Water heaters are one of the most essential, yet under-appreciated appliances in any home. The hot water heater accounts for roughly 25% of all your energy bills and supports bathing, washing clothes, dishes and other cleaning . When they are not functioning your family certainly feels the impact. Typically, a standard tank hot water heater has a lifetime of 8-12 years. Likewise, a tankless water heater should last closer to 20 years. It’s generally only once the heater develops a leak or stops producing hot water that we even remember them.
Types of Water Heaters
There are basically three types of water heaters: standard tank, tankless and heat pump water heaters. Tank, standard, or traditional water heaters are the most common and use a large heated storage tank of water to provide water for showers and faucets.
Tankless water heaters, or “on-demand” water heaters, heat water as needed, meaning they can provide endless hot water. The initial cost is higher but they take up less space and efficiency is extremely high.
Heat pump water heaters (currently only available in electric) are similar to a traditional tank water heater except a compressor on top of the unit preheats water by transferring heat from the ambient air temperature. Heat pump water heaters are extremely energy efficient and a particularly good option if you do not have gas to your home but are interested in saving energy (and money).
Within these three types, there are many variations, usually the difference being more energy efficiency. Also, most styles can be powered by electricity or natural gas, depending on the fuel source for your home and region.
Water Heater Efficiency Factor
The Efficiency Factor, or EF, is the measure of how efficiently your water heater converts energy to transfer heat into you water. With two identically-sized water heaters using the same amount of water, the unit with a higher EF, will use less energy.
Standard tank water heaters usually have an EF of .58-.62 (meaning 58-60% efficient), while Energy Star models are rated at .67 or higher. Electric tank water heaters have very high EFs, above .90, but the energy source is much less efficient, actually making them more expensive to run. Tankless water heaters offer high EFs (.92+) so they can offer energy savings throughout their lifetime.
Efficiency rating is a measure of the percentage of heat transfer from the energy source to your water. Standard electric tanks range from 88-95% efficiency while standard gas tanks range from 55-65% efficiency. Electric tanks allow for higher energy transfer because they heat your water with heating elements that are submerged in the water, while gas fired tanks are heated from below through a gas burner.
Despite higher efficiency ratings, electric tanks are more expensive to operate as the cost of electricity is higher than the cost of gas to heat your water. So, while heat transfer is more efficient in electric tanks, this does not mean your overall energy usage is less in an electric water heater. Because of this, many utility companies and local governments encourage residents to use gas heating if choosing between the two.
Recovery rate is the amount of hot water your tank can produce in the space of one hour assuming a 90° F increase in water temperature. Electric tanks produce approximately 20-22 gallons of hot water in an hour while gas tanks produce 30-40 gallons in an hour.
Water Heater First Hour Rating
First hour rating is simply the amount of hot water your tank can produce in one hour of continuous usage and is a function of the gallon capacity and the recovery rate. 50-gallon gas tanks will typically have a first hour rating in the range of 70-80 gallons; 50-gallon electric tanks will typically have a first hour rating around 60-gallons.
Estimated Operating Costs
Estimated operating costs are typically provided by the manufacturer but are highly subject to energy prices. Assuming average usage and $0.086/kilowatt hour in electricity costs, your electric tank will cost around $400 to operate per year. Assuming $0.50/therm gas cost and average usage, your gas tank will cost you around $120-130 to operate per year.
Water Heater Sizes
Most homes have either a 40-gallon, or a 50-gallon water heater. Larger tanks are generally used in homes that have a hot tub, or with serious hot water demands. We generally recommend swapping an existing tank with an equally-sized new one, but if you consistently run out of hot water, you might consider upgrading to a larger tank.
- 40-gallon water heater
- 50-gallon water heater
- 66-gallon water heater
- 75-gallon water heater
- 80-gallon water heater
- 120-gallon water heater
Our experienced customer service professionals and service technicians will walk you through all the details of your water heater repair or installation. Before we begin any work, we will go over a no-obligation, item-by-item checklist of any additional costs for parts and labor to bring the water heater up to code.