Types Of Water Heaters
Last Updated on June 1, 2021 by Gabriel Goddy
Are you looking to get a water heater for your home, but you have no idea which type is best for you? Then your worry is over, we would in this guide show you all the types of water heaters out there, you can then decide which is best for you.
What is a Water Heater?
A water heater does exactly what its name implies; it heats the water. You use this water to shower, wash your hands, cook, and clean. It takes cold water from a water supply pipe and warms it up. It then pumps it throughout your home when you open a tap or start your clothes washer. Water heaters are used to warm water that’s potable (clean and safe for cooking and cleaning).
How does a Water Heater Work?
A water heater with a tank takes cold incoming water and indirectly warms it with a gas burner or electric heating rods inside of the tank. Once the water has reached the proper temperature, the water heater stores it within the tank, waiting for you to turn on your sink or shower.
Depending on how much you turn your hot water handle, the water heater will “send” hot water, which will mix with the cold water, to your sink or shower. This is done through the pressure in your pipes – as the sink or shower is turned on, cold water is put into the water heater, moving the warmed water into the pipes and to your faucet.
A tankless water heater heats the water instantly instead of storing it in a tank. As you turn on the water and set the desired temperature, a tankless water heater will heat the water going into your shower or sink for as long as you have the water running.
Components of a Water Heater
Electric and gas water heaters have several components in common, including the drain valve, the TPR valve, an internal anode rod, dip tube, and pipes and fittings for hot water and overflow/pressure relief. In both cases, the internal tank is wrapped with insulating material to keep the water hotter longer.
Electric water heaters have a separate thermostat, while the thermostat on gas models is built into the gas control valve. Gas water heaters also have a heat limiting device to prevent overheating, a central, internal flue to vent gas and help circulate heat, and a thermocouple to shut the gas off in an emergency.
Main Types of Water Heater
There are five main styles of water heater available and each one has its benefits and potential drawbacks. Here’s a little bit about each style of water heater to help you choose which one is best for you and your home.
- Conventional Storage Tank Water Heater
This style of water heater is the most popular and probably the one you are most familiar with.
- What is a conventional storage-tank water heater?
This style of water heater features a tank that holds water to be heated. This means that the capacity of the tank determines how much hot water you have available at once. The tank is insulated so that when the water heats up, it remains warm until it is needed. This tank features two valves, the temperature control valve, and the pressure control valve.
The temperature control valve opens to release heat and moderate temperature when the water reaches over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The pressure release valve opens to lower the pressure when it reaches about 150 psi. This is the most common type of water heater among family homes, but you are limited to how much hot water you can hold. If your tank is too small or you need an excessive amount of hot water one day, you may run out and have to wait for the next tank to be heated.
- What maintenance is required?
Because the tank works to store water constantly, you will need to clean it out regularly to increase the lifespan of your water heater. You should clean your water heater tank up to twice a year to remove sediment and mineral scale and help reduce corrosion. This is not necessary and your water heater will usually work without being cleaned, but it may not last as long. The typical lifespan of a conventional storage-tank water heater is around twelve years.
- What are the benefits of this style of water heater?
This conventional style of water heater is typically the most affordable and it pretty easy to install, as well.
- What are the cons to buying a conventional storage-tank water heater?
This style of water heater only holds so much water at a time. This amount is based on its capacity, meaning that a 40-gallon tank will provide you with a continuous stream of 40 gallons of hot water before it runs out. Once the hot water is gone, though, it may take a while—sometimes an hour or more—to refill and reheat another 40 gallons of water.
- Tankless Water Heater (On-Demand Water Heater)
The “tankless” water heater features modern technology and can offer nearly endless hot water for your home.
- What is a Tankless Water Heater?
A tankless water heater, as you can probably guess, has no tank. Instead, there are super-heated coils that fill with water and heat water in a flash as you need it, which is why it is alternatively known as an on-demand water heater. This is great for heating water quickly, even for large families who need a large amount of hot water at once.
This style of water heater comes in different sizes, and you do need to ensure that you have the right size for your household, as a smaller tankless water heater will not be able to keep up with your water usage otherwise and it will result in lukewarm or cold water.
These models work well in homes that use natural gas to power their water heater, but larger models require a larger gas line and more gas to run correctly. Larger tankless water heaters that run on electricity may require you to increase the electricity capacity of your home, which could be costly.
