Selecting a new water heater for your home can be frustrating. You find yourself asking yourself questions like:
What water heater options are available to me?
Which are the most reliable and the best value?
What are the most energy efficient?
Should I go tank-less?
In this article we are going to remove the mystery from water heater shopping, covering the defining features, benefits, and disadvantages of three common water heater types: indirect fired water heaters, tankless water heaters, and solar hybrid water heaters.
By the end of this article, you should have a much clearer picture of which type to choose for your home.
Tank Water Heaters
By far the most common type of water heater you'll find in basements across the country is the 'tried-and-true' storage tank version. Typically holding around 40-50 gallons, these water heaters use electricity, natural gas, or liquid propane to heat the the entire water tank to temperature, regardless if it's being used or not. Once thought of as inefficient, tank water heaters are making a come-back. Now you can find high-efficiency and even hybrid versions that utilize 'smart' technology that don't just replace existing water heaters, they completely revitalize your faith in the tried-and-true method for heating water once again.
Tankless Water Heaters
Tankless water heaters, or inline water heaters, are often touted for "hot water on demand" or "end the hot water wars", but it can be hard to gather basic information about their functionality.
So, let's break it down to the basics: what is a tankless water heater? The principle behind it is fairly simple: Instead of continuously heating water in a big holding tank to be used at a later time, tankless water heaters only heat the water when it's being used. There are many benefits of this method. The water heater has a much smaller footprint and can often be mounted on a wall. The tankless nature of the heater means that your home's supply of hot water is effectively limitless - running out of hot water is a thing of the past. Efficiency levels are much higher than tank-based water heaters, as well, because no energy is needed to keep the pre-heated water warm inside of the tank.
However, just like storage tank water heaters, instant hot water (at the fixture) is not always plausible. That's because the existing water in the pipes is still cold and needs to be cycled out before the hot water can reach the user. Depending on how far the fixture is from the water heater, it will take a second or two for the heater to sense the flow of water and switch-on. You may have to wait a few seconds in the morning for your shower to warm up, but you'll never run out of hot water. Many people consider this to be an acceptable trade-off for the benefits a tankless water heater provides.
Solar Hybrid Water Heater
Solar hybrid water heaters share many features in common with indirect fired water heaters. They are similarly easy to install as they require no power or fuel, but are different in that they contain two internal coils instead of one. One coil is typically connected to a hydronic boiler's heat line, with the other coil being connected to a solar collector. Combined with a high-efficiency boiler, these types of water heaters can raise a home's efficiency to incredibly high levels. Finding a balance between heat provided by your hydronic heating system and the solar collector can be tricky - the installation of a solar water heater should be performed by a contractor qualified in solar energy.
There are other types of water heaters besides the three covered in this article, but these three types are among the most common. Most importantly, all three are viable, efficient water heaters that will reliably supply your home with hot water for years to come. For more information about any of these three types of water heaters, or for help deciding which is right for your application, please call us or drop us a line.