I have a 50 Gallon electric water heater that is just not getting the
job done. One person can shower as long as he wants but the recovery time is
just too long between users and My wife, My kid and ,myself are trying to
take showers within one hour and it just will not keep up. So I am looking
to either add an additional water heater and split off one bathroom or
increase the size of the one. My question is about energy usage.
I have looked at 30-80 gallon heaters and there does not appear to be
much difference in energy usage. The 30 Gallons heater have an annual energy
estimate of about $405 to $410 and 80 gallon heaters about $440 to $450.
Does this mean if I add a 30 gallon water heater in addition to the 50
gallon I already have to seperate one bathroom I will spend about $820 to
$850 a year to keep 80 gallons of water heated to where I could buy just one
80 gallon and only spend about $450?
Would one 80 gallon allow three people to take back to back showers?
Which set up would work best?
If you MUST stick with electric and are willing to spend the bucks add
a high capacity electric tankless in series with and immediately
before the regular electric tank.
It bwouldnt cost any more to heat your water but give you much greater
however how old is your existing electric tank? did it ever do the
job? live where incoming water temp is very low given deep freeze
country is currentlyn in.
you could have a sediment filled tank, a bad heater, or incoming water
temp may be lower than normal.
With that long a recovery time, wouldn't it be
more likely there is a burned out element? It
probably just needs replacement.
Personally I wouldn't see two water heaters; it's
too expensive. Electric ones are slower to
recover, but not that slow. If it turns out to
not be an element problem, then perhaps change it
out for the 80 gallon, but for a household of what
looks like 3, even a 50 gallon is more than enough
in most instances.
Aside: We have a 30 gallon fuel-oil fired water
heater, and it's never run out of hot water for
showers, even when our two teens lived with us.
It can recover almost as fast as you use it. It's
also 30 years old and just shot another rod, so
... I'm in the market for another one, but they
are scarce to purchase anymore.
I'd consider other methods. What kind of heat do you have? You can buy
propane water heaters. If you have hot water heat you can buy indirect
fired water heaters with first hour draw of 200 gallons.
Two 40 gallon heaters will take more to operate than one 80 gallon. You have
more surface area on the tanks to lose heat.
Also. check the water flow. There are some shower heads that give a very
good shower with less water than the old spray heads. If you have an old
style, you can cut water use 50% with no loss of comfort.
I think the annual energy cost estimates are based on an estimate of
the average amount of water used by a family of four at some average
You can find info on estimating cost more accurately here:
Having two tanks won't double your cost if your water usage remains
the same. You will still be heating the same amount of water. Two
tanks will cost more, because the standby loss (energy required to
keep the water at temp when it is not being used) will be about
double, but standby loss is around 15-20% of total energy usage, so
your total cost won't double. Standby loss for electric heaters is
less than for gas because there's no flue running up the middle.
But before you do something drastic, look at, or have a plumber look
at, the simple stuff. Is the tank full of sediment? Is one element
burned out? (a common cause of low recovery rate) Is the dip tube OK?
Do you have low flow shower heads?
50 gallons is usually OK for 3 people.
Your problem is not with your water heater size.
Assume for a moment that you have a shower head rated at 2.5 GPM and you
were using only hot water.
You would get 20 solid minutes of hot water assuming that there wasn't any
recovery during the shower.
That would give you almost 3 7 minute showers.
If you add in a little cold water to get the temperature right, have some
recovery, and have a little lag time between the showers the last person in
should not run out of hot water.
You could have several common problems. First you may have a half a tank of
sediment. Especially in areas of hard water you need to flush out the
sediment once a year.
Another problem might be a burned out heater element, or both of the above.
If you are not part of the solution, you are not dissolved in the solvent.
A low-flow shower head uses, on average, FOUR gallons of water per shower.
Assuming that's half-hot, half-cold, your 50 gallon water heater should be
sufficient for 25 back-to-back showers!
I suspect that whatever it is that's amiss, it's not the capacity of your
water heater. You may be trying to solve the wrong problem.
*Instead of adding a second tank you should get a water heater with a faster
recovery rate. What is the wattage ratings of your water heater elements?
It should say on the nameplate. A 4500 watt element will heat a lot faster
than a 3000 watt element. I would call the manufacturer to see if the
existing tank can be upgraded with different elements. Of course your
electrical supply will need to be sized accordingly. I am assuming that
your current water heater is operating correctly. You could have the slow
recovery problem with one element not working.
I got a call from a new condo owner last year. She had recently replaced the
electric water heater and the new one kept blowing the circuit breaker. It
was a 50 gallon unit with 3500 watt elements. The original tank was a 50
gallon on a 15 amp circuit. I surmised that the builder installed low
wattage units to save energy as these condos are on a time of day electric
service where the day rate is much higher than the night rate. I had to
install a 30 amp circuit for her new water heater. It probably took a long
time for the old water heater to get fully heated, but with one occupant the
hot water loss was acceptable.
Your upper heating element is burned out. Replace it.
I think others may suggest you replace both, since it is a major *PAIN*
to drain and unbolt the heating element, run around town to find a
replacement, re-install, and then refill HW tank and bleed air out of
(I presume at one time the recovery water heating was satisfactory, and
now it is a much slower recovery.)
A fairly easy way to check if you have a bad heating element is to use
a digital multi-meter. An analog multi-meter would work as well too.
Then check for resistance on each heating element using the ohm
selection on your multimeter. Of course you need to have the
electrical power off before you do this test. A low ohm reading <50
equals good. A high ohm reading indicates an open circuit and you
have found your problem. Disclaimer: Be aware I am not an
electrician and I am not recommending you do this, and especially if
you have little to none electrical knowledge or experience.
In addition to what everyone else said about replacing the probable
burned out element, flushing sediment, checking for a broken dip tube,
etc. another trick to boost capacity is to add a tempering valve to the
output of the water heater and set the water heater temp a little higher
which effectively increases the volume of 120 degree water available.
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