Hot Water Heater FAQ & Troubleshooting Guide

FAQ's

There is no structural difference between a Super and Standard water heater. The difference is in the insulation, components used, and warranty options. A Super efficient tank will generally have a much higher efficiency rating, better elements, and most likely a larger anode rod. The warranty will cover manufacturer’s defects for a longer period of time. Many energy companies offer a mail-in rebate if you buy a Super efficient tank. Ask your Install Coordinator about the super efficient water heaters we carry.

Tankless or “on demand” water heaters are a great option for some people. However, they won’t do well in many applications. Tankless units do not store heated water like a tank style, they heat the water seconds before it comes out your faucet. Many factors must be considered to determine if a Tankless style unit is right for you. We offer estimates to help you make a decision. Call today for more details or go to our tankless water heater page for more information. Learn more.

When water is heated it expands. If your system is “open” then water can back-flow into the water main and this extra expanded water simply flows out of your home back out your cold pipe.

More and more, home plumbing systems are being closed off and back-flow prevention valves are being placed between homes and the water main. This is done for a variety of reasons.

For example, valves are placed between homes and water mains to protect plumbing systems from inlet water pressure. Water pressure is increasing in many cases in order to meet the demands of more densely populated areas.

If your system is “closed”, then this means when you heat your water and it expands, this increased volume has nowhere to go. This causes sudden increases in water pressure which can damage your water heater, fixtures and other appliances.

A thermal expansion tank is a pressurized tank that sits on your cold line – typically near or on your water heater. The tank contains a pressurized bladder. As water expands, it pushes against this bladder giving the increased volume a place to go, preventing rapid pressure increases due to thermal expansion.

Expansion tanks are currently recommended by all major water heater manufacturers. In fact, expansion tanks are required by state code if your system is closed in most of the states where we work. Local enforcement of this code varies from city to city.

Our technician will test your system to determine if it is open or closed. If your system is closed, installing an expansion tank may lengthen – and in some cases double – the life of your water heater by preventing wear and tear. In addition, if your home has a history of leaky faucets or other appliances that wear out prematurely, an expansion tank may fix your problem. Learn More.

In Washington, Oregon, the San Francisco Bay Area and the Los Angeles area the installation of water heaters is mostly governed by the Uniform Plumbing Code (or CPC in California), Uniform Mechanical Code, and National Electrical Code. These are standard codes that are used across the United States, and each state can amend them as they wish.

To take it further, each city and county jurisdiction has assigned one or more building officials with what is called Administrative Authority. This “Authority” allows each jurisdiction the right to interpret the codes as they see fit. Because of this, many cities differ on their requirements. At FAST, we keep up-to-date information regarding the water heater codes in your area, and how they are enforced. It is our company policy to discuss with you all the code requirements that apply when you contract our services. We do this in our initial phone conversations, and again before we begin any work.

“Quick Recovery” water heaters usually refer to electric water heaters that are equipped with dual elements. This allows the upper element to heat a much smaller volume of water (about 1/4 of the tank’s capacity) before the lower element takes over. This provides a small amount of usable hot water quickly while you wait for the bulk of the water to heat. Most manufacturers also make a gas water heater model that is called “High Input”. These models have a much higher BTU rating, which will substantially cut down the heating recovery time. We sell “Quick Recovery” and “High Input” water heaters. 

Fast Water Heater Company provides a basic, standard and best warranty. Our basic warranty consists of the manufacturer’s standard warranty which usually covers the tank against rupture for 6 years, parts* for 6 years, and labor for 1 year. Our standard warranty extends the manufacturer’s warranty to 10 years on the tank and parts* and 1 year for labor. Our best warranty option covers the tank and parts* for 15 years and labor for 1 full year.

When Fast Water Heater Company installs a 15 year warranty tank, we also provide additional corrosion protection for the tank by incorporating a second anode rod. This will increase the lifespan of your tank and ensure that it will provide years of care-free service.

Our customer service representatives can help you select the best warranty for your home.

* “Parts” include water heater components only. Items like thermal expansion tanks, earthquake straps, drain pans, shut-off valves, etc. are not considered components of the water heater and are covered under their own limited warranty. Ask your technician to explain the warranty on non-component items

Easy. Check out our handy water heater model/serial number page, which breaks down where to find this information on different brands. Learn more here

Your hot water tank’s per hour hot water production depends on your groundwater temperature and the temperature degree rise that you require. A good rule of thumb is that a standard residential gas water heater will produce approximately 35-45 gallons per hour (GPH) of hot water. High Input gas models will provide about 50-60 GPH. Electric water heaters with 4500-watt elements heats approximately 18-25 GPH and 5500 watt elements provide approximately 25-35 GPH.

The Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC), section 510.5 says, “In seismic zones 3 and 4, water heaters shall be anchored or strapped to resist horizontal displacement due to earthquake motion. Strapping shall be at points within the upper one-third (1/3) and lower one-third (1/3) of its vertical dimensions. At the lower point, a minimum of four (4) inches (102mm) shall be maintained above the controls with the strapping.” Learn more about earthquake straps here.

