We’re so used to turning the faucet and receiving a supply of hot water that we can take our hot water supply for granted. But your water heater is one of the hardest working and most important appliances in your home. The choice of water heater types available is probably wider and more varied than you realize, with different options for the heating mechanism and fuel type. Below we look at the types of water heaters available to help inform your choice if you’re planning to install or replace a water heater.
Conventional Tank/Storage Style Water Heaters
The most popular and well-recognized water heater type is the conventional tank heater or storage tank heater.
Fuel Types: Electricity, Natural Gas, Propane, and Fuel Oil.
Output: Can hold 20-80 gallons of water.
How It Works: Water is heated by an element or burner and stored in an insulated tank until ready to use. Hot water is released from the top of the tank, and cold water enters from the bottom to be heated.
Benefits: Ready supply of hot water, relatively inexpensive to purchase the heater.
Cons: Standby energy losses from the tank, tanks only last about 10 years, higher operating costs, one of the least energy efficient water heaters.
Tankless or On Demand Water Heaters
Tankless or on demand water heaters provide instant hot water when you need it, without standby energy losses.
Fuel Types: Electricity, Natural Gas and Propane.
Output: On-demand heaters usually provide hot water at a flow rate of 2-5 gallons per minute.
How It Works: Cold water runs through the heating unit via an element or burner where it is instantly heated.
Benefits: Greatly improved energy efficiency between 8-50% more efficient than storage tank water heaters, financial savings due to greater efficiency, no need to wait for hot water, much longer lasting and lower operating costs.
Cons: Hot water supply limited by flow rate (however, multiple units can be installed), higher initial purchase costs.
Heat Pump Water Heaters
Heat pumps can be used to heat and cool homes, but they can also be used to heat water as well.
Fuel Type: Electricity, Geothermal Energy.
Output: Similar to tank style heaters, also necessary to look at the first-hour rating.
How It Works: A heat pump water heater pulls heat from the outside air (or sometimes another source) and draws this heat inside to heat water. The heat pump water heater works like a refrigerator in reverse.
Benefits: More energy efficient than conventional electric water heaters, lower running and maintenance cost.
Cons: Needs to be installed in an area that remains in the 40º–90ºF range, higher purchase and installation costs.
Solar Water Heaters
Solar water heaters use the sun’s energy to heat water.
How It Works: Solar collector plates allow the sun to heat the water, hot water is then stored in a tank. There are some variations to solar water heaters, the main two categories being passive or active.
Benefits: Renewable energy source, highly energy efficient, low running cost,
Cons: Almost always require a backup system.
Tankless Coil and Indirect Water Heaters
Tankless coil and indirect water heaters use a home’s space heating system to heat water.
How It Works: Tankless coil water heaters produce hot water on demand, while indirect water heaters use a storage tank. They both use a home’s central furnace or boiler to heat water.
Benefits: Can be the most efficient option when used in an integrated system, can be less expensive.
Cons: Can be inefficient for many homes in warmer climates.
Speaking with your plumber, Magnificent Plumbing about your next hot water system can help you make a more efficient and high-performance choice for outstanding results.