Tankless Gas Water Heater & Electric Water Heater Buying Guide
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Buying a New Water Heater

  • Categories: Plumbing
  • Date: February 23, 2015
Buying a New Water Heater

If you stepped into your shower and were greeted by an icy assault, you know it is time for a new water heater. Or maybe it is taking longer for the water to get hot, or you have had it for 15 years or more, and have that nagging feeling that it is about to go, and you want to act before you have an emergency.

If so, here’s a buying guide that can be referred to when purchasing a new water heater:

Storage Tank Water Heaters

Storage tank water heaters are the most common type and are generally recommended. Natural gas and liquid propane heaters and other gas water heaters are preferred, as they normally use less energy and are less expensive than electric heaters of the same size. There are also solar powered storage tank heaters. While they are much more energy efficient and there are tax incentives available, you most likely would need a backup system for cloudy days.

When buying a storage tank water heater, there are three key considerations.

  • Size. Storage tank water heaters are designated by the number of gallons they hold. What you need will depend on family size and the amount of water you use. A normal rule of thumb for gas or propane heaters is 30 gallons for one or two people, up to 80 gallons for a family of five or more.
  • Recovery rate. This measures the number of gallons of water that can be heated in an hour. The greater your demand for water, the higher recovery rate you will need.
  • Energy efficiency and yearly operating costs. You can find this information on the EnergyGuide label.

One final, important consideration. Residential tank style water heaters are required by law to be more energy efficient by April 15, 2015. This increase in energy efficiency will come with an increase in cost and in diameter. If your current water heater is squeezed in a tight space, you may want to consider replacing the unit while you can still get one that fits into its space.

Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless water heaters do not store hot water. Rather they heat water as they pass through a series of coils. These units, which are available in electric, natural gas or liquid propane models, are more energy efficient. In fact, you can expect a 10% to 20% increase in overall energy efficiency over a storage tank water heater. Tankless water heaters also take up less space.

However, tankless water heaters can only heat a limited amount of water. If you exceed the flow rate, the water will not be in the unit long enough to heat up. It will also typically take a tankless water heater more time to heat up, which means you have to wait longer for hot water. This is especially important in cold weather climates like ours. Finally, tankless water heaters require additional de-liming maintenance that tank type units do not.

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*Based on research conducted January - December 2021

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