A Guide to Residential Water Heaters
Today we will be talking about the two most common types of residential water heaters. Conventional storage tank water heaters that most of us have in our homes, and tankless water heaters that have become more popular in the past few years. Both of these types are whole home water heaters that can supply hot water to all fixtures in your home simultaneously.
Water heaters can account for well over 15% of residential energy costs. Choosing the right style and energy source for your household needs is an important decision. The efficiency of water heaters varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, model, and fuel sources.
Storage Tank Water Heaters
The most common type of water heater is the storage tank style that we are all familiar with. They store large amounts of heated water for use when needed. A small initial investment is needed and they have economical operational costs over time. Energy sources for storage tank water heaters include electric, natural gas, or propane. (Note: natural gas and propane water heaters require additional venting for safety). Since water heaters can be installed in a closet, garage, basement, or even an attic, there are multiple styles and capacities to choose from to fit your usage and placement needs. Residential storage tanks range in capacity from 20 to 80 gallons.
For households with:
1 or 2 people, a 20-30 gallon tank is recommended.
2 – 4 people, 40 gallon tank is recommended.
3-5 people, 50 gallon tank is recommended.
5 or more, 60 gallons or more is recommended.
Short or “low boy” tank styles have a larger circumference and shorter height. They are ideal for placement under cabinetry, on shelving in a utility room, or in an attic.
Medium tank styles are smaller in circumference than the short style and taller in height. These are the most common tank style and are ideal for larger spaces like garages, utility rooms, and basements.
Tall tank styles are taller and thinner than the medium style. This style is for installation in tight spaces like a closet, small utility room, or to save space in a smaller garage.
Tankless Water Heaters
Tankless water heaters are becoming more popular, especially for condominiums and smaller household with only one or two people. Tankless water heating systems heat water on demand using a natural gas or propane burner (Note: natural gas and propane water heaters require additional venting for safety), or an electric element as it passes through the water heater. They require a larger up-front investment that can be recovered over time by eliminating the energy costs related to keeping a large tank of water at a consistent temperature. Tankless units can save up to 30% of your monthly energy costs related to heating water for your home.
Tankless water heaters are compact units that can easily be mounted on the outside wall, in a garage, or utility closet. Some tankless water heaters come equipped with waterproof remote controls. These allow adjusting the temperature as needed. You might want 120°F when running dishwasher, 104°F for kids bath time, then back up to 110°F to fill the tub for a relaxing soak.
To properly size the tankless hot water heater you will require, you will need to calculate the maximum amount of hot water your home may use at one time. This is known as the flow rate. Flow rate is determined by how many fixtures you expect to be using at the same time, the type of fixtures (kitchen faucet, shower faucet, dishwasher, etc.), and size of supply piping. Contact a licensed plumbing company to assist you in determining the correct flow rate required to properly size the tankless water heater in your home. Remember to always be a smart plumbing consumer. Research the plumbing company before you hire them by checking out their reviews on their website, their BBB ranking and their reviews on Google +.
Other Water Heating Options
There are other water heater options for your home. Hybrid systems employ elements of the storage tank design with the addition of a heat pump to increase hot water production and efficiency. Another type are point of use systems. These systems are smaller, individual water heaters that are installed near the specific locations hot water is required. Point of use units are usually used to supplement a tank or tankless system. Keep an eye out for a follow up post where we will delve further into the hybrid water heaters and point of use water heaters.
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