If your hot water supply isn’t what it used to be, or if your water heater is nearing the end of its lifespan, it could be time to choose a new water heater. But with so many different options available, this task can seem daunting. Use this guide to help you invest in the best water heater for your household’s needs. And remember, you can always ask a plumber for more help.
Comparing Different Water Heater Styles
Various types of water heaters are available today. Understanding the differences between each one will help you make your selection.
Conventional Storage Tanks
These are the most common type of water heaters. They consist of an insulated tank filled with water, which the appliance keeps hot until you need it. While they may be the simplest choice, storage water heaters are inherently inefficient due to the constant energy required to maintain the tank’s temperature.
Tankless Water Heaters
As the name suggests, tankless water heaters don’t have a storage tank. Instead, they heat water on demand by using high-powered burners or electric coils. Though more expensive upfront, these heaters are highly efficient and last about twice as long as storage tanks for significant long-term savings.
Other Types of Water Heaters
Less common water heaters are also available:
- Heat pump water heaters, or hybrid water heaters, use electricity to move heat from the air or ground to heat the water.
- Solar water heaters use the sun’s energy, making them an eco-friendly choice.
- Tankless coil and indirect water heaters use the heat from your home’s furnace or boiler to heat water.
Water Heater Fuel Sources
Water heaters utilize different fuel sources, impacting their efficiency and operating costs. Be aware that your options may be limited by what’s available in your area.
Natural gas water heaters are the most popular choice. They tend to cost more upfront than electric models but are more efficient and less expensive to operate. Natural gas is most suitable for homes that already have a natural gas line for home heating or cooking.
Electric water heaters are the next most common option. They are usually cheaper to install than gas heaters but can be more expensive to run, depending on local electricity costs.
Other Fuel Sources
Some units heat water using oil, propane, solar, or geothermal energy. Oil and propane are less common and tend to be more expensive. Solar and geothermal heaters are eco-friendly options that can lower your carbon footprint and save money in the long run.
Sizing a New Water Heater
Determining the right size for your new water heater is critical, as an oversized or undersized unit can be inefficient. The sizing process for both tank and tankless models requires carefully considering your household’s hot water needs.
Sizing a Storage Water Heater
The ideal storage tank capacity depends on the number of people in your home and the peak-hour water demand. Use these estimates as a general guideline:
- A two-person household might need a 30- to 40-gallon unit.
- A family of four might need a 50- to 60-gallon unit.
- A larger household of five or more might need a 60- to 80-gallon unit.
To more precisely estimate the right water heater size, calculate your peak-hour demand by listing all the hot water appliances you might use simultaneously. Then, add up the total gallon-per-minute (gpm) demand.
For example, a shower might use 2.5 gpm, a washing machine 2 gpm, and a dishwasher 1.5 gpm. If you were to use all three simultaneously during the peak hour, you would need a tank of 40 gallons or more.
Sizing a Tankless Water Heater
The sizing process for tankless units is slightly different. Instead of storing hot water, these units heat water on demand. Thus, the size is determined by two main factors: the flow rate and the temperature rise. The flow rate is the amount of water the heater must handle at once, measured in gallons per minute. The temperature rise is the difference between the incoming cold water temperature and your desired hot water temperature.
To size a tankless heater, first calculate your maximum simultaneous flow rate. List all the hot water appliances you might use at once and add up their gpm requirements. For instance, if you want to run a 2.5 gpm shower and a 1.5 gpm faucet simultaneously, your maximum flow rate is 4 gpm.
Next, calculate the temperature rise. If your incoming water is 50 degrees and you want your shower to be 105 degrees, your desired temperature rise is 55 degrees. With these two figures, you can select a tankless water heater that can handle your demands. When in doubt, consult a plumber.
Water Heater Efficiency Ratings
Once you’ve determined the right size, compare the energy factor (EF) ratings of different units. This rating on the heater’s EnergyGuide label indicates energy efficiency. A higher EF means a more efficient unit, saving you money on your water heating bills for years to come.
While water heater style, fuel source, size, and efficiency are vital to consider, they aren’t the only factors. Here’s what else you should keep in mind:
- Warranty: Look for a water heater with robust warranty coverage. This can save you money if your unit requires premature repair or replacement.
- Anti-scaling features: Some models have features to reduce sediment build-up, such as a glass-like coating to protect the tank, extending the heater’s lifespan and maintaining its efficiency.
- Space: Ensure you have enough room to install your chosen unit, considering both physical space and venting requirements.
- Safety: Features like automatic shut-off switches and pressure relief valves enhance your water heater’s safety.
Get Help Choosing a New Water Heater
Deciding on the best water heater for your home is complicated. Fortunately, a qualified plumber can provide expert advice. At Triple T Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, we pride ourselves on our excellent service, certified technicians, and commitment to customer satisfaction. If you’re in Utah County and need help choosing a new water heater, call us at 801-798-7711 or contact us online. We make water heater installation a smooth, stress-free process.