What you can afford to spend on a hot water system will often depend on when you need to buy it. Most hot water heaters are chosen by people desperate for a quick replacement after the failure of the previous one. The result is that the system purchased is whatever can be afforded and installed in as short a time as possible. In many cases, people don’t know what they're after, and simply request a direct equivalent replacement of the old system.
By thinking a little harder about it or by planning ahead, you can save thousands during the lifecycle of your hot water heater.
Upfront cost vs. ongoing cost
A good hot water system can be an investment that pays for itself in savings many times over during the course of its life, and a bad one can force you to repay its purchase price many times over in bills and repairs. This is the biggest consideration for many people when buying a new system. Is it worth the extra money?
Every individual’s situation is different, but you should first check what systems you can choose from. Is gas available? Is solar an option? Electric systems have far and away the highest ongoing running costs. Gas has lower operating costs than electric but the systems are generally priced higher. Solar hot water systems have relatively low running costs, but are amongst the most expensive water heaters on the market. This higher up front cost is often offset by government rebates though, so make sure you determine your eligibility for these rebates and factor that into your budgeting.
Another factor to consider is the warranty. Longer warranties indicate a hardier system. Most standard storage tank water heaters are covered for 6-7 years, while continuous flow systems can be covered for 10 years or more. The length of the warranty in a tank system will often simply be an estimate of how long the sacrificial anode is likely to last.
Part replacement and repairs also need consideration when you evaluate ongoing costs. A whole flat panel solar collector for instance, will cost more to replace than a single damaged evacuated tube, but an evacuated tube solar hot water system will cost more than a flat panel system to begin with.
The importance of maintenance
The best way to control your costs and avoid unnecessary expense is to properly maintain the system you already have. There are a number of things you can do to increase the lifespan of your existing system. Keeping your storage tank system regularly flushed to avoid sediment build up, installing a second sacrificial anode and wrapping an insulation blanket around your tank are all relatively simple and inexpensive steps that can be taken to extend your system’s life years beyond the warranty.
If you are unsure how long it has been since your hot water system was checked professionally, book an appointment. A system check-up and possible repair will cost a lot less than a new water heater.