How to Choose the Right Water Heater for Your Home

A cold shower. If you’ve ever experienced one, it’s not something you’ll likely want to repeat. But without a reliable water heater in your home you may have the pleasure more often than you’d like. There are plenty of other good reasons to consider upgrading or replacing your current water heater beyond a shocking shower. If your current water heater is pushing 10 years old, the likelihood of failure will increase. In addition, older water heaters are much less efficient than newer styles and models. And consider the damage a leaking or broken hot water heater can do to your home. So before you get stuck with an emergency repair or replacement consider the different kinds of water heaters and evaluate which is best for you.

Concerned about whether your old water heater is on its last legs? Check out this helpful article:

Let’s Talk Fuels

To enjoy hot water in your home, you’ll need a fuel source to heat the H2O. Not all of us will have the same options available, depending on where we live, so there will be sources that you can rule out right away. Let’s examine the options.

  • Electricity — Electricity has a lot going for it. It’s readily available and works with conventional tank-type designs, plus on-demand tankless heaters, heat pump systems and other options.
  • Natural gas and propane — These fuel sources also work with a variety of heater types. One advantage of this fuel source is availability during a prolonged power outage. Even if your home is dark, you can still enjoy a hot shower. Of course, if you use propane it’s necessary to ensure that you keep your tank filled.

  • Solar — You don’t have to live in southern state to utilize solar energy for water heating, but the efficiency of these systems is greater in areas like the southwest, where temperatures are generally warmer and the sun shines more frequently.

  • Geothermal Energy — If you already have a geothermal heat pump system, it’s fairly easy to integrate a heat pump water heater into the system. That’s a great way to piggyback onto the efficiency that these systems provide.

Learn more about the two most popular options, gas versus electric, in this article:

When deciding on a water heater consider your fuel costs. Depending on your area of the country, you may be able to save money by making a smart fuel choice. And if you’re building a new home, the investment in a geothermal system may make a lot of sense. Fuel costs aren’t the only thing to consider, however. Different types of heaters have different degrees of efficiency, which is a big part of the cost-saving equation.

Water Heater Types and Their Pros and Cons

Storage Water Heaters

When you say “water heater” this is what most people think of, and what most people own. Storage water heaters consist of a large water tank that stores hot water for use on demand. The water is heated and kept warm by either electric heating elements or a burner fueled by natural gas or propane. Here are some of the issues related to these water heaters.

  • Efficiency — Because you’re trying to keep a large amount of water hot, storage water heaters are not very efficient. To mitigate this inefficiency, look for units that have high insulation values and offer ways to time the heating process for when you really need hot water.

  • Cost — Storage water heaters are usually the least expensive option in water heating. The technology is simple and there are numerous manufacturers. The life span is limited, so you should plan on replacing the unit every 10-12 years.

  • Installation — Installation of a storage water heater is a straight-forward job. While you should contract with a professional, there are many qualified installers.

Tankless, On-Demand Water Heaters

As the name suggests, these heaters provide hot water on demand by heating water as it travels through the unit, utilizing electricity or a gas burner. Because you’re only heating the water you need, significant savings in energy use are possible. Some issues to consider:

  • Demand — If you have a large household with significant hot water needs, it’s possible a tankless system won’t keep up. Installing multiple units in parallel can fix that problem.

  • Lifespan — On-demand heaters boast extended lifespans when compared to storage heaters — 20 years versus a lifespan of 10-12 years. And if they do malfunction it’s usually simply an issue of replacing a part to get it working again.

  • Cost — You’ll pay more upfront for a tankless water heater. But given their longer lifespan you’ll probably recoup your investment.

Storage and on-demand water heaters are the two most common options. Consult this article to help make your choice: TANKLESS WATER HEATERS VS. STORAGE WATER HEATERS.

Heat Pump Water Heaters

In many areas of the country heat pumps are ubiquitous, providing heating and cooling to homes by pulling in heat from the surrounding environment. Heat pump water heaters perform a similar trick, heating water in a storage tank by pulling in heat from the outside or from a geothermal source. They only work with electricity, and can’t be powered by gas. Some important points to consider:

  • Efficiency — Heat pump water heaters are two to three times as efficient as standard storage water heaters.

  • Environment and installation — Heat pump water heater must be installed in areas that stay between 40 to 90 degrees, and require at least 1000 cubic feet of air space. A large furnace room is a good choice for installation, but that’s not an option available in all homes.

Solar Water Heaters

When most people think about solar power for the home, they imagine racks of photovoltaic solar panels tacked to the roof. But a less high-tech solution harnesses the power of the sun to heat your water. Solar water heaters are a cost-effective means of generating hot water by tapping into the power of free sunshine. These systems combine storage tanks and roof-mounted solar collectors to heat and store water for use in your home.

  • Active versus passive — Active systems use pumps to circulate water through solar collectors, while passive systems use a variety of means to achieve the necessary circulation. There are variations of each type of system, each suited to different climate conditions. Be sure to consult a professional about the options available.

  • Codes and covenants — Not all homeowner association covenants will allow installations on your roof, so check these provisions and local codes carefully before committing to a solar water heating system.

The Question of Size

If you’re considering going with a storage type water heater, one of the key considerations will be the size of the tank. Water heater storage tanks generally range from 20 to 80 gallons, with a small 20 to 30-gallon tank suitable for two to three people, and with a larger family of five or more needing a 60 to 80-gallon capacity. Of course, you should be sure to plan for increases in your needs if you’re planning on starting a family.

Consult With Real Professionals

When you’re deciding how to approach the purchase and installation of a water heater it’s important to tap into the expertise of experienced professionals with the knowledge to apply the right solution for your home. Contact our team, and we’ll figure out the best way to help you keep your water hot and your family happy. Quotes are free, so contact us right away.

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3 comments on “How to Choose the Right Water Heater for Your Home”

  1. Hello, Amazing article and your article information about the water heater is very impressive and so much helpful for me. Keep it up and Thank you very much.:)

  2. I really liked your explanation of on-demand water heaters and how they can bring you significant water savings. Since we live in a small condominium with only three people living in it at a time, I can see how this unit can benefit us much more than any other kind of appliance. Once I find a plumber in the area, I'll definitely ask that they install one of these for us.


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