You see a puddle of water in the garage and following the trail to determine the source, you come face to face with your hot water heater. Sure enough, as you look at the base, you are horrified to find that this is not just any leak, but a disaster waiting to happen. Upon closer inspection, you find that the entire base is rusted and barely hanging on. Unfortunately, many homeowners have experienced this very scenario, discovering that their hot water heater is in need or being replaced. To replace the old hot water heater, they quickly shop for a replacement without taking adequate time to learn about sales, efficiency, and so on. Since hot water heaters can vary greatly in options and price, it is important to compare types, brands, models, and even the quality of installation.
To make sure you do not walk out into your garage only to find a huge puddle of water from a leaking hot water heater, do an inspection to determine if it is rusting. If you discover that you need a new hot water heater, check all your options before making the purchase. Within the past few years, many new options have come available along with the traditional options. These choices include tankless coil, indirect, solar, conventional storage, demand, and heat pump. In fact, some hot water heaters can be connected directly to the home's space heating system.
For the conventional hot water heater, many different fuels are available such as oil, propane, natural gas, and electricity. These heaters range in size from 20 to 80-gallon capacity and continue to be the most popular choice in the country. The way the conventional system works is that hot water is released, which is located at the top of the tank. Once that level diminishes, cold water comes into the bottom portion of the tank, resulting in a hot water heater that is full all the time. With the water being heated constantly, some energy is wasted. The great news is that new models have been created in recent years that save energy, which makes them less expensive to operate. When shopping for a new hot water heater, check the Energy Guide label, which is attached right on the hot water heater. These guides provide information on the annual estimated cost for operating the system or the ratings for efficiency.
Demand hot water heaters provide the option for eliminating standby heat loss while lowering energy consumption as much as 30%. This type of hot water heater has no storage tank. The cold water travels through a pipe within the unit and then an electric unit or gas burner heats it only as needed. The demand system is nice in that you will never run out of hot water but the one disadvantage is that the flow rate of the water is limited. Demand systems that use gas burners may increase the flow rate but they also use more energy. Heat pump hot water heaters use electricity as the means for moving heat from one location to another instead of producing heat direct. For homes, this type of system works the opposite of a refrigerator, which can be bought as an integral unit that has a built-in storage tank for water.
Finally, the tankless coil and indirect hot water heaters are yet other options. The tankless coil system does not require a separate storage tank since the water is heated inside the boiler in an actual hot water heating system. Water flows through a heat exchanger within the boiler whenever someone turns on the faucet to run hot water. The advantage to this system is that during the winter months, the hot water system is used on a regular basis, making it more efficient. On the other hand, during the summer months or in warmer climates, the boiler is used less often, making it less efficient. The indirect hot water heater system requires a storage tank and operates much like the tankless coil in that water passes through a heater exchanger located in the boiler. The difference is that this heated water then flows to a storage tank that is well insulated. Since the boiler does not operate as often, you can enjoy better efficiency over the tankless coil option.
Just remember when shopping for a new hot water heater, you need to consider the capacity needed, level of efficiency, and cost to buy and operate. If the hot water heater you currently have still has a little more time before it falls apart, watch for sales and always check for warranty.