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A water heater is an appliance that produces a continual supply of hot water at a preset temperature. They may also be called hot water heaters, hot water tanks, boilers, or heat exchangers. A hot water heater can be used in domestic and industrial applications to heat potable or non-potable water.
A hot water heater may have a tank or be tankless. As their names suggest, hot water tanks store hot water, and a tankless water heater produces hot water on-demand without storing water in a tank.
Hot water heaters with a tank use a reasonable amount of electricity or gas to preheat the water stored in their tanks. Such water heaters also use a rather large amount of energy to keep that water warm until it is used.
Tankless water heaters are more environmentally friendly because they use a lot less energy than hot water heaters with a tank. Tankless hot water heaters heat water when you need it (on-demand). Essentially, when you turn on the hot side of your faucet or plumbing fixture, the tankless water heater goes to work delivering hot water. If you switch to a tankless water heater you can save 21% and 43% on your water heating costs for the year.
In the following article we will cover all the information you need to know about buying a water heater filter system.
1) A water heater filter system is a MUST for both tankless water heaters and water heaters with a tank.
A water heater filter protects your water heater. Water heater units can become easily damaged by the sediment in the water supply, so a water heater filter provides protection against sediment, scale, and hard water.
A water heater filter system:
- extends the life of your water heater
- helps avoid costly system repairs
- ensures your water heater filter works as efficiently as possible (lower operating costs)
2) What is a water heater filter system?
A water heater filter system should do TWO very important things.
- Remove sediment, dirt, rust, and other particulate matter that is commonly found in an incoming water supply.
- Protect the water heater from scale. Scale is probably the biggest destroyer of water heaters, tankless or tank.
ALERT, ALERT, ALERT! Most water heater filters do NOT remove sediment, dirt, rust, or other particulates in your water.
Any “water heater filter” that does not remove (aka, filter) particulates should not be able to call itself a “filter” but unfortunately many manufacturers of water heater filters get away with it.
3) Pay attention to how the water heater filter housing is manufactured…is it made from a single mold (good!), or do they drill the holes afterwards themselves (bad!).
This point is most relevant to plastic water heater filter housings.
Keep in mind that stainless steel water heater filter housings are superior to plastic. They are resilient to corrosive substances and chemicals, less likely to leak or burst, and have a longer system life overall.
If you are buying a water heater filter system with a plastic housing, do consider how the plastic housing is manufactured. Many sellers of plastic water filter systems take the filter head and tap holes in it themselves. (Holes for the pressure release valve- if there is one – or holes for the bracket, etc.).
Drilling or tapping holes weakens the filter head and leads to leaks and blow outs. If holes are not done in original molding, it takes strength away from the system and leads to the system bursting or leaking. This means that in some circumstances, if someone was to accidentally bump into or slap the system, it could loosen the threading and cause an instant leak.
The less openings a filter head has, the less chance for leaks.
Bottom line: Ask the manufacturer if the housing was a single casting, or if holes were drilled afterwards.
4) Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC) filters are super sensitive to chlorine (chlorine ruins TAC filters), among other drawbacks.
Template assisted crystallization (TAC) may be a new term to some folks when it comes to water conditioning. Template assisted crystallization (TAC) transforms Calcium ions into Calcium crystals which are easily rinsed away by the water flow. Calcium crystals are stable and cannot attach to pipes, surfaces, hardware or heat exchanger components.
HOWEVER, one major point this style of water conditioning fails to make known is that it is super sensitive to any chlorine in the water supply. Most municipal water supplies use chlorine in their water supply. If you don’t remove all chlorine before it enters a template assisted crystallization system, it’ll destroy the template assisted crystallization filter. Chlorine will use up all the template assisted crystallization media.
Another drawback of TAC water conditioning is that sellers provide very poor guidelines of when to replace a TAC filter. Sellers claim TAC filters last 2-5 years but you will not know when the TAC filter media is all gone. Template assisted crystallization media is contained deep within the filter – the media doesn’t rattle or give any indication it’s gone – and you’ll only know it’s gone by cutting open (therefore ruining) the filter.
If the template assisted crystallization filter media is gone, your water heater is not protected against scale and corrosion which can mean costly damage and repairs to your water heater.
Additionally, template assisted crystallization filters have very low flow rates. The flow rates of TAC filters do not align with what tankless heaters are rated for and therefore your hot water flow rate will be drastically lower than what your water heater is rated for.
5) A gauge on a water heater filter system is a gimmick.
A gauge on a water heater filter system may look and sound good, but they are useless in this application. A water filter gauge is intended to measure a water pressure drop. When the pressure drops a lot, it means it’s time to replace the water filter.
HOWEVER, for hot water applications a gauge is useless because not enough water is used to accurately measure a pressure drop. Therefore, the gauge is inaccurate and will not indicate when it’s time to change the filter accurately.
A gauge on a water heater filter system will give you a false-positive or a false-negative reading. It will indicate it’s time to change the filter when the filter is actually fine…this costs you extra money and time. Or, a gauge on a water heater filter system will miss when it is time to change your filter. This means your water heater is not receiving filtered water or anti-scale protection which can mean costly damage and repairs.
(A water pressure gauge is good for commercial, high volume applications such as commercial ice machines, food service, or commercial boilers).
The calendar and a good old fashioned manual check is the best way to determine when to change the water filter on your water heater filter system.
Check your water filter cartridge ever 6 months by turning it upside down to see or hear the filter media rattling around. Be sure to change your water heater filter at least once per year though.
Reasons NOT purchase a water heater filter system with a gauge:
- The gauge is not an accurate indicator
- Water heater filter systems with a gauge cost more (usually about $50)
- A gauge on a water heater filter system is a gimmick, plain and simple.