As with many appliances, hot water heaters are making technological leaps almost by the day. That brings both good news and bad news.
The good news is that you have many more options to find the right heater(s) for your home and you can do that in an economical and environmentally friendly way.
The bad news is that as choices proliferate, so do decisions. It can be stressful choosing the right water heater.
This article can help.
Here are pointers to guide you as you choose a hot water heater.
Water Heater Buying Criteria
The top criterion for many people is this: can the water heater provide enough hot water for my family? That means that you need to select either a tank large enough for your entire family or a tankless model (or models) that will get enough hot water to the dishwasher, shower and bathtub at the same time, if necessary. This should be a primary guide to your choice (make sure to check our page on water heater sizing).
The other top criterion is cost of operation. You need to find a heater or heaters that will not bankrupt you as you use them. You need to pick a hot water heater that will actually save you money over other options, not cost you more.
Options to Choose From
Your choices abound, but here are the most common types of hot water heaters, along with some arguments for and against each type of water heater.
- Gas heaters heat water more quickly, have a shorter recovery time, and are often much cheaper to operate than electric heaters. However, they can have finicky pilot lights and cannot be placed in living areas, bedrooms or bathrooms.
- Electric heaters are coming down in operating cost every year and can be placed anywhere in the home, maximizing your space. They are also quieter and can be used in conjunction with heat pumps. They still cost more to operate than gas heaters.
- Tankless heaters give rapid hot water to where it is needed and are very compact. They come in gas and electric models and their owners swear by them. They are standard in most other parts of the world and are super-efficient because they are not heating water when not used. They are a bit expensive and you will probably need more than one for your home.
- Solar heaters are great for the environment and can be cost-effective but are not very practical in areas that do not receive lots of sunshine.
- Heat pump heaters are a new wave and growing in popularity. They are extremely economical but require a fairly complex installation and have a high start-up cost.
- Hybrid heaters are ultra-modern, economical and quiet. They also are very expensive.
Now you need to figure out which types of fuel are available in your home. If it is not fitted for a gas heater, then you will have to renovate your home. If only propane gas is available at your cabin in the woods, your choice is easy.
Cost and energy efficiency can be checked often by simply looking on the labels of different water heaters or reading their characteristics online. This will help to guide your decision as well.
Also take into consideration how long you will be in the home. If you plan on staying for more than a decade, then the much higher cost of a hybrid water heater, for instance, makes more sense as energy savings accumulate over a greater amount of time.
For more information on choosing the right hot water heater, read the other articles on this site, such as Tankless vs. Tank Water Heaters and Gas vs. Electric Heaters, along with the articles on sizing and other considerations when making your purchase.