Water Heater Buying Guide
Have you ever said, “Don’t use all the hot water!” or found yourself shivering through a lukewarm shower in winter? It may be time for a new water heater in your home. The average life expectancy of a water heater runs about 8-12 years and, without proper maintenance, it can be even shorter. When it comes time for a water heater replacement, most homeowners aren’t up to speed on all of the factors that go into selecting the right unit, and will simply defer to their local plumber’s recommendation. Nine times out of ten, this is a safe choice. But, just like when purchasing a new car, it never hurts to do a little research. It may just pay off in the end.
Types of Water Heaters
The most common type of water heater is the storage tank water heater. They can be powered by electricity or natural gas, with natural gas being the more energy and cost-efficient option. Storage tank water heaters do as the name suggests and store heated water in an insulated tank. The hot water is ready to go when you need it.
Tankless or On-Demand water heaters can be an extremely efficient option for low demand homes using natural gas. Instead of storing hot water in a tank, tankless water heaters rapidly heat water as needed with heated coils. These smaller systems require less space in your home than the storage tank options.
Heat pump water heaters use the same heat pump technology you can find in HVAC systems to capture heat in the air and apply it to the water. Their unique design allows them to require less than half of the energy than that of a standard electric water heater. If you’re interested in a heat pump water heater, make sure that you will have enough space to install it. You will require additional room (up to 7 foot clearance) to house the full system.
Are you a Low Demand or High Demand household?
No one knows your hot water needs better than you do. Based on the number of people living in your home, the frequency of simultaneous tasks demanding hot water, the size of your bathtubs, and a little common sense, you can determine whether you have a high demand for hot water or a low demand.
Low demand households typically see only one or two locations (like the shower) demanding hot water in an hour. A two-person household with average sized tubs, which doesn’t typically wash dishes, laundry or take showers in the same hour may only need a 30-40 gallon water heater, and can be considered a low demand household. They would be fine installing a new water heater with a low to medium recovery rate. Low demand households also make great candidates for tankless, on-demand water heaters.
A family of 5 that showers back-to-back before work and/or school can be considered high demand. If you live in a high demand household, it can be wise to purchase a water heater with a higher first-hour rating and recovery rate. This will help ensure plenty of hot water for showers, dishes, laundry and more in a smaller window of time. If you aren’t sure what your demand level is, consult the worksheet below from the Department of Energy.
Now that you have a better idea of what type of water heater you’re looking for and an understanding of your hot water demands, you’ll need to be able to compare performance. A water heater’s peak hour demand, also known as the first-hour rating, shows the amount of hot water that the unit can provide in one hour. (This number can be found on the yellow and black EnergyGuide sticker on your existing water heater.) The higher your first-hour rating is, the more gallons of hot water you will be able to use in your home within one hour. Pretty simple, right?
Now you can make a better informed decision when purchasing a new water heater. For more information or if you have any questions, call the professionals at Mr. Plumber today! We’ll assist you in selecting a water heater model that suits your hot water and energy needs.