Which water heater type is best for your home?

AllClear 1:56 pm

Nearly every home has a water heater. That is true for our customers here in Greenville, South Carolina. It’s easy to forget that hot water is about more than comfort, though – water heaters are important for sanitation and the safety of your home.

Water heaters have been around a long time. The technology has improved since the 19th century, although the basic concepts have remained the same. Innovations have focused on efficiency, which is great for your wallet.

Today’s consumers have a lot of choices and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Based on your daily needs and habits, your choice of a water heater might vary from the family next door.

Homeowners can expect to replace their water heater every ten years, on average. When it’s time to buy, check in with industry updates before you decide on a replacement.

We compiled a list of the most common water heater types in the Greenville area and listed their biggest pros and cons.

Conventional Storage Tank Water Heater

Pros: time-tested technology, usually the least expensive option, low maintenance, water is hot and waiting

Cons: flood risk (depending on location), less energy efficient than other options, you can run out of hot water, high footprint

Tank-type water heaters work by storing heated water in its tank. The amount of hot water you’ll have available depends on the size of your tank. Residential heaters usually range between 30 and 50 gallons. The water gets heated ahead of time and kept warm until you need it. Insulation around the tank helps it hold its temperature while the water is being stored.

Annual maintenance may help extend the life of your tank-type heater but isn’t strictly necessary. For this reason, a lot of homeowners like the low-maintenance nature of a traditional tank water heater.

Even within the tank-type heater, there are plenty of confusing variations. They can use different power sources, including natural gas, propane, electric, solar, and heat pump style. Tall, standard, and low-boy heaters are each designed to fit different storage spaces. Direct vent, power vent, atmospheric venting all make sure that gas fumes get handled.

Your plumber will figure out these details before installation begins.

If you are looking for an economical solution, you can’t go wrong with this simple and time-tested technology.

Tankless Water Heater

Pros: more energy-efficient, endless hot water takes less space.

Cons: high up-front cost, can struggle to produce large amounts of hot water at once, more maintenance, water may take a while to get hot

A tankless water heater, as you can guess, has no tank for storing hot water. Instead, there are super-heated coils that heat water as it flows through on the way to your fixture. That’s how tankless earned the nickname “on-demand” water heaters.

Some people get confused with the concept of “endless” hot water. There are two ideas at play here – endless time and endless volume. A tankless water heater will give you endless hot water over time, but not an endless volume at one time. Because it heats water “on the fly” volume can be a problem.

If you are trying to take a hot shower, run the dishwasher, and do a hot load of laundry all at once – the water can’t get hot enough fast enough. However, if your three teenage daughters all like to take long showers, one right after the other, a tankless water heater is the perfect solution.

Believe it or not, tankless water heaters are as old as tank-types. Rudimentary technology made it less attractive in early days, so it took a long time to catch on.
Tankless gets a lot of attention for being energy efficient. It’s true that you don’t waste energy on standby time. Some say they overstate claims of energy efficiency. Lab tests versus real world performance are still up for debate.

If money is a primary concern, you can’t ignore that installation costs for a tankless water heater are higher. This is especially true if you are converting from a tank-type setup to tankless for the first time.

Energy savings depend on how your system setup, your overall use, and other environmental factors.  If you hope for a fast return on investment, it may disappoint you. Don’t forget that tankless models also require costly annual maintenance.
Did you know that some water heaters are in attics? Once you’ve seen the damage this can do, you’ll understand the appeal of tankless. A slowly rusting tank full of 40-gallons of hot water sitting over your head is risky.

The smaller footprint of a tankless heater is appealing for some. Your water heater might fill an entire closet in your house, for instance.

You can get tankless water heaters for electric, gas, and propane energy sources. We rarely recommend electric tankless because they aren’t as efficient.

Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heater

Pros: very energy efficient, low maintenance, dehumidifies, water is hot and waiting

Cons: high upfront costs, flood risk, you can run out of hot water, large footprint

Hybrid water heaters are getting attention thanks to rebates from utilities like Duke Energy.  Hybrids are a tank-type heater, but they are far from conventional.

Instead of generating heat directly, they move heat from the air. This has the added benefit of dehumidifying the space. Heat pump water heaters can use up to 60 percent less electricity than traditional electric tank-types.

Heat pump water heaters have a lot of the same pros and cons as traditional tank-type heaters. They use the same amount of space, provide a finite amount of hot water, and can present a flood risk if located inside your home.
While expensive to purchase, it is hard to beat the efficiency of a heat pump water heater.

Hybrid Condensing Water Heater

Pros: very energy efficient, low maintenance, water is hot and waiting

Cons: higher upfront costs, flood risk, you can run out of hot water, large footprint

Condenser-style water heaters are a highly efficient (like 96%) natural gas option. Much like the hybrid water heater, which pulls warmth out of the air, this water heater uses its own exhaust to turn up the heat.

Instead of sending exhaust into the atmosphere, it funnels it back into a chamber and uses it to heat the water. It drastically reduces the total amount of gas used.
These water heaters have not taken off in popularity, but win the prize for most efficient water heater.

All Clear Plumbing is happy to provide consultations for our customers on which water heaters fit best for their home and family needs.  Questions? Reach us at 864-979-7059. Our knowledgeable staff is always happy to help.