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Right-Sizing Your Water Heater: A Key to Lower Bills (and Long, Hot Showers)

Posted: March 6, 2017

Shower head

Part One of Two

We’ve all been there: you’re in the middle of a wonderful hot morning shower, when suddenly you’re shocked by a blast of cold water.

Has your propane water heater failed? Probably not.

More likely, your water heater reached its limit because it isn’t properly matched to the needs of your home. Matching (also called sizing) your system to its water heating load is the key to keeping hot water flowing for as long as you need it – and to keeping your energy bills low, too.

To size a propane water heater, you need to know three things: the peak demand of your system, the capacity (for conventional, or tank, systems) or hot water flow rate (for tankless systems) of your water heater, and the approximate inlet temperature of water coming into your house.

In Part I of this two-part post, we’ll talk about peak demand; we’ll tackle the rest in Part II.

Peak demand

To find the peak demand for your system – the time of the day when you’re using the most hot water at one time – you’ll want to do a simple water use audit of your home.

A water use audit answers questions such as:

Here’s a chart to help estimate peak demand in your home:

Activity Hot Water Used
Automatic washer 25 to 40 gallons per load
Non-automatic washer 10 to 20 gallons per load
Dishwasher 5 to 10 gallons per load
Hand dishwashing 3 to 4 gallons
Tub bath 15 to 25 gallons
Shower or bath 3 gallons per minute
Bathing an infant 2 gallons
Shaving 2 to 3 1/2 gallons
Shampooing 5 gallons
Hand washing 1 to 2 gallons
House cleaning 5 to 12 gallons
Food preparation 3 to 6 gallons

Once you get a sense of the peak demand of your water heater, you can move on to other considerations for right-sizing, which we’ll discuss in Part Two. Stay tuned!

Ready for a water heater upgrade? We’ve got you covered! Contact us today for a FREE estimate!