Chances are, you don’t give your water heater much thought until it breaks. While they might not occupy a lot of brain space, heating your water consumes almost 20% of your household budget—so water heaters occupy plenty of space in your budget. We’ve laid out the types of water heaters available, as well as five things to consider when shopping for your home’s water heater.
Different Types of Water Heaters
Taking the time to understand the types of water heaters on the market and how they work will save you time, money, and headaches in the long run—plus, your home will thank you.
- Storage tank water heaters: The classic. This is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of water heaters. Utilizing a storage tank ensures a large reservoir of hot water is at the ready. The tank is insulated, and the water is heated to over 120°F. The downside to this system is that your hot water is limited. Once out, you will have to wait for the tank to fill and reheat properly. This type of water heater comes in both an electric model and a natural-gas model.
- Tankless (or on-demand) water heaters: As the name suggests, this type of system heats water on-demand. Instead of using a tank, this water heater uses coils to heat water as quickly as needed. While this type of system can be more energy-efficient, it has its limits. The flow of hot water out per minute is significantly less than other models—meaning this system might work best for those who aren’t using multiple plumbing fixtures simultaneously.
- Solar-powered water heaters: This type of water heater is powered by solar panels. Although the name isn’t very creative, the system in which the water is heated is. After the solar panels have done their work, this closed-loop system passes the water through an antifreeze-like fluid before being stored in a small tank.
- Heat pump water heaters: Sometimes known as a hybrid water heater, this type uses electricity to pump heat from one place to another.
- Tankless coil and indirect water heaters: This type of water heater uses your home’s existing space heater to heat water. When combined with a high-quality boiler, this type of water heater can be incredibly efficient.
What to Consider When Choosing a Water Heater
- Size: This consideration takes two forms. The first is the water heater’s actual dimensions. For example, a heat pump water heater needs an eight-foot vertical clearance in order to install properly. The second is how much water your potential water heater can actually produce. If you have a spacious home with many occupants, it’s safe to say you will be using multiple water sources at once—so a tankless water heater might not be the best option for you.
- Energy source: Water heaters can source a variety of fuels, with electricity, natural gas, geothermal energy, and solar being some of the most common. When choosing your system, make sure the energy source needed is readily available in your area, at a cost you can afford.
- Cost: Not only do initial costs of water heaters range wildly, so do their annual operating costs. Some quickly recoup the initial cost through annual savings, like a heat pump water heater; others, like solar-powered heaters, will take years to recoup costs.
- Energy efficiency: Keeping energy efficiency top-of-mind can decrease your home’s environmental impact and your monthly bill. More and more modern water heaters boast energy efficiency, and some might offer savings like federal or local rebates.
- Lifespan/maintenance: It would be a shame to go through the buying and installation of a water heater only to have it break shortly after. So, think about how often your water heater needs to be assessed and regularly maintained. For example, a tankless water heater has a long lifespan (up to 20 years) and has parts that are easily available and replaceable for quick repairs.