How to Choose a Water Heater
Posted on July 12, 2011
1. Consider your hot water needs. What capacity will you need? What’s the most efficient unit for you? How much will it cost to buy and operate?
2. Determine the water heater’s efficiency – look for its Energy Factor. The higher the number, the better the fuel efficiency.
3. Read the EnergyGuide label for the first-hour rating. This tells you how much hot water will be available at any given time. Don’t buy a tank that puts out more than you will need, or you’re just wasting money. (Gas water heaters have higher first-hour ratings than electric ones with the same capacity tank.)
4. Look for a conventional storage heater, which can run on electricity, gas, propane, or oil. Hot water from the top of the tank runs to the tap, while cold water comes in through the bottom to be heated.
5. Consider a space-saving gas or electric on-demand system in which cold water is heated as needed. No energy is wasted keeping water hot, the unit takes up very little space because it has no storage tank, and you never run out of hot water. The flow rate is limited to about four gallons per minute, though, so you may need more than one if you want to have a shower and run the dishwasher at the same time.
6. Tap the sun. Your entire home’s hot water can be heated with a solar water heater. Installation and purchase prices are generally high for these, but check them out – the savings in operation costs may make it worth the extra outlay. Look at a passive system, which doesn’t use a pump. This type is considerably more reliable, longer-lived, and easier to maintain than an active system. You may need to have a regular water heater to use as a backup.
7. Buy electric heat-pump water heaters in two styles. One has a built-in storage tank; the other kind can be added to a water heater already in place. They must be installed in a room that stays warm, and they require a lot of open space around them. This type of water heater is expensive to buy, but cheap to operate.
8. Know this general rule of thumb where price is concerned: The cheapest water heater is going to be the most expensive to use.
Water heater guide
You probably don’t think about your water heater until a cold shower suggests you need a new one. How to choose? Storage tanks cost less but tankless heaters save energy by only heating the water you draw. Hybrid electric/heat-pump models and solar water heaters are two newer options.