Apr 11, 2023
The complete guide to hot water tanks
Hot water tanks are often an overlooked aspect of our homes. We turn on the tap and have hot water when we need it. But hot water tanks are doing all the work.
According to a government report on water heat usage, Canadians use an average of 75 litres of hot water at home, every day. From washing dishes, doing laundry, cleaning, and bathing, hot water tanks play an important role in our home life and provide a reliable source of hot water.
In this guide, we’ll explain how they work, maintenance tips, and if a repair or replacement is necessary, if home insurance covers it.
What is a hot water tank?
A hot water tank is a large, cylindrical water tank with a heating element inside, designed to hold and heat the water. On average, they hold around 200 liters of water. The tank is connected to a heating source, such as a boiler or immersion heater, which heats the water to the desired temperature. Once the water has been heated, it is stored in the tank until it is needed for household tasks.
There are a few different types of hot water tanks, which use different methods and fuels to heat the water. Gas heaters (fuelled by natural gas or propane) are the most popular. Electricity, oil, and solar-powered tanks are other options.
How do hot water tanks work?
When water enters the tank near the top, it makes its way to a dip tube in the bottom, where it is heated to the target temperature. The heated water will rise to the top, where it then enters the hot water pipe and to the tap.
Hot water tank risks
While hot water tanks are generally safe, they can be a potential source of damage to your home.
For example, if the tank is faulty or poorly maintained, it can leak or burst, causing damage to your home and belongings. This can result in costly repairs and even lead to mould growth if not addressed promptly. Accidents from poor maintenance are not covered in most policies, even if you have additional coverage such as water damage insurance.
Another risk associated with hot water tanks is the potential for fire or explosion. If the tank is overheated or malfunctions, it can ignite flammable materials nearby and cause a fire. In rare cases, the tank can even explode, causing serious damage to your home and posing a significant risk to your safety. This is another reason to make sure you have enough fire insurance for your property.
Does insurance cover a hot water tank?
Depending on your policy, you could receive financial support for damages related to water, fire, or electrical from accidental damage from a hot water tank. It's important to read your policy carefully and check for any exclusions or limitations. Renters insurance will declare specific limitations in regard to what you can claim in regard to your hot water tank. It will also specify how much coverage you have for any belongings that are damaged from a claim.
For example, some policies may only cover damage caused by sudden and accidental leaks, rather than gradual leaks caused by wear and tear. Similarly, some policies may have limits on the amount of coverage, so it’s important to check what your plan outlines.
It's also worth noting that some insurers may require you to have your hot water tank regularly maintained and inspected in order to qualify for coverage. This is because regular maintenance can help prevent potential issues and reduce the risk of damage to your home.
Policies can also differ if you rent your hot water tank. Companies such as Reliance, offer protection plans for maintenance and some repairs. Note that this does not act as an active insurance plan for your home, or an endorsement for insurance.
Will insurance companies ask about my hot water tank?
Yes. When applying for home insurance coverage, your insurer will ask about the age of your hot water tank. They will want to know when it was last replaced and the type of tank.
What to do if your hot water tank is not working
Here is a look at the most common concerns with hot water tanks and what you can do to address any problems :
- No hot water : This could be caused by a failed pilot light or a damaged/disconnected dip tube.
- Not enough hot water : Your tank may be too small for the size of your house or the typical usage. Take a look at Natural Resources Canada Water Heater Guide to learn more.
- Leaking tank : If you notice a leaking tank, shut off the fuel source and then the cold water supply. This is often a sign of a serious problem, so contact a service person.
- Hissing noise from the tank : The inside liner could be cracked or corroded – you may also notice leaking water.
- Boiling sound coming from the tank : This is often caused by water bubbling through sediment at the bottom of the tank, or the tank overheating the water.
It is always best practice to contact a licenced professional to do any repairs or check-ups on your hot water tank. If you happen to further damage the tank, there is less of a chance for insurance to help you with any financial support in the event of a claim, since it was not accidental. If you are buying an older home, make sure you have paperwork related to the current model and maintenance of the hot water tank.