- What kind of maintenance is involved?
Although there is no tank, you should still clean your tankless water heater at least once a year to remove mineral scale and avoid corrosion. Cleaning may be more difficult as the parts are smaller and more difficult to access. The lifespan of this style of water heater is 8–10 years.
- What are the benefits when compared to other styles of water heaters?
Tankless water heaters are incredibly energy efficient because they only heat water on demand instead of holding heated water all day, even when it is not being used. Assuming you get a model large enough for your household, you will have unlimited hot water all the time.
- What about the downsides?
The initial investment in purchasing a tankless water heater is significantly higher than that of the more traditional style, and it may require larger gas lines or more power capacity than your home currently has (not always), which can be an expensive renovation.
- Heat Pump Water Heater (Hybrid Water Heater)
This water heater hybrid can help save money on electricity because it doesn’t directly generate heat.
- What is a Heat Pump/Hybrid Water Heater?
This style of water heater is unique in that it uses heat in the air and the ground to heat water. This means that electricity is only used to move heat from the ground or air to the water, instead of the alternative where electricity is used to generate heat. Heat pump water heaters can use up to 60 percent less electricity than traditional styles of water heaters. Because the pump is on the top, you may need quite a bit of room for this water heater, sometimes up to eight feet of vertical clearance.
- Is there maintenance involved?
This water heater has a tank and, like conventional storage-tank water heaters, it needs to be cleaned regularly (up to twice per year) to prolong its lifespan.
- What are the benefits of heat pump/hybrid water heaters?
This water heater is incredibly energy efficient and, therefore, can be incredibly cost-efficient in the long run.
- What about the cons to this style of water heater?
Because this water heater style relies on pulling heat from the ground or air around it, it will not work very well in cold spaces like basements or in climates where it is excessively cold for long periods throughout the year. It is, however, one of the most expensive styles of water heaters to purchase.
- Solar Powered Water Heater
A solar-powered water heater allows you to draw energy from the sun. This is a great idea if you already have solar panels or are considering adding them.
- What is a solar-powered water heater?
This style of water heater may be the most energy-efficient of them all and relies on roof-mounted solar panels as its energy source. The energy is transferred to a closed-loop system containing a heat-conductive material, which then heats the water in the tank. This can save lots of money on sunny days and works particularly well for those who live in warm, sunny climates. However, this system often requires a backup plan, such as natural gas or electricity, so that the water heater can continue to run on cloudy days.
- What kind of maintenance should I do?
Again, this system has a tank, which should be cleaned regularly to remove scale and prevent corrosion. You should also consider the necessity of maintenance on the solar panels.
- What are the benefits?
These water heaters are super energy efficient and therefore are very environmentally friendly as well. You can save tons of money every month on electricity if you allow the sun to do most of the powering for your water heater.
- What about the drawbacks?
These solar-powered water heaters are incredibly expensive and sometimes it can take up to 40 years to see a return on your investment. In not favorable weather conditions where there is little to no sun, you may need an alternate source of power for your water heater, which can be a hassle.
- Condensing Water Heater
This water heater uses your home’s unused gas fumes to heat your water.
What is a condensing water heater?
The condensing water heater may be the absolute best option if your family’s home uses primarily natural gas as its energy source. This type of water heater funnel heated exhaust from the natural gas system and uses it to heat the water, which is held in a tank much like the conventional version of the water heater.
The gas fumes funnel through a coil placed at the bottom of the tank to heat the water. Therefore, very little energy is used (aside from gas already burned elsewhere, like by your oven or heater) to heat the water for your home. It is a tank-style water heater, so you will need to be sure to purchase one large enough for your family size.
- What kind of maintenance will I do?
Just like other styles, there is a tank to clean. This style may also require its gas import valves to be cleaned once a year as well.
- What are the benefits of this style of water heater?
This is usually the most energy-efficient version for families who heat their homes with natural gas. Generally, there is plenty of water to go around since this style of water heater usually requires a larger tank.
- Are there any drawbacks to this style?
This style of water heater is not easily available in smaller models and works best for families that need a capacity of over 55 gallons. It also won’t be the best choice for homes that don’t run on natural gas.
Now you have five main types of water heaters with their benefits and disadvantages. The decision is yours to make now. Which do you think meets your needs best? Once you’ve answered that question, you should be able to choose a water heater.