Angie's List: Water heaters

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It's one of those appliances we rarely think about - until it breaks. Water heaters become a priority when the water well is not heated.

But considering they are the third largest energy consumer in your house, you might want to pay closer attention.

Carmel resident Bruce Flanagan never gave much thought to what was coming out of his faucet, until he noticed the water temperature wasn't quite the same.

"We had a tank water heater and it was beginning to get a small leak, but we also had some carbon monoxide problems with a draft with it," Flanagan said.

To avoid such a problem, experts suggest a good maintenance regimen.

"An easy maintenance tip for your water heater to ensure its best efficiency is to drain a quart of water from the water heater once every three months," said Angie Hicks, Angie's List.

But when is this maintenance plan no longer enough? Experts say there's a shelf life.

"Anything more than about eight or nine, about 10 years, is a good life. After that, you are going to start hearing it rumbling and carrying on and most people never maintain," said Mark Weilhammer, Weilhammer Plumbing.

Keeping a water heater past 10 years can not only act up, but can cost you more money. Water heaters represent about 15 percent of your utility bills each month, so it's important to evaluate all your options.

While storage units are the most popular type of water heating systems, tankless systems are more compact and offer energy savings by providing hot water only when it's needed. They are twice the price of an electric heater, but they may be better at keeping up with a full house.

"When the kids and grandkids are here, we can have five or six people taking a shower, right in a row," Flanagan said.

Replacing a water heater can be cumbersome and involve many gallons of water. Angie's List suggests you check that the company you hire is insured to cover any damages.