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Choosing the Right Water Heater

Heating water is one of the biggest household energy expenses. Choosing the right heater can help you save money and reduce your environmental impact.

Traditional storage tanks and tankless (on-demand) water heaters are big metal cylinders typically located in the garage or basement. They use electricity, gas, or oil as the heating mechanism. Contact Water Heater Denver now!

Water heaters are big metal cylinders, often confined to a utility room or basement. They look pretty straightforward, but they have ingenious designs on the inside that make hot showers possible. Whether you have a gas, electric or tankless model, they all work the same way. But if you want to reduce your energy costs, a simple step like turning the temperature setting down by 10 degrees could save 2 percent to 5 percent of your total utility bill.

The water heater is the most common source of hot water in your home, providing an average of 40 to 80 gallons per day for showers, washing machines and other appliances. Most water heaters use piped natural or LP (liquefied petroleum) gas, but some are electric and can operate anywhere with an electricity supply.

A typical tank-type water heater has an insulated tank that holds the hot water for your household. The tank is usually sized to meet the needs of the household, with a capacity of between 20 and 80 gallons. The insulating tank keeps the water warm, and the heating mechanism heats the water to a higher temperature as it flows through the bottom of the tank. This tank also contains a drain valve, a temperature and pressure relief valve and a heat-out pipe that allows the heated water to flow to your hot water service line.

Another option is a stand-alone gas or electric tankless water heater that uses super-heated coils to produce only the amount of hot water you need, when you need it. These models have much lower energy consumption than traditional water heaters and can be run on renewable or alternative fuel sources to further cut your utility bills.

Another type of stand-alone water heater is the point-of-use unit, which is installed near your showers and sinks for instantaneous heating as you use them. This is an excellent choice for those interested in electrifying their homes with solar panels, since it maximizes the use of your renewable power while reducing the overall dependence on fossil fuels.

Types of Water Heaters

Water heaters are one of the hardest-working appliances in any home. Almost every household uses them multiple times a day, and when they break down it can be a major disruption. But if you take the time to learn about different types of water heaters, it can help you make a smart choice when you’re ready for a new one.

The most common water heaters use a large tank to store hot water until it’s needed. These can be gas or electric and are relatively affordable to purchase and install. However, they do require maintenance, have a limited supply of hot water and can become prone to leaks over time.

Another option is a tankless or on-demand water heater. These heat water as it flows through the unit, rather than heating and storing it like traditional models. They are available in both gas and electric versions, though the latter tend to have a lower energy efficiency rating than their natural or propane-powered counterparts.

Point-of-use water heaters focus on heating only the water that’s used at a particular faucet or appliance, which allows them to have greater energy efficiency than whole-house water heaters. These are often chosen to heat household faucets like showers, sinks and washing machines. They are also commonly installed as backups for a household’s main water heater.

Condensing water heaters use exhaust gases from the home’s furnace to help fuel the water heating elements, saving on electricity costs. They can be either gas or electric, and are usually found in homes that already have a natural gas heating system.

There are many other options for water heaters, including solar-powered and hybrid electric-gas units. It’s important to understand the pros and cons of each type so you can choose the right one for your home.

The first step in choosing a water heater is to consider the size of your family and how much hot water you need on-demand. You’ll also want to consider the cost of the water heater and its installation, as well as how efficient it is. It’s also a good idea to look for an ENERGY STAR® qualified water heater, which will have the highest efficiency ratings and savings potential.

Tank-Type Water Heaters

A traditional tank water heater features an insulated tank that heats and stores hot water until it’s needed. It can be powered by electricity or natural gas and is typically found in most homes. These water heaters tend to be larger than tankless models, requiring a dedicated space for the unit in your home. They also require regular cleaning and draining, as sediment can build up in the bottom of the tank. However, newer models have been designed to reduce energy consumption and offer better efficiencies, making them more cost-effective than older models.

When deciding on a tank water heater, look for one with an Energy Guide Label that tells you the model’s first-hour rating (FHR). To determine the right size to buy, add up how many people live in your household and consider their peak usage. For example, a family of four may take several showers and run the dishwasher and washing machine during one day, using up to 100 gallons of hot water during peak demand. A tank water heater with a FHR that matches or exceeds this amount should provide enough hot water for your home.

If you live in an area with hard water, a stainless steel tank is recommended because it will last longer than a conventional fiberglass tank. Also, look for features that help extend the life of your water heater, such as anti-scale devices that prevent the buildup of mineral deposits and reduce corrosion.

Other options for your water heater include a high-efficiency condensing gas water heater. This type of water heater captures heat from exhaust gases that would otherwise be vented and recycles it to help raise the temperature of your water, saving you money on energy costs.

Another option is a tankless, or on-demand, water heater, which uses a high-powered burner to quickly heat your water and deliver it directly to the faucet or shower without storing it in a reservoir. It can be powered by electricity or gas and offers greater efficiency than a storage tank model, saving you up to 22 percent on your energy bills.

Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless water heaters have no storage tank, but instead heat water on demand, instantaneously. When you open a hot water tap, a sensor recognizes the demand and starts to heating the water with either a gas burner or electric elements. Once your demand ceases, the unit shuts down and stops using energy until you turn on a faucet again.

Compared to tank water heaters, tankless units consume less energy and can save you significant amounts of money in the long run. Tankless units avoid the energy costs of continuously heating and reheating 40+ gallons of water, as well as the associated standby losses of energy that occur when a water heater is operating but not producing hot water (also known as “phantom load”).

A tankless unit’s ability to provide your home with on-demand hot water is limited by the flow rate of your water lines. The average tankless unit can handle 2-5 gallons of hot water per minute. If your home demands more than this, you may need to install multiple units or a higher-capacity model.

The most popular brand of tankless water heater in North America is Rinnai, which offers a variety of gas models at various price points and efficiencies. Other manufacturers include Bosch, Noritz, Rheem, and Stiebel Eltron.

While a tankless water heater can be a great investment, it’s best to leave installation to a professional. It’s not a do-it-yourself project, and it will often require updates to your home or building’s plumbing and electrical systems in order to work properly. Depending on the model you choose, you may also need to install ventilation piping. Finally, you’ll need to do a few basic preventative maintenance tasks annually.