Water Heater Buying Guide
Purchasing a Water Heater
Whether you’ve just taken that first unexpected and unwelcome cold shower or simply wish to reduce your energy bill, purchasing a new water heater can be an intimidating process
First, determine what type of fuel source you have in the home. Once you know the fuel source, it’ll be easier to choose a water heater to fit your needs. Here are the differences among electric, gas/propane and hybrid fuel types
This is the most common type of water heater. These units have an insulated tank where water is heated and stored until it’s needed. They’re available in electric, liquid propane (LP) and natural gas models. Natural gas and LP water heaters normally use less energy and are less expensive to operate than electric models of the same size. When you buy a water heater, look at its cited energy efficiency and yearly operating costs. This information can be found on the EnergyGuide label.
Tankless or On-Demand
They don’t store hot water; they heat water as it passes through a series of coils in the unit. Since the unit only heats water as you use it, a tankless heater is usually more energy-efficient than a traditional storage tank water heater. They’re available in electric, LP and natural gas models. A tankless unit can provide only a limited flow rate of hot water. Most tankless units can provide up to 3.5 gallons of heated water per minute. These units are a good choice for anyone whose demand doesn’t typically call for hot water at more than two points at a time
Point-of-Use or Utility
Small storage tank water heaters, known as point-of-use or utility water heaters, are good choices for adding hot water to outbuildings, shops or garages. Utility water heaters usually range in size from 2.5 to 19 gallons. The largest of these miniature units can also be used to provide hot water to secondary bathrooms that may be situated far from your home’s main water heater.
Water Heater Tips to Keep You in Hot Water
Know where your water heater is located
Not only should you know where the water heater is, you should have clear access to it, as sometimes it’s tucked away in an attic or basement and the plumbing is not easy to reach.
Know what type of water heater you have
You should know whether your water heater is natural gas, electric or propane, or whether it’s a storage tank type or a tankless type water heater. Also, write down the model number and serial number of your water heater or at least know where this information is on the tank as it has the age and gallon capacity coded into it. This is important for warranty purposes and usually one of the first questions a plumber or water heater repair company will ask.
Know how to turn off the water
It’s a good idea, before you’re facing a water heater dilemma, to know how to shut off the water and the fuel or power supply to the water heater. This is important in the event of an emergency or if your water heater is leaking or you smell gas. There should be a gas valve or a disconnect switch within a few feet of the water heater. It’s also a good idea to know where your main gas shut-off valve is or which breaker is used for the water heater.
Clear the area around your water heater
There are several reasons why it’s a good idea to give your water heater some space.
Drain or flush your water heater
At least once a year, drain a few gallons out of your water heater using the drain valve. Use either a 5-gallon bucket or a garden hose and run it to a place where the hot water will not cause damage. (Do not drain it to your landscaping or lawn, as hot water may kill the grass.)
Buying Guide: What you need to know when buying a water heater
Before you consider which water tank is best for your home, think about the energy sources available to you because they’re not all compatible with every type of heater. Typically, storage tanks and solar water heaters work with electric, gas or oil energy sources, while tankless heaters require either electric or gas sources. Heat pumps, on the other hand, need electricity and can’t use gas or oi
You’ll also need to think about water tank capacity. To do this, estimate how many gallons of hot water you use per hour. To ensure an accurate estimate, consider how many people live in your home and what time of day they use the most hot water. Then, look at the first hour rating (FHR) on the water tank that indicates how much hot water can be supplied in a one-hour period. Aim for an FHR that is within 1-2 gallons of your demand during peak hours.
We also recommend consulting a professional plumber about the hot water demands in your home before buying a water heater. A plumber can help you determine which product is best for you and can ensure you choose the right size for your needs.
And when exploring your options, make sure to look for the ENERGY STAR® symbol. On average, water heating accounts for 15 to 25 per cent of your household energy bill, so choosing an energy-efficient option can make a huge difference
Storage tank water heaters
Storage tank water heaters store hot water in an insulated tank until the water is needed. The tank has a system of pipes that allows outgoing hot water to be replaced with cold water, so the tank is always full. Storage tank water heaters are constantly heated and regulated by a thermostat
HOW TO CHOOSE A WATER HEATER
Heating water is the second largest single user of energy in the home. While we all enjoy a soothing hot shower, rising energy costs—along with their adverse environmental impact—make it a good time to take a closer look at the various options now available.
Storage Tank: The most common hot water system used in homes. Water is kept constantly heated in the storage tank by electricity, natural gas, oil, or propane. Hot water is drawn out of the top of the tank when a faucet is turned on and cold water flows in the bottom to replace it
Tankless: Also known as on demand water heaters. Water is heated by electricity or gas when the water flows through it without the need for a tank
Solar: Water is circulated from the tank through a solar collector where it is heated by the sun. If the water in the tank is not hot enough, a conventional water heater is used to bring it up to the desired temperature.
Heat Pump: Heat pumps use electricity to move heat from one place to another. Heat pumps can be used for water heating alone or in combination with your heating and air conditioning system
How to Choose a New Water Heater
It’s the dead of winter, freezing cold outside, and you seek comfort in the piping hot confines of your morning shower. With the lights dimmed, the water hits your face and rolls over your shoulders. Your muscles relax one by one as the warmness of the water finds its way down your legs to your chilly, restless feet. Lathered with soap and shampoo, you slump against the warming tile, eyes closed. You consider falling back asleep standing fully upright when it happens — a sudden burst of ice cold water hits your chest like acid rain. You crank the cold water down to zero with no result. The water temperature has turned against you, refusing heat in a stubborn show of determination. The cruel reality hits you — your water heater has just bought the farm.
A visit to your local big-box home-improvement store is overwhelming, to say the least. You’re faced with too many brands and too many sizes to choose from. Different fuel sources and energy ratings confuse you. And what’s the deal with these heaters that don’t even have a tank? How on earth can they meet your needs? Unfortunately, your big-box home-improvement employee helps you none — you’re going to have to figure
Fear not, consumer — your trusted friends at HowStuffWorks are here for you. In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about purchasing a new water heater. From gas to electric, tankless to conventional, we’ll lay it out for you in simple terms so you can live to shower again.
uses large coils that hang down into the tank to heat the water. The coils are similar to the ones in an electric oven. Generally, electric water heaters aren’t as efficient as those powered by other fuel sources, and electricity is more expensive than natural gas or propane. However, they’re less expensive up front and don’t require venting. If your water demand is small, then it may be a good way to go.
uses a gas burner at the bottom of the tank, with a venting chimney that runs through the center and out the top. The carbon dioxide and water vapor byproducts are vented through the chimney and then run outdoors through your house chimney or side wall vent. A gas pilot light or electric spark produces the flame. Natural gas models cost more than electric heaters but are more efficient to operate