot water supply line as shown in the photos below.

photo of a mixing valve with temperature gauge courtesy of FixMyFurnace.com
photo of a mixing valve installed on a water heater courtesy of FixMyFurnace.com

If you have any questions or need help with your water heater, feel free to as us any questions by clicking the message icon or hit the VIRTUAL DIAGNOSTIC button to get a live, one on one video consultation with one of our very talented HVAC technicians!

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