Getting a hot, comforting stream of water in taps is a blessing during winter. Whether it is warm, rejuvenating showers, or doing dishes in comfort, a hot supply lets you use water in winter without a lingering dread.
Like any other home appliance, water heaters also eventually stop working no matter how well you have kept the maintenance. Since a water heater is not something we buy every other day, most people remain clueless while buying a new heater unit for their homes.
Whether you are buying a new water heater for your new home or replacing the older broken unit, you have landed at the right place. In this water heater buying guide, we will provide you with all the useful information that can help you invest in the most suitable heating unit for your requirements.
Without any further ado, let’s delve into this comprehensive hot water heater buying guide.
Types of Water Heater
If you go to the market without doing your groundwork (that you are doing right now), the first thing that will get you confused is the range of different water heaters available on the block. The last time you bought a water heater, the market was perhaps not that diversified. But today, you need to get the hang of all types of water heater for household use, their strengths as well as drawbacks.
In this section, we will overview these three major types of water heaters suitable for home consumption in detail.
- Storage Tank Water Heater
- Tankless Water Heater
- Heat Pump (Hybrid) Water Heater
Storage Tank Water Heater
Storage tank water heaters are those conventional heaters used in most homes all around the world. As the name suggests, these water heaters come with a built-in storage tank. The cold water flows into the heater unit, filling its tank. This water reservoir is then heated and supplied to the taps from the top of the heater.
A storage tank water heater also features a thermostat that allows you to maintain your hot water supply at your required temperature and hotness. Moreover, some storage tanks also have insulation that ensures that the heated water in the reservoir remains warm even if you shut down the heater for the next couple of hours.
Storage tanks have been around for decades and are still the most preferred choice for the majority of homeowners. Despite the arrival of more efficient water heater models, people chose those brawny natural gas-powered units because they can offer a steady hot water supply to every tap in the house.
If you have a perfectly running storage tank water heater installed in the house, it will be enough to fulfill all your hot water needs. However, if it is not working properly, using a storage tank water heater can also become quite a hassle.
We are listing down the pros and cons of installing a storage tank water heater here so you can decide yourself if it is worth your money.
Pros of a Storage Tank Water Heater
Affordable Upfront Cost
For families looking to get a hot water supply on budget, a storage tank water heater becomes a natural choice. The price of a conventional storage tank heater is significantly lower than the contemporary electrical and tankless options. Similarly, the installation is also pretty easy if you don’t have space constraints.
Since the technology used in storage heater units is pretty basic, it doesn’t develop complex maintenance issues that are expensive to resolve.
Available in Different Sizes
From 5 to 80 gallons, you can easily get the size of a storage tank water heater in line with your family size and consumption.
Cons of a Storage Tank Water Heater
Energy Efficiency Is Poor
It is not the most energy-efficient unit on the block. The radiant heat loss of storage tank water heaters and subsequent reheating during winters can considerably raise your utility bills.
Shorter Operating Life
Even a top-quality storage tank water heater is good enough up to 15 years, compared to the 20-25-year operating life of other heater units. An average quality storage heater can even go kaput within 10 years.
Since these heaters feature a storage tank, they boast large profiles. You will need sufficient free horizontal space to install a storage tank water heater.
Who Should Buy a Storage Tank Water Heater?
It is the best water heater for:
- Homeowners who want to install a water heater without breaking their banks.
- Homeowners who don’t want a steady hot water supply for extended periods.
- Homeowners who have ample outdoor free space.
Tankless Water Heater
Tankless water heaters are the next-generation water heater units. They are both space and energy-efficient as compared to conventional storage tank water heaters. One report suggests that gas-powered tankless water heaters are over 20% more efficient than regular water heaters.
Since they don’t have any reservoir, tankless water heaters involve instantaneous operations. Their high-powered electric coils or burners instantly heat water and offer you a warm supply as you open the tap. Tankless water heaters are slightly expensive than conventional storage heater units. However, their efficient operation makes up for their higher upfront cost in the long run.
By finding out the strengths and weaknesses of a tankless water heater, you will be in a better position to decide if a tankless water heater is what you need.
Pros of a Tankless Water Heater
On-Demand Hot Water Supply
You don’t have to wait for the tank refill and reheating when you use a tankless water heater. As soon as the cold water is flushed from the pipe, you start getting a warm stream of water.
Longer Operating Life
A top-quality tankless water tank continues to work without any issues for up to 25 years. This longer lifespan justifies their expensive price tags.
Lower Operating Cost
Since they are more energy-efficient than conventional options, your monthly utility bills don’t go through the roof.
Space-Efficient and Easy on the Eyes
Tankless water heaters are free of the bulky water reservoir and hence sport a slim profile. You don’t even need horizontal space because they are mostly installed on walls. Their slim profile and clean finish also make them easy on the eyes.
