How to Choose the Right Water Heater for your Home

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Published: 30th May 2013
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With our hot water heaters accounting for up to 15% of our overall utility costs, it only makes sense that we seek the water heaters available to us that will reduce our energy consumption. Not only will this lead to lower utility bills in the future, but our homes will become “greener” when we choose to utilize this energy-saving technology. Now, if you’re a new homeowner or haven’t had an issue with your hot water heater before, you may feel overwhelmed just thinking about replacing your water heater. While there are a number of things to take into consideration before buying your new heater, there’s no need to worry.

I recently had to replace our water heater, and I too was curious as to how to go about it. I spent hours at our local home improvement center looking at all of the different water heaters, talked with employees about which models were superior to others, and spent hours online looking up the differences in the different types of heaters. If you’re also looking for a set of guidelines that will help you choose the right water heater for your home, look no further.

Types of Water Heaters

There are two primary types of water heaters available – electric and gas – and from these stem a few variations that you can choose from depending upon your needs. While you could very well purchase either type of heater for your house, there are some differences you should be made aware of.

Electric water heaters are an extremely popular option, given their convenience and how relatively easy they are to use and maintain. In this water heater, a copper coil is placed beneath the water tank and converts electricity into heat energy, thus heating the water within the water tank. While there have been numerous modifications made to the initial design of the electric water heater, the basic principles have stayed the same.

Gas water heaters, on the other hand, run on natural gas or propane. With the help of this gas, a small chamber fills with water and is heated once the pilot light is activated. Gas heaters have been around far longer than their electric counterparts, and are now available in a multiplicity of sizes. Now that you know how each type of heater functions, let’s discuss the reasons you should consider each type of hot water heater.

Electric Water Heaters

In order to determine if an electric water heater is the best fit for your home, you need to know the pros and cons of this type of heater. First of all, electric hot water heaters are much easier to use and maintain, especially if you’re not familiar with the inner workings of a water heater. This is partially true because you won’t need to install a vent, as you would with a gas heater. Without combustion, there are no carbon monoxide emissions to direct out of your home. In this instance, all you have to do is connect your new water heater to its water and power lines, and your installation is complete.

Another great thing about electric water heaters is they can be installed virtually anywhere in your home. If you don’t have room for a heater in your garage, an attic, bedroom closet, or even a walk-in pantry will suffice. Electric heaters also heat water in a very short amount of time, and on average, have a longer life expectancy than similar gas models.

Despite all of these reasons to purchase an electric heater, there are some disadvantages of choosing an electric model. Unfortunately, the operating costs of an electric heater are higher than the cost to operate your gas heater, and it has been speculated that electricity costs will rise in the next couple of years, adding to the operational costs for an electric water heater. Additionally, you need to have power at your home in order to use an electric water heater, meaning if you ever lose power, you’ll be without hot water.

Gas Water Heaters

If you have a larger family (at least four people), you will find that a gas heater is more convenient than an electric heater. While an electric heater heats your water quicker than gas, once a gas heater gets your water temperature up, it is easier for it to continue heating, so if you have multiple family members who take hot showers around the same time, you’ll find that a gas heater will provide the hot water you need. Gas water heaters are also more user-friendly, as they allow you to not only control the rate of heating, but also the extent of which you heat your water.

Another benefit of choosing a gas water heater is that you can still use it should you lose power, which is a great thing to have on hand if you live in an area that experiences flash flooding and bad storms. Also, as these heaters use natural gas, you gradually heat your water, which allows you to conserve energy. If you heat your water and use it immediately, you don’t lose any money to heat energy going unused.

Unfortunately, most gas water heaters are large and require more room in your garage or closet than an electric heater would. Another negative about gas heaters is that they require you install a vent hood, as they release a sizeable amount of carbon monoxide while burning natural gas. This is one of the unfortunate elements of gas heaters that does not apply to electric hot water heaters.

Both electric and gas water heaters are built to consume less energy than previous models, and with the new technologies being applied to these heaters, you’ll find models that are more energy-efficient than you ever imagined. In order to truly meet your family’s hot water needs, you need to do some research and determine which type of heater will best serve you.

Rachael Jones is a blogger for DIYMother, bringing you the latest in DIY and home improvement.

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