Washington, Oregon and California are all seismic zones 3 or 4. At FAST, we use only the best earthquake strapping kits available. If you live in a seismic zone, earthquake strapping is a very important part of your water heater installation.

Your water heater’s dip tube is a plastic tube that sends the incoming cold water to the bottom of the tank to prevent it from mixing with the hot water going to your faucets. This helps the tank heat more efficiently and promotes energy efficiency. There was a period of time when dip tubes were defective (in particular for water heaters manufactured between 1993-1997).

Faulty dip tubes disintegrate slowly, and the particles and chunks clog up faucets, aerators and other plumbing fixtures.

If you experience this problem, we recommend that you replace your water heater tank as it can be very difficult to remove the disintegrated particles form the old tank and they can continue to clog up your plumbing fixtures.

The time it takes to get hot water from the water heater to the faucet depends on the distance the hot water must travel in the pipes. If you have a faucet that is more than 20 feet from the water heater, you may need to run water more than 20 seconds before it comes out hot.

This can be frustrating for a home owner and also wastes water.

To solve this problem, some homes have a built in re-circulation system which circulates hot water through the hot water pipes and back to the water heater. With a re-circulation system, you have hot water instantly when you open a faucet. If you are interested in a re-circulation system, FAST WATER HEATER COMPANY can help.

Prior to 2003, most gas water heaters had an open combustion chamber which allowed the owner to relight the pilot with a match. This presented a danger as hot water heaters in areas where other combustibles such as gasoline or propane caused spontaneous combustion and were a both a risk to your home and safety.

Residential water heaters manufactured after 2003 are “F.V.I.R.” (Flammable Vapor Ignition Resistant) compliant. For the most part, this means that the combustion chamber is now sealed. In order to light the water heater, you must use the pilot mechanism and you can no longer use a match.

Due to this change, new water heaters are significantly safer than water heaters manufactured before 2003.

If you have a gas water heater, check to see if your pilot light has gone out. If so, try relighting the pilot, or call 866-465-7442 and one of our water heater experts would be happy to walk you through the process.

If you have an electric water heater, try resetting the unit or checking to see if your breaker switch has been flipped to the off position; you can also turn the breaker switch off and then on. If you need help determining what is wrong with your water heater and why you’re not getting any hot water, give us a call!

Try to determine where the leak is coming from. If it looks like it’s coming from the bottom of the tank, and not from anywhere on the top, it could mean that your water heater lining has been compromised. Unfortunately, this isn’t an issue you can repair, so you may need to think about replacing your water heater. While some homeowners will let a tank leak slowly for several days to weeks or months before they replace the water heater, we advise taking care of the problem before it develops into a more significant leak. 

What you’re hearing is a result of thermal expansion. Due to sediment that often settles at the bottom of your tank, heat has more difficulty leaving the bottom of the water heater. These sounds shouldn’t immediately concern you, but it does mean that the water heater is probably working harder than it should, which could shorten the life of the tank, and will definitely lead to a less efficient tank that costs more to operate. Learn more here.

High water pressure can damage water heaters, piping, and appliances. If the water pressure entering your home is above 80 psi, you should consider installing a pressure reducing valve to limit the incoming pressure. High water pressure is an unexpected but common culprit in reducing the useful life of your water heater.

Rust on the outside of your tank is often just an indication of an old water heater. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the inside lining of your water heater is compromised, but you might want to have it looked at. If it’s more than 15 years old, replacing your water heater can be a preventative measure to save you from a very messy (or wet) situation.

Homeowners and installers used to install blankets on water heaters to provide an extra layer of insulation, allowing the water heater to retain heat and operate more efficiently. These days, manufacturers are building extra insulation into the tank itself, so blankets are no longer recommended. And, more than anything, some consider them to be a fire hazard

The first hour rating is a measurement of how much hot water you can get out of your water heater per hour (starting with a full tank of hot water). As you use hot water, your water heater is able to heat new incoming water at a rate known as the recovery rate. Typically gas water heaters have a much higher recovery rate than electric water heaters, so while a 40 gallon gas water heater can have a first hour rating of around 70 gallons, a 40 gallon electric water heater might only produce 50 gallons of hot water in an hour and have a 50-gallon first hour rating. 

Whether you realized it or not, it’s highly likely that the foul-smelling odor you smell in your water is coming from your water heater. If there is a low amount of chlorine in your city water, there may be odor-causing bacteria that are producing this unpleasant smell when they come into contact with sulfates produced by corrosion. Sanitizing your water heater and piping, replacing old plumbing with copper, or replacing the anode rod could help, but you also need to consider replacing the water heater. It is possible that the odor-causing bacteria could cause health issues, so if the odor is particularly bad, consider getting some help from a professional.

Shutting off your water heater when you go away and taking shorter showers is the best way to save money and energy with regards to your water heater. Remember, you pay to heat the water you use in your shower, your dishwasher, your laundry machine, your hot tub, etc! Replacing an old, inefficient water heater with a new Energy Star tank or tankless water heater can help save up to $100 per year on the typical home’s water heating costs. Learn more here.

Fast Water Heater currently services the below areas. If the above FAQ’s didn’t answer your question, give us a call and we’ll get it answered fast!