The least expensive water heaters to buy are the most expensive to operate.
Why Buy An Energy Efficient Water Heater?
Water heating is typically the third largest energy expense in your home (after space heating and cooling). It typically accounts for about 14% of your utility bill. If your gas water heater is more than 10 years old, it probably has an efficiency no higher than 50%. An old water heater can operate for years at very low efficiency before it finally fails. One way to reduce water heating costs would be to replace your old water heater with a new, higher-efficiency model.
About Water Heater Efficiency
A water heater’s efficiency is measured by its energy factor (EF). EF is based on recovery efficiency, standby losses, and cycling losses. The higher the EF, the more efficient the water heater. Electric resistance water heaters have an EF ranging from 0.7 and 0.95; gas water heaters from 0.5 to 0.6, with a few high-efficiency models ranging around 0.8; oil water heaters from 0.7 and 0.85; and heat pump water heaters from 1.5 to 2.0
ips for Buying a New Water Heater
Choose a water heater with an appropriate first-hour rating (FHR) by estimating your family’s peak-hour demand for hot water.
Determine the appropriate fuel type for your water heater. If you are considering electricity, check with your local utility company for off-peak electricity rates for water heating. If available, this may be an attractive option to choose electric water heaters. Natural gas, oil and propane water heaters are less expensive to operate than electric models.
If you are in a moderate climate (i.e., with relatively low heating loads), consider a Heat Pump Water Heater (HPWH), which is more efficient than a conventional electric water heater. Though a HPWH may have a high initial cost, it can save up to 50% of your water heating bill.
For safety as well as energy-efficiency reasons, when buying gas- and oil-fired water heaters, look for units with sealed combustion or power venting to avoid back-drafting of combustion gases into the home.
Everything else being equal, select a water heater with the highest energy factor (EF). However, you should note that the EF of one type of heater is not comparable to another type. For example, an electric water heater with an EF of 0.9 may cost more to operate than a gas water heater with an EF of 0.7.
Whenever possible, do not install the water heater in an unheated basement. Also try to minimize the length of piping runs to your bathroom and kitchen.
Tips for Lowering Your Water Heater’s Energy Usage
Install aerators in faucets and low-flow shower heads that may reduce your hot water consumption by half.
Repair leaky faucets and shower heads. A leak of one drip per second can cost $1 per month.
Insulate your hot water storage tank and pipes, but be careful not to cover the tank thermostat(s).
Lower the thermostat(s) on your water heater to 120°F. Electric water heaters often have two thermostats-one each for the upper and lower heating elements. These should be adjusted to the same level to prevent one element from doing all the work and wearing out prematurely.
For electric water heaters, install a timer that can automatically turn the hot water off at night and on in the morning. A simple timer can pay for itself in less than a year.
Install a heat trap above the water heater. A heat trap is a simple check valve or piping arrangement that prevents “thermosyphoning”-the tendency of hot water to rise up from the tank into the pipes-thereby lowering standby losses.
Drain a quart of water from your hot water tank every 3 months to remove sediment that prevents heat transfer and lowers the unit’s efficiency.
Take more showers than baths. Baths use the most hot water in an average household. You use 15 to 25 gallons of hot water for a bath and less than 10 gallons for a 5-minute shower.
point-of-use water heaters:
Point-of-use water heaters are also known as “tankless” heaters because they have no (or only a tiny) storage tank. They are relatively small units that provide hot water on demand. They use gas or electricity for fuel, and can be installed near demand points, such as under kitchen sinks. They are often more expensive than a conventional water heater, but can cost less to operate since they don’t maintain a tankfull of hot water when not in use. A tankless heater typically provides 1-2 gallons of hot water per minute. Before installing a tankless water heater in your home, make sure its reduced capacity will be adequate for your needs.
How To: Choose a Water Heater
Whether tank or tankless, water heaters can dramatically impact your home’s comfort and costs. If you are looking to replace an existing unit, the type, size and efficiency of the one you choose will be important.
While we often take a hot shower or bath for granted, it’s important to note that up to 20% of a household’s annual energy expenditures come from heating hot water. That makes it the second largest utility expense in the home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, averaging around $400 to $600 per year. If you are looking to install a new hot water heater—or replace an existing one—the type, size and efficiency of the unit you choose will have a big impact on its performance and long-term savings.
There are a number of different types of water heaters to consider from heat pumps to solar-powered units, but the most common are tank and tankless. Traditional, tank-style water heaters are large metal cylinders that keep hot water stored and on reserve for when it may be needed. Since they typically range in capacity from 40 to 60 gallons and are generally about 60″ tall by 24″ wide, they are often installed in a basement or laundry room.
Tankless units, also known as “on demand” water heaters, turn on only when hot water is required. With no holding tank, the system is not only more compact—typically 20″ wide by 28″ long by 10″ deep—but more efficient since it is not storing a reserve of hot water (or compensating for its subsequent heat loss). Tank-style water heaters are usually less expensive than tankless units, but tankless models generally last longer: a traditional water heater usually lasts 10 to 13 years, while tankless water heaters can last up to 20 years.
