If you’re considering a new hot water heater — either because yours has failed or you’re just tired of poor or expensive performance — there are 5 factors to consider when choosing a new water heater:
1. STORAGE TANK OR TANKLESS
Storage tank water heaters are the ones most of us are familiar with — a large metal cylinder that holds and heats a specific number of gallons of water. This style takes up a bit of space but can be installed in a laundry room, garage, outdoor closet, or basement.
Tankless systems heat water directly, without the use of a storage tank. They are often called “on demand” since they turn on only when hot water is required. Since they have no storage tank, the system is more compact and can be installed in more or smaller locations. A single house may have more than one tankless system, depending on its size and demands.
2. HOW MANY GALLONS OF HOT WATER YOU NEED
Conventional storage heaters hold and heat a set amount of water. One that’s too small means someone’s taking a cold shower. One that’s too large means you're wasting money heating more water than you need.
For a household of 1–2 members, you may need as little as a 40 gallon tank. For a family of 5 or more, you’ll need at least a 50–75 gallon tank. Over time, the size you need may change depending on the number of people living at home.
Even tankless systems need to be chosen according to your family’s size and habits.
3. THE ENERGY SOURCE YOU SHOULD USE USE
Different energy sources come with advantages and disadvantages — both for you and for the environment.
Electricity: Electricity is the most versatile way to heat water. It can be used with storage and tankless systems, and, to a lesser degree, with solar and heat pump systems. Your electricity may come from a traditional source or can be renewable, making this a potentially environmentally friendly option.
Natural Gas: Natural Gas is cost effective, convenient and an efficient way to provide hot water.
LP Gas: LP gas or propane can be used with both storage and tankless water heaters.
Solar: Solar energy can be a viable option for heating water. However, these systems have significant up-front costs, can impact the aesthetics of your home (and be prohibited by some HOAs), and require year-round, daily sunshine.
Geothermal: Geothermal energy and a heat pump can be used for heating water. These systems are extremely energy efficient.
4. THE UPFRONT AND ANNUAL COSTS
When you’re looking at your overall budget, you need to consider the upfront costs of buying the physical components and having them safely installed by an expert. But also you need to factor in your annual costs.
Up to 20% of your household’s annual utility expenses come from heating water. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you’re likely to spend $400–$600 every year just to have hot water whenever and wherever you want it.
There is often a trade-off between upfront costs and annual costs. You need to look at both in order to make an informed financial decision.
Also keep in mind that switching from one fuel source to another may involve running new gas or electric lines, making changes to your breaker box, and adjusting how your system is vented. Those upfront costs may or may not be offset by efficiency savings. Any estimate Barnett Plumbing & Water Heaters provides will include these expenses.