It doesn’t get as much attention as your home’s HVAC system, and it’s a lot less visible than your large kitchen appliances, but your water heater works tirelessly in the background of your home, giving you hot showers, sparkling dishes, clean laundry, and more. Water heaters are usually low maintenance and long lasting, quietly going about their business for years without giving you much trouble. But if your home’s water heater is more than ten years old, it’s probably not as efficient as newer models, and it may be worthwhile to consider an upgrade. But that brings up an important question: with all the different water heater models on the market today, what type of water heater should you get? Here’s a little bit about the four main types of water heaters so you can make an informed decision.
This is the conventional type of water heater, and the one you’re probably most familiar with: the large vertical tank in your basement or utility closet that heats and holds water. They come in a few different sizes; the more people in your home, the larger size you’ll want. These last a long time, are low maintenance, and are fairly efficient, especially if you use natural gas instead of electricity. They’re also easy to find at any big box or locally owned hardware store, and are relatively affordable, with smaller models starting at under $400.
Tankless on-demand water heaters are compact and efficient because they heat water only when you need it. There’s no storage unit at all, so there’s no water to keep continually hot, and that means lower energy bills. They’re also long-lasting and low maintenance, but the upfront cost is around twice that of a conventional water heater; it’s tough to find a quality model for under $800. On-demand systems are measured in gallons per minute, but in general, you don’t get a lot of hot water at once. In other words, if you’re taking one shower at a time in your home, a tankless system will work just fine, but if you have three people showering at once, there probably won’t be enough hot water for all three. However, larger homes can have multiple on-demand water heaters to fulfill hot water needs.
This type of water heater works like a refrigerator, but instead of keeping your food cold, it keeps your water hot. Just like a refrigerator circulates cold air, a heat pump water heater circulates heat to keep your water hot. These typically work most efficiently in regions where there is a lot of heat, and they’re incredibly energy efficient. The main drawback is the upfront cost of the unit, as heat pump water heaters tend to cost over $1000, and the installation fee can also be well over $1000. They will save you on monthly energy costs, though, and the maintenance on these types of water heaters is relatively easy: you just need to clean or change the air filters on a regular basis.
If going green is a priority for you and your family, then you’d do well to consider a solar water heater. There are several different types, but they all convert the sun’s energy into heat to keep your hot water flowing. Like other types of water heaters, solar models are generally low maintenance and long lasting. The big appeal is that once your solar panels are installed, your energy bills will be next to nothing. The main drawback of solar water heaters is the upfront cost, which is currently around $2000 and up. However, there are often tax credits associated with installing green technology in your home, and the cost of solar tech does get more affordable every year. Still, if you’re big on lowering your carbon footprint, and if you have the financial means to spend this much money at once, you may find that a solar water heater is a worthwhile investment.