Let’s start with the big question: Tank or tankless?
If you’re in the market for a new water heater, it can be a great time to re-evaluate if what you have now is the right water heater type for your home.
Tank water heaters are the reliable workhorse that many homeowners have become familiar with. They are the most affordable and there are constantly new upgrades that make models more and more efficient every year. Those upgrades are mostly just in the insulation and tank life; the basic design of tank water heaters have essentially stayed the same since they were invented way back in the 1800s. That said, a tank water heater bought today is far more energy efficient than one bought a decade ago, and the professional-grade hot water heaters that we carry have a warranty that beats any from a big box store. On the other hand, tank water heaters can take up a lot of space in a small basement, and there’s always the potential for a storage tank leak. The unfortunate truth is that a water heater storage tank leak can cause major problems for your home.
Tankless water heaters, also known as on-demand or point-of-use water heaters, cost more upfront than storage tank water heaters, but on average they last more than twice as long. The high efficiency Rinnai tankless water heater can last longer than 25 years. To ensure you get the most life out of your tankless we recommend annual maintenance and a water filtration system, like a softener. With an increased energy efficiency and longer life span, tankless water heaters can end up costing much less than a storage-tank water heater over the long haul. And just like tank water heaters, you can buy electric or gas tankless water heaters. Although we tend to recommend our customers stay away from electric tankless water heaters. Electric water heaters tend to have less and less efficient overall energy output. If you live in a cold climate, the temperature of the water coming into your home may mean that your electric tankless water heater will struggle to provide enough hot water for your entire home. For a strong, trustworthy tankless water heater, we recommend going with gas.
There are also a lot of ways to customize your tankless water heater with accessories and WiFi-enabled functionality. This can allow you to control the temperature and recirculation schedule on your hot water heater from your phone, and the WiFi system automatically diagnoses your tankless water heater and notifies you the moment it finds an issue. Motion sensors can turn on the hot water heater when you enter a room, and battery packs help ensure you’ll have hot water for days even when the power goes out. Check out our complete guide to tankless water heaters here.
Next up: What are the different energy types?
There are two main energy types for your hot water heater: gas or electric. Gas water heaters include both propane and natural gas water heaters, and electric water heaters can be pure electric, a hybrid, or a heat pump water heater.
If you go with a tankless, you just have to chose between gas or electric. Like we mentioned earlier, we do recommend you choose gas when you go the tankless route. You’ll enjoy high efficiency, endless hot water, and the many unique features you can get with tankless water heaters.
Gas Water Heaters: Atmospheric or Power Vent Water Heaters
For tank, you’ve got a couple of options when it comes to gas water heaters.
The atmospheric water heater is one of the most common types of tank water heater. The exhaust from the gas being burned is pushed upwards through a chimney in the storage tank to heat the water, and then it vents out a metal chimney pipe leading outside your house. Atmospheric water heaters are the most common gas-powered tank water heaters found in homes built before 2003. They are great tank water heaters for heating enough water for your whole home, however, they are the least efficient water heaters on the market and will cost more to run in the long term.
Power vent water heaters also rely on a natural gas or propane burner to heat air that then heats the water, and then uses an additional blower motor to assist in pulling the hot air through the water tank and out. A major advantage of a power vent water heater is that it doesn’t require placement next to a chimney stack, so it can be placed in more convenient areas of a mechanical room. Not needing to be near a chimney stack makes this a great water heater for a remodel to free up more space in your home. There are other advantages as well: power vent water heaters have higher efficiency ratings, and many are ENERGY STAR® certified and qualify for a rebate with your gas company.
Electric Water Heaters: Electric or Heat Pump (Hybrid)
The classic style of electric water heater uses electricity to operate two heating elements inside the tank. They are simple and come in a lot of different sizes, which allows you to tailor the size to your hot water needs. If space is a concern, electric water heaters can often fit where other water heaters can’t – and newer heaters have a really high Uniform Energy Factor (UEF), which means they don’t waste a lot of energy while heating the water. Usually it means that the tank has excellent insulation as well to avoid standby loss of heat. New federal regulations mean that there aren’t as many options for off-peak electric water heaters. If you’ve been using an electric water heater, you may need to switch to something else – our recommendation is to get a heat pump water heater.
Heat pump (sometimes called hybrid) water heaters are among the most efficient that you can get on the market. That means that you may be able to see big savings on your energy bill and a potential rebate for the initial cost of the heat pump water heater. They are best suited to an open room or basement since they take the heat out of the surrounding air and compress it to heat water inside the tank. When not enough heat is available in the surrounding air, they switch over to using the direct heating elements to meet your hot water needs. Want more details? Check out our blog all about heat pump water heaters here.
What size or power should you get?
Depending on your family size and hot water use, there are a lot of different options for what size of tank water heater you can get. Or what power tankless water heater you can get for that matter.
Our installation professionals can help you walk through how many showers, dishwasher or washing machine loads, and more you will run in the peak hour of your home. Once you have your peak hour or first-hour estimate, you can choose the water heater capacity that is right for your home. Energy.gov’s online resource, Energy Saver, also has a calculator to help you figure out the gallon capacity for a new storage tank water heater
One of the biggest differences between tank and tankless water heaters is that tankless ones are much smaller than traditional tank water heaters. New storage tank waters have increased insulation and other improvements. As a result, they’ll typically be more powerful than their same-gallon capacity predecessors. If your old tank water heater was stored in a closet, attic, or small basement, a tankless water heater might be necessary to help get the capacity you need from the space you have.
Tankless water heaters are measured by GPM or gallon-per-minute ratings. The higher the GPM, the more hot water will be available quickly. You also have to consider the BTU measurement, which is how quickly the water heater can heat the water from groundwater temperature. In Minnesota, the average water temperature is 42 degrees Fahrenheit. To bring this water to the temperature and flow rate you desire, you'll need high BTU and GPM. Most people in Minnesota find they need a tankless water heater with up to 200,000 BTU at 5 GPM to meet their needs. Here’s a helpful breakdown on what size tankless water heater is right for you.
Where should I buy my hot water heater?
There’s a big difference between the residential water heaters sold at big box stores and the hot water heaters sold and installed by Water Heaters Now. We sell only professional-grade water heaters from brands like Rheem and Rinnai, with professional-grade warranties to back them up. And we service the water heaters we sell – unlike the big box retailer who can’t even sell you water heater parts for many of the models they carry.
We do water heater replacement and water heater repair: it’s all we do.
When you trust your hot water heater installation to us, we can get it done quickly and done right. No waiting for a plumber to have availability. No calling around to see if what you want is in stock. No confusion as to what might be the best hot water heater for you and your family’s water heater needs.