Every home needs a water heater. Having a way to heat water cost effectively and making sure that water is hot every single day is just as expected as heat, light, and electric in any home. Tremendous changes have occurred in the past decade to water heater technology. If you have not purchased a water heater in recent years, there is a lot to learn about what options are available. This article shares some options as well as other information that you should be aware of before you purchase your next water heater.
Water Heater Options
There are three options available when looking at water heaters: storage water tanks, tankless, and heat pump.
Storage Water Tanks: These are the most common types of water tanks found in homes across the United States. Storage water tanks are just that – tanks that are insulated, storing water at a particular temperature and where the water is ready when you need it. You can purchase a storage water tank that is heated by natural gas or by electricity. Initially costing more to purchase, gas powered water tanks are much less expensive to run than electric ones.
Tankless Water Tanks: This is a different type of water tank. Here, the water is heated by heating coils. The tank is only on when you need the water. Very energy-efficient, the flow of hot water per minute (3.5 gallons/minute) is considered a very low flow. If you live alone or if you tend not to run multiple water-use appliances simultaneously (e.g., dishwasher, laundry washer, taking a shower, etc.), a tankless water tank will not give you enough hot water. It is recommended that homes with natural gas can easily heat the water in a tankless water tank. Heating a tankless water tank with electricity is more expensive and you may need to upgrade your electric to handle that amount of electricity required to run it.
Heat Pump Water Tank: Heat pump water tanks may only be useful in certain situations. A heat pump tank works be taking the heat from the air and using it to heat water. There are advantages to this type of water tank. It uses less energy than electric water tanks and cost recovery is relatively short. On the downside, these types of water tanks are not very effective in very cold spaces, requiring the area where it is kept to be maintained between 40 to 90 degrees. In addition, heat pump water tanks take up a lot of space, requiring up to 7-feet of clearance (floor to ceiling) as well as enough space for the pump to take the right amount of heat from the air to heat the water, and a drain to allow condensation to flow away from the unit.
Two other options are the solar heated water tank and the condensing water heater tank. Each has pros and cons. There are rebates from local and federal governments for solar heated tanks, but cost recovery can be more than ten years. Condensing water heaters work especially if you need to heat more than 55 gallons of water, but are very energy inefficient.
Water Tank Features
Water tanks have a variety of features available, however you may not need them all. Here are some of the more common features to be familiar with:
Water Tank Liners: Glass-lined tanks greatly reduce the possibility of corrosion that tends to occur in water tanks. Almost all tanks made today are glass-lined. Tanks may also have a magnesium anode rod within it to reduce corrosion. If corrosion does occur and if it breaks through the lining of the tank, the tank will need to be replaced.
Drain Values: There are two types of drain valves – plastic and brass. Plastic drain valves tends to break easily. A brass drain valve lasts longer.
Digital Displays: Digital displays are very useful. The display allows you to monitor the water temperature. You can also adjust the temperature down if you are away from your home for a long period of time (such as when you go on vacation) and then re-adjust it when you come home.
Size: Water tanks come in various sizes and are measured according to the amount of gallons of water it holds. How do you decide how large a tank you will need? Typically, a household of two people can comfortably use a tank that holds between 23 and 36 gallons of water. Two to four people — look for a tank that holds 36 to 46 gallons. More than five individuals in the home, purchase a tank that holds a minimum of 56 gallons of water.
Warranties: Water tanks typically come with a warranty of between 3 and 12 years. It is recommended to purchase the tank with the longest warranty. These might cost more initially, but chances are that you will not need to replace it as soon as one with a shorter warranty.
Water tanks come with an Energy Factor (EF) rating. This rating measures the energy efficiency of the tank. Look for an EF rating as close to 1 as possible. The higher the rating, the more energy efficient the tank is.
Water tanks range in cost from $300 on the low end to over $10,000 on the high end. Most tanks cost in between $900 and $2500. Remember that this cost is only for the tank itself. You will need to add the cost of a professional installer to install your water tank properly.
Do I Really Need a New Water Tank?
Water tanks can last 10 to 15 years, depending upon the model as well as the type of water that has been run through it. There are some tell tale signs that you are ready to replace your water heater:
- Your water is just not hot enough or is not getting hot at all.
- The water is rusty or brownish in color.
- The water smells strange or odd.
- Your water has a metallic taste to it.
- The water heater is making noises where normally it operates quietly.
- The water heater is leaking.
Most water tanks should last at least ten years. Depending upon how long you are living in your home and how old your current water tank is, you may or may not be required to replace it. If you need to replace your water tank, do your research and take the above information into consideration before your select one to purchase.