YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Home Improvement / Gardening | THE SENSIBLE HOME

'Never Leak' Water Heaters Improve Efficiency


QUESTION: We have a 10-year-old electric water heater, and it does not provide enough hot water in the morning. Does it make sense to get a new one and are there any that don't leak after about 10 years?

ANSWER: Yes to both of your questions. It makes good economic sense to replace an old inefficient electric water heater. There are several new electric water heaters that have a lifetime never-leak warranty.

These never-leak models are also the most efficient. For a typical family of four, replacing an old electric water heater at a 0.80 EF (energy factor) with a new model at a 0.95 EF, the savings is about $80 per year. In just 10 years, this compounds to a savings of more than $1,000.

If you replace your old water heater with a new one of the same size, you will definitely have more hot water for morning showers. The best new electric water heaters have so much insulation that the hot water in the tank loses only one-third of a degree per hour even if the power goes off.

Some of the new highest quality models offer optional 5,500-watt heating elements (4,500-watt elements are typical). These powerful 5,500-watt elements provide 20% faster water heating for more showers.

Most electric water heaters with lifetime never-leak warranties use all-plastic water tanks and outer shells.

This design, with a domed top, is ideal for efficiency and for lots of hot water. Since the hottest water naturally moves to the top of the water heater tank, the spherical top provides room for extra insulation. These models use earth-friendly non-CFC (no ozone layer damage) foam insulation.

The inner tank that actually holds the hot water is made of safe polybutylene wrapped with fiberglass for superior strength. It cannot leak. If you have ever noticed a smell to your hot water, it is often caused by the anode rod. Plastic water heaters need no anode rod because they don't rust.

Another unique long-life design, hydrastone, uses a one-half-inch-thick stone lining inside the tank. Typical steel water heaters have a glass-lined tank that will eventually leak. The thick hydrastone blocks corrosive oxygen from reaching the steel tank and it adds some insulation value.

If you have hard water, consider several features. Choose a design with a large hand-size opening to remove severe sediment deposits. "Hydrajet" or "Jetforce" water inlet tube options create turbulence to minimize sediment. Built-in magnetic "limefighters" keep sediment suspended.

Write for (or instant download Update Bulletin No. 495, a buyer's guide of the 11 most efficient and never-leak electric water heaters, hot water outputs, energy factors, warranties, features and a savings/payback chart. Please include $3 and a business-size self-addressed envelope and mail to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.

Fluorescent Lights May Cause Radio Hum

Q: I have used fluorescent tube fixtures in my garage for a long time. It seems like when the garage lights are on, I get a hum on my radio. Could the lights be causing the problem?

A: There may be a connection between the radio hum and your garage lights. Some older fluorescent light fixtures (actually the ballast inside it) can cause this problem.

First try tightening all the wire connections on the ballast. The ballast is located between the light tubes. If this does not help, purchase a new low-noise ballast. These newer ballasts are also more efficient.


James Dulley has written a new 304-page book compiling 100 of his most popular Update Bulletins and columns.

Included in the 15 chapters are lists of manufacturers and information on 1,000 money-saving household, healthy-home and Earth-friendly products, 36 low-cost do-it-yourself projects and many super-efficient house construction methods.


You can order the book for $15.95 (includes delivery) with check made out to James Dulley. Mail to James Dulley, 100 Most Popular, P.O. Box 54987, Cincinnati, OH 45254 or visit

Los Angeles Times Articles