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Is Your Hot Water Heater up to the Challenge?

Holiday 2004

With your overnight guests on their way, you ask yourself will my hot water heater be able to provide enough hot water for all of us?  The ability of your hot water heater to handle the challenge is dependent on a couple of key characteristics. First of all, chances are your home is equipped with a tank style hot water heater. Tankless styles, although more energy efficient, are less common in the United States than Europe. The size of the tank and the type of fuel will determine your hot water heaters success in meeting the challenge of your overnight guests.

The size of the tank is the greatest predictor of the hot water heater's ability to keep up with the expanded demand. Obviously a larger tank will supply more hot water than a smaller tank. How the water is heated, gas or electricity will determine how fast the heater can recover and supply hot water once the hot water is used.

A hot water heater's first hour rating refers to the volume for which the system can supply water at the right temperature for the first hour of use.  The first hour rating for gas will range from 48 to 140 gallons depending on manufacturer and tank size. For an electric hot water heater, the range is 15 to 120 gallons. Simply put, a gas hot water heater can heat cold water to the right temperature faster than an electric heater. The following tables provide a general classification of the intended performance for gas and electric as it relates to the size of household.



Size of Tank # of People
30 Gallon 3-4
40 Gallon 4-5
50 Gallon 5-6
60 Gallon 6-7


Size of Tank # of People
30 Gallon 2-3
40 Gallon 3-4
50 Gallon 4-5
60 Gallon 5-6


The age of the hot water heater will impact it's efficiency and ability to meet it's initial performance rating. Most hot water heaters have a life span of 10 - 15 years. Over time, especially with the hard water in Arizona, sediment will begin to collect at the bottom of the tank. As a result, much of the energy used to heat the tank is wasted heating the accumulated sediment as opposed to the water. Ultimately, the first hour rating will decline and the heater will not be able to keep up with demand.

To prevent the build up of sediment within your hot water heater. It is recommended that you drain your hot water heater once to twice per year. Instructions can be found at the DIY Network :,2037,DIY_14194_2277696,00.html