What’s the best water heater and how much does it cost? It’s a question that we get asked all the time. The simple answer, it depends. Not the answer you wanted to hear is it? It is the truth though, replacing your water can cost anywhere from $500 to $5,000 and here’s what it depends on:
Type of water heater
There are a lot more options when it comes to water heaters than there used to be. In addition to conventional tank water heaters, you’ve also got tankless water heaters, hybrid water heaters, solar water heaters and condensing gas water heaters.
Choosing the right water heater
So how do you know which one is right for you? Here are some things to consider and prioritize when determining which type of water heater you want:
- Fuel– Natural gas is more efficient and generally more affordable than electricity, which means that running a gas water heater tends to cost than electric. If you don’t already have natural gas hooked up in your home, adding it will be an additional cost, but it could save you money in the long term. Hybrid heat-pump models are also available and they work by pulling heat from the surrounding air and pump it into the storage tank. Hybrids use an average of 60% less energy than standard electric water heaters.
- Tank capacity– Nobody likes running out of hot water half way through their shower, so it’s important to consider the size of the tank and ensure that you have enough hot water to suite your needs. The best tank water heaters hold at least 40 gallons, but some can store up to 80 gallons. If you never want to worry about running out of hot water again, a tankless water heater may be the way to go. Tankless water heaters heat on demand, so they never run out of hot water. The downside is that you may have wait a few seconds for that hot water to come through and you probably won’t be able to run two showers at once. Generally, a two person household needs a 30-40 gallon heater, a family of three or four would require 40-50 gallons and homes with five or more people should consider a 50-80 gallon heater.
Surprisingly, and possibly more important than the size of the tank, is the FHR (First Hour Rating). The FHR measures the amount of hot water a heater can reliably put out in a certain amount of time. If your family has high hot water demands in the morning and your water heater has a big tank, but low FHR, you may still find yourself in cold water.
- Energy Efficiency– The US Department of Energy has set in place new regulations, which are effective tomorrow, to increase water heater efficiency, get more info on the new regulations here. Even still, some are going to be more efficient than others. The Energy Factor (EF) designates how efficient a water heater is. The EF is determined by:Recovery efficiency- How efficient the fuel is when transferring heat to the water.
Standby losses- The amount of heat lost each hour from the stored water versus the water’s heat.
Cycling losses- How much heat is lost when the water circulates through the pipes or tank.
- Size– Another important factor is the physical size of the heater and the amount of room you have available. The new energy efficiency regulations have caused models to swell by 2-3 inches in both height and width, so if space is limited, you may have to consider a smaller capacity heater, relocating your heater or changing the water heater type to accommodate your space limitations.
Other features to consider
There are a few additional features you’ll want to look for to get the ensure your water heater will last longer:
- Brass valves– Water heater valves come in two types, brass and plastic. Brass valves tend to stand the test of time better than plastic valves.
- Glass lined tanks– Manufacturers designed these tanks to reduce corrosion by applying a coating to the inside of the steel tank and heating that coating to create a heavy duty protective glass-like layer.
- Length of warranty– Warranties can cover your heater anywhere from 3 to 12 years. We suggest looking for one with a longer warranty.