Regardless of whether the unit is tank or tankless, water heaters generally fall into two categories: direct-fired or indirect-fired. Direct-fired means that the water in the tank is heated directly by the heat of a flame; these units are generally used in homes with warm air furnaces. In direct-fired heaters, fuel is burned in a combustion chamber under the water storage tank, then hot flue gases heat water in the tank.
Water Heater Buying Guide
The cost of heating water consumes almost 20 percent of your household budget, second only to what you spend on heating and cooling your home. Despite this expense, water heaters are typically ignored until they break, leaving you with no hot water and, possibly, a flooded basement.
If your water heater is nearing the end of its useful life and you’re thinking of replacing it before disaster strikes, you’ll be happy to know that you have better choices, thanks to recent federal regulations that require water heaters to be more energy-efficient. New storage tank water heaters are required to operate more efficiently, and tankless (on-demand) water heaters are even more efficient than that.
Typically, homeowners replace their old water heater with one of the same type that runs on the same fuel—natural gas or electricity. Switching from a tank water heater to a tankless unit can be expensive because it requires you to retrofit your plumbing and possibly your electrical system. But if you’re building a new home or adding to an existing one, installing a tankless water heater may make economic sense.
Consumer Reports recently tested several electric and gas whole-house tankless water heaters from brands such as Bosch, Navien, Noritz, Rheem, Rinnai, Tempra, and Trutankless. We compared the results with those of conventional tanked heaters from Rheem, one gas and one electric, as well as with a Rheem electric heat pump water heater, which is a variation on a tanked water heater.
Tank water heaters typically hold 40, 50, or 55 gallons or more. The size you buy depends on the number of people living in your home and your peak water usage. A family of four, for instance, might take several showers, run the dishwasher, and wash a load or two of laundry in an average day, totaling 100 gallons of hot water or more. But that doesn’t mean that household needs a 100-gallon storage tank
TIPS FOR CHOOSING A NEW HOT WATER HEATER
When you are choosing a replacement or upgrading your water heater, you may wish to consider an energy-efficient unit. These heaters can create hot water while using less energy. There are tankless “on-demand” hot water heaters that only create hot water when you need it, or even more efficient tank models. No matter which way you go, choosing an energy efficient hot water heater can help you save money and the environment
First check the ratings
EF (energy factor) ratings were established by the U.S. Department of Energy to compare the energy efficiency of various products. The EF scale for water heaters runs from a low of 0.5 for gas storage tank heaters to 2.0 for electric heat pump models. The energy factor (EF) is easy to understand, the higher the EF, the more efficient the water heater unit is
Storage Tank Water Heater – Storage tanks are the most common types of water heater. These units have an insulated tank where water is heated and stored until it is needed. They are available in electric, liquid propane (LP), and natural gas models. Natural gas and LP water heaters normally use less energy and are less expensive to operate than electric models of the same size.
Tankless (On-Demand) Water Heater – Also known as “on demand” water heaters. They do not store hot water; they heat water as it passes through a series of coils in the unit. Since the unit only heats water as you use it, a tankless heater is usually more energy-efficient than a traditional storage tank water heater. Most tankless units can provide up to 3.5 gallons of heated water per minute. Tankless models are best for homes that use natural gas to heat the water; electric models might require an expensive upgrade of the home’s electrical capacity
Condensing Water Heater – Condensing water heaters are an option if you heat with gas and need a unit with a capacity of more than 55 gallons. These models have a tank like a conventional water heater, but capture exhaust gases that would normally go out the flue, which wastes energy. These gases are blown through a coil in the base of the unit, where incoming cold water can absorb most of the heat.
Tips For Choosing The Right Commercial Water Heater
Commercial water heater type: There are several kinds of commercial water heater on the market and before you invest in one you should know the different kinds that are available and something about each. Gas Heaters– These kinds of heater are fueled by either natural gas or propane which in turn heats the water. Gas heaters require a great deal of care and maintenance. Electric Water Heaters– Electric water heaters heat water and maintain it at a pre-set temperature. Oil-Fired (OF) Water Heaters– These kinds of heaters are best suited for mid-sized commercial use. They range in storage capacity from 32-271 gallons.
Storage Options: The options here are storage tank water heaters- commonly used in both commercial and residential operations – and tankless water heaters– which use gas or electricity to heat water on-demand. These kinds of water heaters only heat water only when used.
Company’s/restaurant’s hot water needs: This is probably the most important thing to consider when choosing a commercial water heater. A miscalculation here could cost you money and customers.
Unit size: This will very much depend on your heating needs and the size of your building. Obviously, you will desire a larger capacity, more powerful heater if you have a large business that requires lots of hot water (such as a large restaurant).
Energy efficiency: If you are a business person your eye should always be on the bottom-line. Any expenditure you put into your business has the potential to either make you lose money or help you save it. It is the same thing with choosing a commercial water heater. Make sure that you inquire with the person selling you the unit about how energy efficient the commercial hot water heater will be. Sure, initial cost is important but that should not be your only consideration when choosing a heater for your business.