Water heater buying guide
Choosing the right water heater shouldn’t be hard. It is all about covering the usual questions which arise during the process. After getting familiar with the basics, the choice can be made based on an easy manner.
Estimating the needs
The first and one of the most important factors to consider when buying a new water heater is to estimate the water consumption. The way of doing it is by examining the amount of bathrooms and faucets the water heater has to provide hot water for. There is an easier (and less accurate) way however to estimate the right capacity by counting the people living under the household. For two people a 30gallon model is usually enough, 40gallon for three, 50gallon for a family of four. For houses with two bathrooms 50gallon tank is also the advised bottom limit. For large households, with five or more members are advised using above 80gallon tank size when using an electric water heater or at least 50gallons when using a gas water heater. Which leads us to the second important question to address when choosing a water heater: the fuel type.
Natural gas, propane gas or electricity? These are the options and as a basic rule we can state that heating with gas produces more BTUs than heating with electricity – even when using high wattage heating elements which also imposes a great load on the electric circuit, gas water heating tends to perform better. This means gas heaters are able to heat the water up faster than electric water heaters and it also costs less to use gas in most cases when comparing to the electric models of the same size. On the downside gas water heaters must have appropriate ventilation installed for safety-reasons, protection against carbon-monoxide buildup and poisoning.
Water Heater Types
There are two possible choices when deciding about the type of the new water heater:
Storage tank water heaters
The most common water heater type, also known as tank water heater. These units consist of a tank inside which the water gets heated. This same same tank provides insulation for the hot water. The better the insulation is, the more the water stays hot without need of reheating and wasting expensive fuel.
If you decide to buy a storage tank water heater the two factors it is important to assess are the tank capacity and the recovery rate which indicates the heating performance of the water heater by specifying the amount of gallons it can heat per hour. It is advised to also check the water heater’s efficiency according to the estimated yearly operational costs which can be found on the EnergyGuide label.
Tankless water heaters
Or on-demand water heaters. Opposed to the tank water heaters, these units don’t have to store hot water keeping it always hot, prepared and ready to use by occasionally reheating it. The water gets heated real-time at the moment of opening the faucet. For this reason tankless water heaters are a lot more energy-efficient and economic on a long run. Just like storage tank water heaters, tankless water heaters can also run on electricity, natural or LP gas.
The most important factor to consider when choosing a tankless water heater is the throughput. While 3.5 GPM units can be enough for supplying hot water for one bathroom and appliances, for bigger households with multiple bathroom and machines running a unit with at least 7.0 GPM will be required.
Similar to tankless water heaters there are units which are able to deliver point of use hot water. These (usually small sized) heaters are practical especially when there are no many points in the house where hot water is needed. Then putting couple of point of use hot water dispenser under or above every sink in the house is a viable solution to do.