Cons of Tankless Water Heater
Higher Upfront Cost and Expensive Installation
A good quality tankless water heater can be quite expensive. Similarly, its installation is complex and therefore takes time and comes at a higher cost.
Limited Hot Water Supply at Once
The lack of any storage means you can’t get a large amount of hot water at once. A tankless water heater can struggle to maintain a steady hot water supply when multiple taps are running simultaneously.
Who Should Buy a Tankless Water Heater?
It is the best water heater for:
- Homeowners who are looking for an energy-efficient and eco-friendly alternative to conventional water heaters.
- Families that don’t need a large quantity of hot water at multiple points at once.
- Homes where there is no free square footage.
Heat Pump (Hybrid) Water Heater
They are the most “sustainable” units among the three water heaters types we are discussing here. Unlike conventional storage and tankless water heaters, these hybrid models don’t consume energy to “generate heat.” Instead, they pull heat from air or earth and transfer it to its reservoir filled with water.
Using a heat pump water heater has pretty different or rather unique requirements than the other two types. To begin with, it only works in regions where temperatures don’t plummet to subzero levels. Moreover, you need to install it after a detailed survey at a place where it can easily draw in the environmental heat.
Pros of a Heat Pump Water Heater
A Highly Energy-Efficient Appliance
This hybrid water heater doesn’t feature a “heating element” to heat up the water. It essentially carries out heat transfer from the environment to its water reservoir. The non-use of any active heating component significantly trims down its power consumption. This means you can use it at almost negligible operating cost.
Due to its self-sufficient method of heating water without relying on an external source of energy, a heat pump water heater is a more eco-friendly option than conventional and tankless storage waters.
Great for Year-Round Use
Heat pump water heaters are great for year-round usage. In summer, they can keep the surrounding space cooler by drawing in the environmental heat. In winter, they can use the radiant heat of the central furnace to increase the water temperature and make it comfortable to use.
Cons of a Heat Pump Water Heater
Only Works in Areas with Moderate Climate
As mentioned earlier, the heat pump water heater also works in areas where there is enough environmental heat for the unit to draw in. Therefore, these heaters might not be that useful in areas that experience freezing temperatures and snowfall.
Can’t Keep Up with the Demand
Since heat pump water heaters don’t have an active mechanism, they need some time to heat the water to the desired level. For households where a steady hot water supply is required for extended periods, a heat pump water heater might fail to catch up.
Who Should Buy a Heat Pump Water Heater
It is the best water heater for:
- Eco-conscious homeowners trying to reduce their carbon footprint.
- People living in regions that experience a moderate winter season.
- Families that have limited hot water requirements.
What to Consider Before Buying a Water Heater
After getting the hang of the types of water heaters available in the market, take a look at the features of an individual unit you need to consider when buying one for your home.
Gas and electricity are the two options you need to pick from when buying a water heater. Both fuel types have their pros and cons. Gas-powered water heaters come at a higher cost but offer low operating expenses and are suitable to fulfill large hot water requirements.
On the other hand, electric water heaters have a low upfront price but might cost you more in energy bills. They are more energy-efficient than gas ones and also need less maintenance. Electric-powered gas heaters are ideal for small families.
There is no standard warranty for water heaters. From 1-year to 12-year, you can find different heater units boasting different warranty limits. We would suggest you should go with units that offer extended warranties. They might cost you a bit more than heaters with regular warranties. But they will provide you with peace of mind against untimely breakdowns and broken components.
The best way to determine the capacity of a water heater is to look into its first-hour rating. This rating provides the number of gallons of hot water a heater can supply per hour. The benefit of this capacity yardstick is that you can use it for both storage and tankless water heaters. For a family of 4-5, a water heater with the first-hour rating of 30-40 gallons will be more than good enough.
Energy-saving characteristics of home appliances have now become an important factor to consider for many homeowners. An energy-efficient appliance is not just good for your monthly utility bills. It also helps you keep your greenhouse emissions in check. On the energy-efficiency front, the three types of water heaters discussed here will be ranked in that order.
- Heat pump water heater
- Tankless water heater
- Storage tank water heater
Also, fuel type plays a role in determining the energy-efficiency of a heater. An electric-powered water heater of any type will be more efficient than gas-powered counterparts.
Scaling inside a water heater can reduce its operating life. Therefore, some modern storage tank water heaters now come with an anti-scaling device that promises to reduce the mineral buildup on the tank lining and the heating element. It is important to mention here that those anti-scaling devices only slow down the scaling process rather than stopping it completely.
If your budget allows you to go with a heating unit featuring an anti-scaling device, you should consider getting a simple unit with a longer warranty instead.
