What's the Best Kind of Water Heater?

Choosing the right type of water heater

When shopping for a new water heater for your home there are more choices than ever. Whether you're looking for the lowest installation cost, a continous supply of hot water, or the lowest operating cost, we have put together a comparison of the most common water heater technology and the advantages and disadvantages of each solution.

Tank Storage Water Heaters

When most people think of water heaters the first thing that comes to mind is a tank water heater. Tank water heaters store 20-80 gallons of hot water and are relatively inexpensive to purchase and install. However, because they must continually heat a large volume of water, they are typically more costly to operate.

Electric Tank Water Heater

  • Purchase Cost (less installation): $400 - $1,500
  • Advantages: Low upfront cost, good for wide range of hot water usage
  • Disadvantages: can be more expensive to operate

Gas Tank Water Heater

  • Purchase cost (less installation): $380 to $1,500
  • Advantages: Lowest cost; Good for small or large households
  • Disadvantages: depending on cost of fuel; can be expensive to operate

Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless water heaters, also called on-demand water heaters heat water continually without using a storage tank. A gas burner or electric element heats the water as it passes through the unit.
  • Purchase cost (excluding installation): $1000+
  • Advantages: Less standby heat loss than a conventional tank water heater; Good for smaller households; lower operating cost; takes up less space; longer lifespan
  • Disadvantages: More expensive to purchase and install; more complex installation process; can take longer for initial supply of hot water to reach further reaches of a home.

Hybrid Water Heaters

Hybrid water heaters are designed to combine the benefits of a conventional tank water heater with the advantages of a tankless water heater. They use a small storage tank to keep a small amount of hot water available to provide the initial supply of hot water, then heat water on demand with a heating element like a conventional tankless water heater. This eliminates one of the biggest complaints of tankless water heaters– the "cold water sandwich" that can occur when the hot water is initially turned on.
  • Purchase cost (less installation): $1,000+
  • Advantages: Lower operating cost; Less standby heat loss than a conventional tank water heater; no "cold water sandwich" that can occur with a traditional tankless water heater.
  • Disadvantages: Higher up-front cost; more complex installation process.

Heat Pump Water Heaters

Heat pump water heaters distribute heat from one place to another instead of generating heat directly to providing hot water.
  • Purchase cost (less installation): $1,000+
  • Advantages: 2-3 times more efficient than conventional tank water heater; longer lifespan
  • Disadvantages: Not a good option for colder climates

Solar Water Heaters

Solar water heaters use the sun's heat to heat water. A roof-mounted solar collector absorbs the sun's heat and stores it in a special fluid that circulates in a closed-loop system that heats water in a tank.
  • Purchase cost (less installation): $1,000+
  • Advantages: Lowest operating cost. Can save a household hundred of dollars a year in heating cost
  • Disadvantages: Higher up-front cost; complex installation process with exterior and interior modifications needed.
Have questions about which water heater is right for your home? Call ABC Plumbing, Heating, Cooling and Electric. We're here to help.


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