​​​Natural Gas Water Heaters​​​

From cleaning up for a family meal to relaxing in a hot bath at the end of a long day, you rely on a safe, reliable supply of hot water for many everyday activities. Today's natural gas water heaters represent an extraordinary value in performance, reliability and operating costs, making them the preferred choice of homeowners.

Maintaining Your Water Heater​​

Natural gas water heaters are so reliable and easy to maintain that most people never think about their water heater, even though they use hot water several times a day. However, all water heaters need periodic care to extend their operating life, save energy, and maintain their efficiency rating. Use the following as general guidelines, but follow manufacturer's recommendations whenever possible.

  • ​​Keep the area around the water heater free of dust and dirt to help keep the burner clean.
  • Keep lime deposits and sediment from building up in your water heater. Starting when it's new, draw a pail or two of water from the drain valve (located near the bottom of the water heater) as recommended by the manufacturer. CAUTION: An older water heater which has not been regularly drained may already have lime deposits that make it impossible to completely close the drain valve after draining water from the tank as suggested. It may also cause a constant drip. If you have not performed this maintenance for an extended period of time, you may want to have a plumber perform this.
  • If the pilot light on the water heater goes out, relight according to manufacturer's instructions. If you have difficulty or are not comfortable relighting the pilot yourself or if the pilot light repeatedly/frequently goes out, call a qualified service technician.
  • Wrap insulation on the hot water delivery pipe between your water heater and the point of use and on all pipes running through unheated areas.

Contact a Plumbing Professional

You should contact a plumber when your water heater is not working properly.

Signs include:
A gurgling noise when the burner is on is a sign of sediment buildup, which can damage your water heater.

Shopping for a Water Heater​​

When shopping for a new water heater for your home, you should choose a water heating system that will not only provide enough hot water to meet your family's needs, but that is also energy efficient to save you energy and money.
Here are some things to consider when shopping for a water heater:

Do your homework

  • Become an educated shopper by reading our fact sheets on natural gas water heaters or the benefits of natural gas water heaters and other consumer publications.ENERGY STAR is also another excellent source ​of information.
Energy efficiency and rebates

  • ​The purchase price of a high-efficiency water heater may be higher for a more energy efficient model, but you will usually regain that extra cost and more in energy savings over the life of the unit. Look for an ENERGY STAR ® qualified model and save even more energy.
  • CenterPoint Energy (AR, MN, MN, MS, OK only) offers rebates for high-efficiency storage tank models or a rebate for an indirect water heater installed with a condensing boiler 91 percent AFUE or greater.
Gas verse electric - operating costs and environmental impact

  • Operating costs with gas are typically about 50 percent lower than with electric; natural gas is significantly cleaner than electricity, with half the carbon footprint.
Performance/recovery rate

A natural gas water heater's burner is sized to completely recover in about one hour, regardless of the tank size. Forty gallons or 75, the unit will completely recover in about an hour. An electric model will typically recover at a rate of 21 gallons per hour: an 80 gallon tank will recover in about four hours, a 105 gallon tank in five hours.


A properly-sized water heater will deliver the hot water you want when you need it. Depending on the number of bathrooms in the home, the number of family members and their ages, how your family washes dishes and clothes and whether you prefer showers or a soak in the tub, your family's hot water use will vary.

  • ​Usually the needs of a family of four with two bathrooms and a clothes washer should be adequately met with a 40 gallon gas water heater.
  • If you prefer to bathe instead of shower, you may want to go to a 50 gallon tank.
  • For every additional bathroom in your home, add another 3-1/2 gallons to the tank capacity calculation.
  • If you use an automatic dishwasher, consider adding another five gallons to this total.
  • If you have an extra-large soaker/spa type tub, consider a 75 gallon tank.
These are general guidelines since no two families' hot water use is exactly alike. Keep in mind your family's lifestyle and habits when estimating your family's hot water needs.

Energy Saving Tips

The best way to reduce energy use for water heating is to use less hot water.

  • ​Take short showers rather than baths.
  • Install a low-flow showerhead, which can substantially reduce the amount of hot water used per shower. Learn more about CenterPoint Energy's FREE low-flow showerhead and faucet aerator program.
  • Turn your water heater thermostat to the lowest setting comfortable for you and your family. For most people, 120 F is sufficient and safe.
  • When doing laundry, use the shortest wash cycle, the lowest water temperature possible and a cold rinse.
  • Scrape dishes before placing in the dishwasher. Use cold water for rinsing. If washing dishes by hand, turn rinse water on and off as needed.
  • ​Promptly repair leaky faucets. A leak that fills a coffee cup in 10 minutes wastes 3,280 gallons of water a year!
  • Never let water run continuously while brushing your teeth or shaving.
  • When you need only a little water from the tap, use cold water. Hot water drawn into the pipes may never reach the tap and the heat is wasted.
  • Wrap insulation on the hot water delivery pipe between your water heater and the point of use and on all pipes running through unheated areas.

Safety and Natural Gas Water Heaters

Never use or store flammable products such as gasoline, solvents or adhesives near a water heater or any other natural gas or electric appliance because vapors from water heaters can ignite flammable liquids. 

  • ​Manufacturers have adopted a standard to produce 30- to 50-gallon water heaters with technology that helps prevent flammable liquids from igniting. Since older water heaters are not equipped with this resistant technology, they are more susceptible to flammable vapors. In the right conditions, flammable vapors can travel undetected along the floor aided by air vents. To minimize the risk of accidents, elevate the water heater at least eighteen inches above the floor. Keep all flammable products in tightly closed, approved containers, stored far away from all appliances and out of the reach of children.
  • A professional service technician should replace chimney and vent connectors (the pipe between the furnace and the chimney) if there are rust holes or corrosion.
  • Inspect the "cold end' of the flue for ice build-up that could restrict exhaust.
  • Ensure that the fresh-air intake is free of debris, snow, ice, etc.

Safe Water Temperatures​​

Turn your water heater to 120 F to save energy and avoid scalding.

  • ​Although some manufacturers set water heater thermostats at 140 F, most households usually only require them set at 120 F. Water heated at 140 F also poses a safety hazard of scalding. However, if you have a dishwasher without a booster heater, it may require a water temperature within a range of 130 F to 140 F for optimum cleaning.
  • Reducing your water temperature to 120 F also slows mineral buildup and corrosion in your water heater and pipes. This helps your water heater last longer and operate at its maximum efficiency.
  • You can reduce your water heating costs by simply lowering the thermostat setting on your water heater. For each 10 degree reduction in water temperature, you can save between three to five percent in energy costs.​