What’s the Best Type of Water Heater?

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 what you wanted to hear? It is the truth though—a water heater replacement or upgrade can cost anywhere from $500 to $5,000. It all boils down to a few factors, but first let’s review the five main types of water heaters…

  • Conventional tank water heaters
  • Tankless water heaters
  • Hybrid water heaters
  • Solar water heaters
  • Condensing gas water heaters

How to Choose a Water Heater

In addition to the operating cost and efficiency of the water heater, there are a few factors to consider and prioritize when making a decision.

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1. Fuel

Natural gas is more efficient and generally more affordable than electricity, which means that running a gas water heater tends to cost less than electric. If you don’t already have natural gas hooked up in your home, gas line installation 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 surrounding air and pumping it into the storage tank. Hybrids use an average of 60% less energy than standard electric water heaters?

Related: Which is better gas or electric water heaters?

2. 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 to ensure you have a hot water supply that meets your needs. The best tank water heaters hold at least 40 gallons, but some can store up to 80 gallons. 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.

household electric water heater, pump and pipingIf you never want to worry about running out of hot water, a tankless water heater may be the way to go. Since they heat on demand, you’ll 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 can’t run two showers at once.

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.

Electric Water Heater3. Energy Efficiency

Several years ago the Department of Energy set in place new regulations to increase water heater efficiency. Even still, some are more efficient than others. The Energy Factor (EF) designates water heater efficiency. This is determined by recovery efficiency more specifically how efficient the fuel is when transferring heat to the water.

Learn more about water heater regulation changes now.

4. Size

Another important factor is physical size and the amount of room you have available for water heater installation. 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 space limitations.

5. Standby losses

The amount of heat lost each hour from the stored water versus the water’s heat is called standby losses. This is important because it affects how often your water heater needs to heat the water and increases your electricity bill.

6. Cycling losses

Cycling loss is how much heat is lost when the water circulates through the pipes or tank. Similarly to standby losses, this affects how often your water needs to be heated which in turn affects the amount of engery your water heater uses.

Water Heater Features + Parts for Longevity

There are a few additional features you’ll want to look for to ensure your water heater will last longer…

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Length of warranty

Warranties can cover your heater anywhere from 3 to 12 years. We suggest looking for the longest warranty available on a water heater.

Still not sure which water heater is best for you? Our technicians are happy to review the options with you and recommend specific heaters for your home or business. Contact Robinson’s Plumbing today at 804-621-7056.

Robinson’s Plumbing Service is a full-service plumber and gas fitting service serving Charlottesville, and Richmond, VA.