Weigh Your Options to Make the Right Choice


Selecting a water heater that works quietly and efficiently in the background of the home to provide enough hot water for the household to accomplish bathing, showering, and washing clothes and dishes is the goal.

Earning a 2021 Home Building Product Innovation of the Year Award from Green Builder Media, Rheem’s ProTerra Hybrid Electric Water Heater have a two-year payback estimation because they are four times more efficient than a standard electric tank. They are available in 40 to 80 gallon models.

Traditional storage water heaters

  • use natural gas, electricity or oil to heat water and store it inside the tank until it is ready for use.
  • Electric heaters have a lower initial price (between $300 and $700 without installation) but generally cost more to run in the long term as well as being subject to power outages.
  • Gas water heaters cost more ($400 to $1,000) to purchase but are cheaper to power.
  • A family of three to four people typically needs a 40 to 60 gallon water heater. Larger families may require a water heater up to 80 gallons.
  • can be compared using the Uniform Energy Factor (UEF) ratings system, where higher scoring units produce more hot water using less energy. To earn an Energy Star certification, electric water heaters with tanks up to 55 gallons must have a UEF greater than 2. Gas water heaters with tanks up to 55 gallons only need a UEF above 0.64 or 0.68, depending on how they use water during the day.
  • Life expectancy is from 8 to 12 years on average
  • Typical warranty periods for water heaters installed for use by a single family are 6-years, 9-years, or 12-years. But it is important to know that while tanks are typically warranted against leaks due to rust, corrosion, or chemical action of the water, tank failures due to scale are usually excluded.

 Tankless heaters

  • warm water on demand as it’s needed rather than using a storage system, using high-powered burners powered by electricity or gas to rapidly heat water as it runs through a heat exchanger and is delivered directly to your faucets or shower.
  • are about 30 percent more energy efficient on average than tank models.
  • cost two or three times more than storage heaters but may qualify for federal tax rebates, save by taking up less valuable square footage, have a life expectancy that is twice as long, and eliminate the worry of costly flood damage.
  • Gas models are more efficient and heat the water faster, however they must be vented, driving up their initial cost.
  • are rated by how many gallons of hot water they produce per minute (GPM) with average at 8 GPM and the very best rated at 11 GPM.
  • capacity to meet demand is expressed by a specification called temperature rise — the amount of heat in degrees it can generate at a GPH flow rate.
  • can last 18 to 20 years.

Hybrid water heaters

  • blend together the mechanics of both a heat pump and electrical resistance, pulling in heat from surrounding air into the appliance’s evaporator coil where it is absorbed by eco-friendly refrigerant, then pumped by a compressor that increases the heat and delivers it to condenser tubing wrapped around the water heater tank.
  • have installation limitations including the fact that they are significantly taller than standard water heaters and may not fit in an existing water heater closet.

The Westinghouse 4500-Watt Electric Water Heater carries a lifetime warranty, boasts a huge 80-gallon tank made of lightweight stainless steel and minimizes the build-up of scale inside.

The 11 GPM Rinnai RU199IN Sensei Super is the most powerful residential gas tankless water heater and delivers the maximum attainable heating capability for a residential unit (up to 199,000 BTU).

Navien’s latest condensing tankless water heater, NPE-240A2, was a finalist in the International Builders Show’s Most Innovative Building Material category.  Featuring Navien ComfortFlow®, it is the first to incorporate a built-in insulated buffer tank and recirculation pump.

Solar water heaters implement an innovative system of panels, storage tanks, and solar collectors that work together to heat water with energy created by the sun.

  • Active System types include direct circulation systems that pump household water through the collectors and into the homes. These work well in climates where it rarely freezes. Indirect circulation systems that circulate a non-freezing, heat-transfer fluid through the collectors and a heat exchanger are another type that  can be used for climates prone to freezing temperatures.
  • Passive Solar Water Heating Systems are typically less expensive than active systems, but not usually as efficient. They can be more reliable and may last longer. One type is an integral collector-storage passive system. These work best in areas that rarely fall below freezing and in households with significant daytime and evening hot-water needs.  Another option is a thermosyphon system implementing a system where warm water rises as cooler water sinks. They are more expensive and require a collector that must be installed below the storage tank.  Contractors must pay careful attention to the roof design because of the heavy storage tank when using this type.

In making the final determination about which water heating method is best, there is much to compare and consider.  Not only can improper installation of a tank water heater lead to a shorter life and voided warranty, it could pose risk of explosion from a combination of pressure, rust, and flooding. Also consider that tankless unit equipment costs are not only two to three times more, so are installation costs.  When it comes to hybrid water heaters, the Department of Energy advises that they be installed in a location which will stay between 40 degrees and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and since their heat pumps exhaust large amounts of cold air, they must be vented from the house.  Solar water heating systems require a backup system for cloudy days and times of increased demand.

Whichever system you’re considering for water heating, it is important to seek advice from a reputable and knowledgeable plumbing contractor and use your reliable source for installation.