If you live in a high-rise, you’ll want to clarify how your condo insurance will be impacted by the type of tank and will be excluded if there is a claim.
Types of hot water tanks
If you’re looking to invest in a new water tank, or want to learn more about the one you currently have, here is an overview of the types of hot water tanks in Canada.
- Storage tank : The most common variety in Canada. This option can be as small as 85 liters, or up to 500 liters for larger homes. Most use electricity, natural gas, or propane as their fuel.
- Tankless : These models do not have a tank to store water, but instead heat water on demand. They are more energy efficient and smaller but can be more expensive.
- Heat pump : These use electricity to draw in heat from the surrounding air and heat the water, rather than directly heating the water.
Tips for buying a hot water tank
Investing in a new hot water tank can be a big decision. Here are some expert tips to help you in the buying (or renting) process.
- Type of fuel : As mentioned above, there are different types of fuel requirements for water heaters - you’ll want to find one that uses the same source as your old or current one.
- Quality of the tank and heating element : Consider where you live and what the water hardness is. Harder water can lead to decreased efficiency, corrosion, and a shorter life span, if the right material is not chosen.
- Renting vs buying a hot water tank : Renting a hot water heater allows for affordable monthly payments and some even come with a maintenance/repair plan. Buying one has a larger upfront cost, and will be on the hook for maintenance unless you purchase a protection plan.
- Location : You’ll want to ensure the size of the tank fits into your existing space and can correctly be connected to your plumbing and gas lines.
- Tank or tankless : Depending on your budget and lifestyle, you may want to consider a tankless or tank for your hot water. Tankless options can be more expensive but have lower energy costs since they only heat water when it is needed. Tanks can be cheaper, but take up more space.
- Capacity : This doesn’t only include how much water it can hold, but also how fast it can heat the water. Consider how many people live in your home and how many appliances are in use.
- Energy efficiency : No one wants to have high energy costs, that’s why it’s important to take into account how energy efficient your tank is and invest in a Energy Star certified water heaters.
Hot water tank maintenance tips
With proper care and maintenance, hot water tanks can last up to ten years. Here are some maintenance tips to help extend the life of your tank :
- Flushing the tank : Annually you should flush your hot water tank to remove built-up sediment. When sediment builds up, you may notice popping, knocking, or boiling sounds.
- Checking the sacrificial anode : A rod made of aluminum or magnesium inside the tank attracts corrosive minerals to prevent damaging the tank.
- Relieve pressure : Higher water tank temperatures can cause increased water pressure. Check the temperature and pressure release valve periodically to ensure it functions properly.
Hot water tank FAQs
Depending on the claim, your home insurance may cover hot water tank replacement. There are always exclusions so check with your provider so you know what will be included if there is an accident.
Although Kitec plumbing was not officially recalled, many experts recommend that homeowners replace this plumbing system to avoid costly water damage and repairs.
If the tank is old or has not been flushed in a while, it may be full of sediment that makes its way to your tap, which could make it less clean compared to a new and clean water tank. Hot water is more likely to leach minerals, which can give water an off-taste. Use cold water for cooking and drinking instead.
On average, hot water tanks should be set at 60 °C or 49 °C (140 °F or 120 °F). Always check the manufacturer’s manual. It’s important to note that water at 60 °C can kill more bacteria, but it can also cause burns in seconds and will use more energy. Make sure you have mixing values installed to lower the temperature of the water as it comes out of your tap.
On average, a hot water tank can cost between $1,000 - $2,000 depending on the size, heat source, and material you buy. If you are looking to rent a hot water tank, it can cost between $20-$40 a month, but that will depend on the company and if you choose any additional protection plans.
Always check with your insurer and practice proper water heater maintenance
Hot water tanks are an important part of many households, and something to consider when you are determining your home replacement cost. It's important to ensure that your hot water tank is properly maintained and inspected and that you have sufficient coverage to protect against potential accidents and damages. If you have any questions or concerns about your policy and hot water tanks, speak to ThinkInsure today.