Heating water can account for up to 20 percent of your average home energy bill. With new green initiatives for energy efficiency, most people are replacing their old water heaters with new, more energy-efficient models. These new water heaters may be more expensive up front but will save you money in the long run.
There are four different types of water heaters:
- Storage-tank heaters
- Tankless heaters
- Hybrid electric heaters
- Solar water heaters
Storage-tank heaters are basically tall cylinders filled by a cold-water pipe, and water is heated in the tank, then distributed through a hot-water pipe. These are typically fueled by gas and can run off a separate line or your already-established natural gas line. Sometimes you will see these heated by oil or electric, but gas is the most economical way to heat this.
Tankless heaters are sometimes called “instantaneous water heaters” and are often no bigger than a suitcase. They heat only the amount of water needed by an electric coil or natural gas. Tankless heaters have a longer life expectancy and are more energy efficient, but they have a limited flow rate that can be an issue with larger households.
Hybrid Electric Heaters
Hybrid electric heaters are conventional water heaters paired with a heat pump, in which a heat pump is used to heat the water in your tank. These are two to three times more energy efficient than a typical storage-tank heater and cost less to operate. These systems are dependent on the geographical location of your home and the space where they will be installed.
Solar Water Heaters
Solar water heaters are similar to an electric water heater, but instead of using a heat pump to heat the water, solar energy is used. This system works the same to heat the water as a heat pump, by transferring heat and energy to a coil system––using solar energy rather than ground energy. These systems are up to 50 percent more energy efficient than their counterparts but also require a backup system for use on cloudy or high-demand days.
Choosing A Water Heater
Water heaters are sold based on how many gallons they hold. But more importantly, you want to look at the “first-hour rating” for storage-tank water heaters and “gallons-per-minute” rating for tankless. These numbers will give you a better idea of how much hot water you will get within a set amount of time.
The size and type of water heater that will work best for your family can be a complicated decision to make.