Buying a Hot Water Heater? Here’s What You Should Consider
If you’re like most people, you likely don’t understand the different metrics you need to consider when you are looking at buying or replacing a standard tank-type hot water heater. Even though we don’t pay them too much attention until they have broken down, we use our water heaters just about every day of the year. Without them, taking showers, doing laundry, or washing dishes would be almost unbearable!
To make sure that you make the best choice for your new water heater, there are essentially four things that you need to think about: the tank size, type of energy, the warranty, and its overall efficiency. While there are other factors at play, these are the four most important aspects that will help you find a water heater that is perfect for your needs.
Hot water heaters come in many different sizes, to facilitate families with different needs. If you have a larger family, you are likely going to want to purchase a water heater with a larger tank size to help ensure that everyone can get a hot shower in the morning. Typically, the rule-of-thumb is that you want a 40 gallon tank for 1 to 4 people, a 50 gallon tank for 4 to 6 people, and a 50 gallon high recovery or 75 gallon tank for 6 to 8 people.
Energy consumption for 40 and 50 gallon standard water heaters is quite comparable. When you start looking at high recovery heaters and larger tanks you should anticipate a more noticeable increase in energy costs. It’s important to note that upsizing to a larger tank or high recovery system can be complicated by such factors as the capacity of your existing exhaust pipe or gas piping. Make sure your new tank is compatible with your existing system–before you buy it!
Type of Energy
The most common residential water heaters are of the gas or electric variety. Switching from one type to the other can create significant extra costs for things like gas piping, venting, or electrical work. If your tank is gas-fired, be sure to confirm whether your gas supply is natural gas or propane. Another type of water heater sometimes used in homes heated by a central hot water boiler is an indirect-fired water heater, also know as a ‘sidearm tank.’ These high recovery, high quality tanks contain a heat exchanger inside the tank, and are heated as an additional zone off the central boiler.
You also need to know what is typical regarding the warranties for your new water heater. Most often, the warranty runs between 6 and 12 years for the tank, and all other parts may carry the same or different length coverage. Be sure to find out the complete scope of the manufacturer’s warranty on your new heater. Labor costs are usually covered for just the first year, by your installing contractor. Extended labor warranties may be available.
If you’re an expense-minded person or you just want to be kind to the environment, you will also want to consider energy efficiency. Though there are standards set forth for manufacturers by regulatory agencies, some water heaters still save more energy (and money!) than others. This is usually conveyed in an EF (Energy Factor) rating, and the higher the EF number the more energy efficient your water heater will be. For those interested in learning about the most efficient, highest rated residential water heaters available, take the time to learn about tankless water heaters. But don’t run out to get one today! Typically, a tankless water heater installation represents a significant investment, along with revamping of your existing venting and gas pipe.
Another good rule of thumb: ‘If it ain’t broke,’ and you’re happy with your current system, ‘don’t get carried away trying to fix it!’