The digital display is another feature that has become quite a hit in contemporary heater models. It rules out the guessing game from the heater’s control adjustment. Those digital displays provide you with the temperature and sometimes also pressure readings so you can efficiently run your water heater.
Our Top Picks for the Best Water Heater
Now, it’s time that we suggest our top picks in all the three heater categories discussed in this water heater buying guide.
Storage Tank Water Heater
For a small family looking for an energy-efficient storage tank water heater, this unit by Joven is definitely worth considering. This 25-liter or 5-gallon water heater doesn’t occupy space like a conventional storage tank unit. This multipoint hot water system is perfect for connecting to one mixed-tape kitchen sink and a normal shower for getting a steady supply of hot water up to 70C.
We also consider it the best water heater in this category because it boasts rust-free operations with minimal radiant heat loss. The heating element and tank of the unit are made of stainless steel. Moreover, the tank is lined with high-density CFC-free Polyurethane insulation.
The safety features of the Joven storage tank water heater are also worth mentioning. It features a pressure relief drain valve. The unit is configured for a thermostat safety cutoff at 70C and a thermal cutout at 95C to prevent fire and electricity hazards. The 3.5kW power-rating makes this Joven product an energy-efficient heater unit as well.
Tankless Water Heater
Tankless water heaters are great if you want a hot water supply only in a single tap. They save you in utility cost and instantly provide you with a hot supply without waiting and wasting any water. This Rubine tankless water heater exactly falls in this category. You can connect this tankless unit with any 15mm water line to fulfill your hot water requirements.
Rubine tankless water heater activates as soon as it detects water pressure or flow rate as little as 0.2 bar or 1.6L/min, respectively. In short, you will start getting the hot water flowing from the tap within a couple of seconds.
Apart from its efficient and smart operations, we have also picked this Rubine unit as the best in the category due to its well-structured warranty. You get a 1-year warranty on internal parts, a 7-year warranty on the heating element, and a 10-year warranty on anti-tank leakage.
Heat Pump (Hybrid) Water Heater
This hybrid water heater by Panasonic shows how water heating technology has come a long way in the last decade or so. This is essentially shower equipment that lets you take hot and comfy bathes without stressing the environment. Its e-CYCLE hybrid technology ensures that you can use hot water but without raising your utility bills and affecting the environment.
The aesthetic profile of this Panasonic hybrid water heater is worth mentioning. It is has a sleek design with a clean digital display and touch button control. The shower extension also complements the heater pretty well. You can easily install it in the bathroom without overstressing its space.
If you only need hot water for your shower, you must consider this Panasonic Home Shower with Pump.
Ways to Improve Your Water Heater’s Efficiency
Buying an energy-efficient water heater is not enough to run it efficiently throughout its operating life. You also need to adopt a proactive approach to maintain your heater’s efficiency year after year.
Drain and Flush the Tank
Storage tank water heaters develop a sediment buildup at their bottoms. This accumulation reduces the efficiency of the unit because a large amount of heat goes to the sediment instead of heating up the water in the reservoir. Therefore, flush the water tank once a year or every six months. Attach a hose to the drain valve and let the cold water flow through the reservoir until it gets clear and free of solid visible particles.
Insulation can also help you to cut down radiant heat loss of your heater unit. It is very important to insulate a water heater installed in unheated locations (e.g., backyard, basement).
Storage tank water heaters often develop minor leaks that you can’t see right away, but they eventually hit your unit’s efficiency. Therefore, have a thorough inspection of your heater unit once in a while to identify all such efficiency-deterring leaks.
Lower the Water Temperature
Setting the heater thermostat five degrees lower than the default setting won’t get your hot water cold. However, it can help you run your water heater unit at a better efficiency.
We hope that this water heater buying guide helps you buy the best water heater unit fully in line with your requirements. We have made sure that we don’t just provide you with the necessary information about water heaters but also suggest you the top options from all categories. If you find this article helpful, don’t forget to share it with your fellow homeowners looking for a new water heater.
What are the top 5 water heaters?
In no particular order, these are the top five water heaters from all three categories combined.
- JOVEN 25L Storage Tank Water Heater
- RUBINE Water Heater RWH-FS390N-BCB Carbon Black
- Panasonic DH-3NDP1MS Home Shower with Pump
- Toshiba Instant Water Heater Shower DSK38S5MW
- Midea MWH38P3 Water Heater 3.8kW
What size of water heater do I need?
It primarily depends on the number of people in the house. For a small family, the Joven storage water heater we have reviewed will be enough. A small family can also use the Rubine tankless heater discussed above. For large families and more consumption, you have to go with bigger units. This guide can help you to size a new water heater for your exact requirements.
What is the longest-lasting water heater?
A tankless water heater can last the longest among all the water heater types available in the market. Top-quality tankless water can offer you uncompromised hot water utility without expensive fixes and repairs for over two decades.