A New Homeowner’s Guide to the Different Types of Water Heaters

Whether you’re building a new, or moving into an existing home, at some point, you’ll face a decision about your water heater.

Unlike paint colors, carpeting, and flooring, the options aren’t endless, but you should take time and learn about the various types of water heaters. After all, a new water heater is a significant investment. You probably spent several hours poring over paint chips and carpet samples, so why not spend a few minutes on one of the most essential systems in your home?

We promise reading our guide won’t take long. It’s helpful information condensed for your reading pleasure. Once you finish, we’re here to answer any questions you might have.

Go Conventional with a Tank

The most common type of water heater uses an insulated tank. The tank heats the water and stores it until you need hot water.

Conventional, or tank, water heaters use either gas or electricity. Whether you choose a gas or electric water heater normally depends on the existing fittings in your home.

If your home has both gas and electricity, you’ll want to research the costs, benefits, and potential downsides of each water heater. Homeowners living in rural areas where natural gas isn’t always accessible can purchase a gas water heater and a natural gas to LP (propane) conversion kit.

Natural gas appliances generally use less energy. You save money on energy, but you’ll spend more on the initial purchase. Also, keep in mind the ease and safety of installation—if you choose gas, consider hiring a professional plumber to install.

All water heaters require routine maintenance. If you buy a tank, you’ll drain and flush it every year to remove sediment. If you care for it properly, your tank water heater should last between 10-12 years.

Hot Water on Demand

Who wouldn’t love instant hot water? No waiting at the faucet or outside the shower while your heating tank wakes up and sends hot water your way!

If you choose a tankless water heater, that’s what you’ll get. Hot water on demand!

When you turn on your hot water tap, cold water travels through a pipe to the unit. Tankless heaters use either a gas burner or an electric heating element to heat the water. You get hot water in seconds vs. the minutes it takes if you use a conventional tank heater.

Superior energy efficiency makes these water heaters highly efficient, saving you money on your energy bill. They also take up less space than most other water heaters.

If your household uses 41 gallons or less of hot water every day, this may be the best solution for you.

The disadvantages of going tankless include:

  • High Purchase Price
  • High Installation Cost
  • Potential Maximum Usage Calculation Error

Making an error in calculating your maximum usage sets you up for potential output challenges. You can avoid those issues if you consult with a professional plumber before buying your unit.

You might think since there’s no tank, there’s no maintenance. Tankless water heaters still need routine cleaning at least once a year. Cleaning removes mineral scale buildup that could cause corrosion. If you take care of it, your tankless system should give you 8-10 years of use.

Heat Pump Water Heaters

Homeowners use heat pumps for heating and cooling their homes. Did you know heat pumps can also heat water?

Heat pump water heaters, also called hybrid water heaters, don’t generate heat directly. Instead, heat moves from one place to another using electricity. Think of a heat pump as a refrigerator working in reverse.

The pros of heat pump water heaters include:

  • Efficiency
  • Lowest Operating Costs of all Types of Water Heaters
  • Cools Surrounding Space in Summer
  • Uses Waste Heat from Furnace in Winter
  • 13-15 Year Lifespan

And now, for the cons (since all options have them):

  • Higher Upfront Cost
  • Compressor Noise
  • Physical Size
  • Makes Your HVAC Work Harder
  • Slow Recovery

Heat pump water heaters have temperature requirements as well. You should only install them in locations that remain between 40-90 degrees F year-round. A basement installation is likely a no-go unless you install near a furnace, boiler, or your washer and dryer.

Use the Power of the Sun

Most people use fossil fuels for heating water in their homes. Why not use the sun’s energy instead? It’s free!

To take advantage of this eco-friendly method of heating water, you’ll install solar thermal panels on your roof. The water is stored in a tank until needed. Usually, people who use solar also use an immersion heater or install an additional boiler for back-up.

The biggest advantage of a solar water heater is the free energy source. Also, solar water heating systems are efficient and provide energy bill savings. If you’re concerned about your carbon footprint, using solar power can lower it.

As for the disadvantages, solar thermal panels only heat water. If you’re considering solar for home heating and cooling, you’ll also need solar PV panels. Solar water heaters aren’t maintenance-free—the pump and other parts, as well as the antifreeze, need routine checks.

You may also need a new hot water tank, so plan on the extra space for it. The tank will need regular cleaning too so that scale doesn’t buildup.

With proper maintenance, your solar water heating system can last up to 25 years!

Need More Help with Different Types of Water Heaters?

This post covers some of the main types of water heaters you’ll find in homes. It’s not exhaustive. You can also choose a condensing water heater or a point-of-use system.

When you shop for a water heater, you’ll likely find hundreds of models, and each comes with its own unique features, pros, and cons.

When you’re ready to choose a new water heating system for your home, let us help. Our expert team can make the entire process easier, including selecting the best water heating solution, installation, and financing. Contact us today and book an appointment!

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