Hot Water Heater Buying Guide

In this blog post, you’ll read:Selecting the right water heater is crucial for home comfort and efficiency. Consider tank, tankless, point-of-use, hybrid, and combination boiler water heaters based on your needs. Evaluate factors like first-hour rate, energy use, flow rate, capacity, fuel type, and warranty. Proper research ensures a cost-effective, reliable solution, balancing immediate and long-term benefits.

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The purchase of a water heater is a substantial investment that affects the functionality and comfort of your home. A plumbing apparatus or appliance known as a hot water heater is intended to heat frigid water and, in certain instances, hot water for future use. Water heaters are essential for heating incoming cold water and delivering heated or hot water to appliances and fixtures. These fixtures include dishwashers, laundry, showers, baths, and basins.

Thus, purchasing a water heater is a large investment that impacts the comfort and efficiency of your house. No one desires to endure the frigid temperatures of a shower or the exorbitant energy expenses associated with a model that fails to meet their household’s requirements. Our purchasing guide demonstrates how to select a water heater that is both cost-effective and dependable.

Comparing Types of Hot Water Heaters

types of hot water heaters
types of hot water heaters

Gas- and oil-fired heaters have higher FHRs than electric models in terms of their tank size compared to the various heaters. (Heating elements are not as efficient as flames in heating water.) If your worksheet yields a high FHR, such as 100 gallons, installing the hot water heater may be necessary.

Tank Water Heater

tank water heater
tank water heater

Tank water heaters consist of a heating element and a storage tank. It keeps hot water until it is required. Enough of these systems in the market make this type of water heater one of the most cost-effective alternatives. The capacities of these conventional radiators vary from 30 to 80 gallons of water, as they are equipped with a large, insulated tank.

Although some models may operate on liquid propane or gasoline, tank water heaters are powered by electricity or natural gas. When frigid water is introduced into the reservoir, it is heated to a predetermined temperature. The water heater no longer heats the water once the tank’s temperature reaches the specified level. The unit will reactivate to restore the water to its current temperature after the hot water is used or when enough time has elapsed for the water to settle.

Best for: Affordable water heating with a supply of hot water.

Tankless Water Heater

tankless water heater
tankless water heater

A tankless water heater generates an endless supply of hot water. It is designed to swiftly heat frigid water as it travels through a brief series of super-heated coils. These water heaters are the optimal choice for tiny condos, apartments, or townhouses. Also, they are less than half the size of a standard tank water heater.

Both electricity and natural gas can power the systems. However, natural gas tankless heaters are generally more efficient. One of the main pros of a tankless water heater is that it does not consume energy by heating and reheating a water reservoir. Rather, the water is heated only when it is required.

Tankless water heaters heat water on the need to guarantee an infinite supply of hot water. They are generally more efficient and occupy less space than tank water heaters. Even so, the cost of purchasing and installing a tankless water heater is more than that of a conventional one. So, if cost is a priority, a tankless system may not be the most suitable choice.

Best for: Heating cold water on need in homes with limited area.

Point-of-Use Water Heater

point of use water heater
point of use water heater

In contrast to whole-home options, point-of-use water heaters offer hot water only to a single utility fixture. These fixtures are a kitchen basin or shower. Tank point-of-use water heaters are equipped with a small storage tank. This tank maintains a restricted quantity of water that is prepared for use. The available tankless point-of-use water heaters are ideal for showers as they end the concern of running out of hot water.

This type of system is inexpensive and occupies minimal space, as it can be concealed beneath the sink. The primary disadvantage of a point-of-use system is that it is generally less efficient than most other types of water heaters.

Best for: Offering hot water to a single plumbing fixture.

Hybrid Water Heater

hybrid water heater
hybrid water heater

A hybrid water heater does not depend on a direct fuel source; instead, it employs a heat pump system to extract heat from the air and the ground to heat the water. This heating method enables a hybrid water heater to consume up to 60% less electricity than a standard tank water heater.

The system comprises a large insulated storage tank and a heat exchanger to the summit. Due to the combination of a tank and heat exchanger, hybrid water heaters need more space than conventional tank water heaters.

Furthermore, hybrid water heaters are not advised for regions with frigid temperatures. It is significantly dependent on ambient heat and has a higher cost than conventional tank heaters.

Best for: Energy-efficient whole-home water heating.

Combination Boiler Water Heater

combination boiler water heater
combination boiler water heater

A combination boiler water heater is a single unit designed to heat the home and the water used at various utility fixtures throughout the house. The furnace system distributes hot water through radiant floor systems or baseboard radiators. Depending on the specific system, steam may be distributed to steam radiators to heat the house.

It also heats water for adjacent appliances, basins, and showers. This water heater has low operational costs and a compact structure. It is an excellent choice for smaller residences that need year-round heating. However, they are not optimal for larger families that need a large amount of hot water during peak periods.

Best for: Affordable, efficient water heating in homes with space limitations.

