You’re in Hot Water! A Guide to Buying Water Heaters

by Gina Blitstein · 0 comments

Ahh, hot water… one of those little conveniences that’s oh-so-easy to take for granted. Thanks to that rarely seen workhorse – the water heater – all we need to do to enjoy a warm shower is turn on a faucet. When Mr Water Heater isn’t working properly, however, we become suddenly and intimately acquainted with him and his importance to our daily comfort and convenience.

When your water isn’t consistently as hot as you want or there’s leaking at the base of its tank, it’s likely time to replace your water heater. If you’re particularly proactive – even if it seems to be working fine but is over 10 years old – replacement is something to consider to avoid the inconvenience and potential damage caused by a failed water heater.

Since water heaters are purchased infrequently, it’s wise to review the options when choosing a new one. Usually, you’ll replace your water heater with a new version of  the existing one, probably a storage-tank style that’s gas-fueled or electric-powered. Even so, there are new features available so let’s review the important ones:

  • Capacity – The average daily hot water usage for a household of two to four people is 80-85 gallons – so you want to make certain that the unit you choose will be able to keep up with your demand. When considering storage-tank style water heaters, compare the “first-hour rating” (FHR) to determine if it can heat enough water when usage is concentrated, such as during the morning rush to get ready for the day.
  • Size – Recent federal manufacturing standards are such that traditional storage-tank water heaters must now be better-insulated. This increased insulation makes new heaters four inches wider than previous versions of the same size. Take this factor into consideration if your water heater has space constraints.
  • Glass Lining – Corrosion is the enemy of a water heater’s interior. Look for one with a glass-lined tank; this lining creates a barrier between the water and the steel body of the tank, protecting it from corrosion.
  • Warranty – The length of the warranty can tell you a lot about the quality of a unit. Water heater warranties cover between three and twelve years. Generally speaking, longer warranties are offered on higher quality models which have desirable features such as larger heating elements, or burners, (for speedier water heating) and thicker insulation.

Alternatives to traditional tank-style water heaters, include:

Hybrid electric are tank-style electric heaters which include a heat pump that utilizes ambient air to help heat water. They initially cost more than a traditional electric heater, but it’s quickly offset by cheaper operation. Due to the way they work, they make your home colder by taking in warmth from the air to use in heating water and by exhausting cool air. An additional downside is its height (up to 7 ft.) and space requirements (up to 1,000 cubic feet) to capture sufficient heat from the air.

Tankless (instantaneous) units heat water on demand. They’re the size of a suitcase and operate using an electric coil or natural gas to heat water passing through a heat exchanger. They only heat water when it’s needed – which saves energy – but that also significantly limits the amount of hot water available at any one time. Consult its “gallons-per-minute” rating (GPM) to determine if can meet your household’s needs. There’s no tank to corrode or leak but, on the downside, they’re costly to buy and install.

We don’t think of water heaters until they aren’t doing their job. Getting a high quality unit with a good warranty will help assure that yours will keep you in hot water for a long time.

Bonus Tip:

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