Choosing a new water heater replacement can be overwhelming with the number of options available. It can be helpful to first decide on the style of water heater you want and then choose your option for fuel type. Energy efficiency is one of the greatest priorities for those looking for a water heater replacement as this offers savings both financially and for the environment. Here we break down the options for water heater replacements by the variables you can choose from including style, fuel type, and capacity or size.
Style: Conventional Storage Water Heater
Most of us are familiar with the tank style water heater also known as the conventional storage water heater. This has long been the most popular choice for water heaters in homes. Storage water heaters always have a store of hot water on hand in the tank for when you need it. However, storing hot water leads to standby heat losses which reduce energy efficiency.
Conventional storage water heaters often use natural gas or electricity as a fuel source, however, they can also use propane and fuel oil.
Conventional storage water heaters come in a range of sizes to suit the needs of your household and family. The ready reservoir store of hot water is usually between 20-80 gallons.
Other Storage Water Heaters
Two of the less conventional storage water heaters include heat pump water heaters and solar water heaters.
Heat pump heaters use electricity to move heat to warm the water, like a refrigerator in reverse. A stand-alone heat pump water heater pulls heat in from the surrounding air and uses it to heat water inside the tank.
Solar water heaters use heat or energy from the sun to produce hot water. Solar water heaters can be active if they have circulating pumps and controls, or passive if they have no powered controls.
Heat pump heaters and solar water heaters are more expensive to buy upfront but they can have much lower annual running costs than conventional tank heaters.
Style: Tankless Water Heaters
Tankless water heaters are also known as on demand water heaters. They don't store hot water but generate hot water on demand when needed. Tankless water heaters can save money and energy by avoiding standby heat losses. Many homeowners are choosing on-demand water heaters for water heater replacements because of the financial and environmental benefits they provide.
Tankless water heaters need to provide high heat fast to produce hot water on demand. Tankless water heaters are mostly fueled by natural gas, electricity or propane.
Due to the fact that tankless water heater's do not store hot water, their capacity is spoken about in terms of flow rate rather than size or volume. Typically, on-demand water heaters have a flow rate of 2-5 gallons per minute. Gas fueled heaters tend to have a higher flow rate than electric powered tankless water heaters, however, gas-fired tankless heaters can use slightly more energy as they require a pilot right light to run even when not in use.
Unfortunately, the supply of hot water from a tankless system is limited, meaning there may not be enough hot water to service multiple appliances at once. Installing more than one tankless system can help to compensate for this. Depending on the amount of hot water your household uses each day, a tankless water system can provide energy savings of 8 - 50% compared to a conventional storage tank water heater. Energy Star® estimates that the typical family can save $100 or more per year with an Energy Star® qualified tankless water heater.
Choosing the right water heater for your replacement can be a challenge but talking over the options with your local plumber and analyzing your household hot water needs can help you make the right choice.