Hot Water Heater Sizes

hot water heater sizes
Water heater sizes

Don’t presume that the prior tank had the necessary heating capacity, even if you were satisfied. To learn that capacity, store the amount of hot water your household consumes during the busiest hour of an average day. Calculate the appropriate size of a water heater to meet your needs. There are 363 days in a year, not the one or two days when you have 25 relatives visiting. Otherwise, you will be left with a creature that consumes energy in the dungeon.

This sum, which represents your household’s “peak-hour demand” for hot water, should be near the “first-hour rating” (FHR) of your water heater. It is shown on the yellow Energy Guide label for each heater. During an hour of excessive use, the FHR suggests the quantity of hot water a heater can generate. (This is not the same as the capacity of a tank in gallons.)

Performance Features of a Hot Water Heater

After knowing a heater’s size and efficiency rating, it is crucial to test the following factors. These will contribute to its longevity and less operating expenses.

Tank material

The typical tank is composed of steel and “glass” (which is made of porcelain enamel). It contains magnesium or aluminum rods. These are suspended in the tank to combat internal corrosion. It will be the primary cause of earlier water heater failure. Anodes are unnecessary with stainless steel tanks, as they do not corrode. But they are more costly than glass-lined tanks. Their elevated cost may be justified in regions where the water is vitriolic (acidic) or reactive (containing minerals that encrust the tank walls, thus impairing heat transmission).


The insulation should be R-16 or greater for gas- or oil-fired tanks. However, electric tanks should be R-22 or greater, regardless of whether they are foam or fiberglass. Insulation mitigates standby losses, the heat losses that occur when the device is inactive. It is impossible to compensate for the inadequate insulation inherent in the tank by wrapping it in a fiberglass cloth.

Heat traps

These incorporated devices have either valves or flexible connectors. These valves or flexible connectors are bent into an inverted U to prevent “thermosyphoning. It helps in the inclination of hot water to ascend the supply conduit. A heat trap can be incorporated into installing a water heater or retrofitting an existing heater if it does not have one.

Making Your Selection

Consider the manufacturer’s reputation and warranties before making a buy. There is no single source of information to rely on for this. So, conversing with a few reputable electricians and plumbing supply stores should help reduce the options. Also, you can capitalize on incentives given by authorities to promote energy-efficient models. Finally, ensure that the selected heater will fit within the available space. However, it still allows for adequate space for servicing.

When you are ready to buy, your plumber should be able to get the model you desire. You may be able to buy from a local home center. In either scenario, professional installation will take approximately one to three hours. It ensures that the cost includes removing and disposing of the old appliance.

What to Consider When Choosing a Water Heater

Numerous variables can influence the selection of a water heater. The fuel source, capacity, energy consumption, and discharge rate are prioritized. The decision can affect your budget, as a water heater accounts for 20% of your home’s heating and ventilation expenses.

Basic Hourly Rate

The first-hour rate is the maximum amount of water a water heater can heat in one hour. It should equal or exceed the hot water required to operate all your appliances and faucets simultaneously. Water consumption is 30 gallons for a washing machine, 20 gallons for bathing or showering, and 14 gallons for a dishwasher.

Energy Use

The variety of water heaters and the amount of water used can contribute to approximately one-fifth of your energy bill. To qualify for the designation, certified gas-fueled 55-gallon storage water heaters must meet uniform energy between 0.64 and 0.81. Certified water heaters can help you locate an energy-efficient water heater.

Flow Rate or Gallons Per Minute

Tankless water heaters are assessed based on their discharge rate, measured in liters per minute. The quantity of heated water that can be circulated increases as the GPMs increase. A typical house requires a discharge rate of 6 to 12 liters per minute.

A house accommodating two individuals entails a minimum of 2 to 3 GPM. Homes with three to four occupants should have a flow of three to 5 gallons per minute (GPM). However, those with five or more occupants should have a flow of six gallons per minute.


The number of individuals in your home will determine the quantity of water heater required for your residence. A water heater with 40 to 50 gallons capacity will be adequate for a household with two to three individuals. Depending on the residence’s water requirements, a 50- to 75-gallon tank may be required for a household of three individuals. A 75-gallon tank is likely needed in a household with five or more individuals. Water heaters’ cost will increase in tandem with the tank’s capacity.

Type of Fuel

When contrasting gas and electric water heaters, it is necessary to research or rely on personal preference. The most prevalent fuel types for water heaters are electric and gas. However, solar, fuel oil and propane are also viable alternatives. Electrical water heaters are more energy-efficient than gas. However, it is more expensive than natural gas.


The majority of water heater warranties are between six and twelve years old. The lifespan of conventional storage tank water heaters is eight to 12 years. However, corrosion or tank accumulation causes them to malfunction earlier if not maintained. Most tankless water heaters can last for up to 20 years or more. An installation warranty can be particularly beneficial when dealing with water.

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