The 5 Most Popular Types of Residential Water Heaters

Of all the comforts that a modern home has to offer, on-demand hot water is among the most useful. It makes it possible for us to clean dishes and do laundry, take comfortable showers, and even makes cooking meals much easier. However, plenty of homeowners take their home’s hot water supply for granted. That is until their water heater needs replacement. Then, they rely on a plumber to tell them what to replace it with. Below are five of the most popular types of residential water heaters.

1. Storage Tank Water Heaters

Storage tank water heaters are, by far, the most common type of residential water heater in use in America today. They date back to 1889 when a Norwegian engineer named Edwin Ruud invented the first natural gas-powered storage tank water heater in Philadelphia, PA. In the intervening years, various companies refined the technology to create reliable and affordable hot water supply options for homes everywhere.

Today, there are two primary types of storage tank water heaters. The first is the direct descendent of the original. Natural gas-powered storage tank water heaters offer efficient operation and low upfront costs. They have a lifespan of 8-12 years. In places where natural gas supplies are readily available, they’re the go-to storage-tank water heater type.

There are also storage tank water heaters that use electric resistance heating elements to function. They’re cheaper upfront than gas-powered models and last 10-15 years. However, they cost more to operate since electricity costs more than gas in most places, including here in Northern California.

2. Tankless Water Heaters

Also known as on-demand water heaters, tankless water heaters are the dominant type found in most of the world outside the US. They use high-temperature heating elements and a heat exchanger system to turn a home’s incoming water supply into hot water whenever someone in the home needs it. They’re far smaller than storage tank water heaters and also offer more efficient operation. Since they don’t have to worry about heat losses associated with hot water storage, they waste next to no energy. An added benefit is that they can last upwards of 20 years before needing to be replaced and require minimal maintenance.

Tankless water heaters also come with another big advantage over storage tank models. It’s that they provide an endless supply of hot water for as long as you need them. The main drawback is that they have limited flow rates. This means it’s not always possible to use hot water in multiple parts of your home simultaneously. And tankless water heaters often cost two to three times more than storage tank models. They are, however, also available in gas-powered and electric-powered versions, just like storage tank models. With the right setup, these tankless systems can also be used as the heat source for in-floor heating.

3. Heat Pump Water Heaters

Heat pump water heaters are a relatively new hot water option for homes here in Northern California. They heat water to fill a storage tank, much like traditional models, but they do it using the heat energy found in the air surrounding them. That makes them roughly twice as efficient as a standard electrically powered storage-tank water heater. They’re an excellent option for homes that don’t have access to a natural gas supply.

The thing is, though, that heat pump water heaters are even larger than traditional storage tank models. And they require a significant amount of air space around them to operate. This makes them suitable for homes with basements but not condominiums or apartments. And if you own a home that uses large quantities of water, you should beware of the fact that heat pump water heaters include conventional electric resistance heating elements that engage if they can’t keep up with demand. You can expect to get an average of 10-15 years out of a heat pump water heater before it needs to be replaced.

4. Solar Water Heaters

If you’ve lived here in Northern California for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that lots of homes here have solar panels. In fact, California leads the nation in rooftop solar system use. What you may not know, however, is that plenty of homes here rely on solar water heaters, too. Those systems either use the sun’s energy to produce electricity to heat water with a conventional storage tank system or use the sun’s rays to directly heat your water. They are also long-lasting, with an average lifespan of 20 years. That makes solar water heaters one of the most efficient options available today.

Most solar water heaters include natural gas or electric-powered backup systems to provide an extra boost when needed. So, if you experienced a few cloudy days in a row, you wouldn’t have to go without hot water. That takes care of the only major drawback associated with solar water heater systems, which makes them a good fit for the climate here in Northern California.

5. Condensing Water Heaters

The final type of water heater on our list is the condensing water heater. It uses the waste heat of a home’s natural gas furnace to heat water for storage in a tank. They work best in homes that already use natural gas as their primary fuel for heating and cooking. They’re extremely efficient since they make use of your furnace’s waste gasses, which would otherwise go up your home’s flue and represent energy waste.

Condensing water heaters cost more upfront than conventional storage tank systems. And since they require a natural gas furnace to work, they’re not an option at all for homes. Here in Northern California, though, two-thirds of homes use natural gas for heating purposes. That makes condensing water heaters an especially useful option for those willing to spend the necessary money upfront. In exchange, they get an ultra-efficient water heater that saves them money on operating costs for years.

Talk to the Water Heater Pros

If you haven’t noticed by now, we know a lot about water heaters of all kinds. It’s why the team here at Environmental Heating & Air Solutions is the best place to turn for your home’s hot water needs. We’ve served the Northern California area with pride since 2010 and offer full-service support to help you meet all of your home comfort needs. To do it, we provide comprehensive HVAC installation, maintenance, and repair services, as well as air quality and plumbing services. We’re also NATE and BPI-certified, so you’ll always know that every member of our team does quality work that will stand the test of time. The bottom line is that you won’t find a better home services company in Northern California than Environmental Heating & Air Solutions, and we’re happy to prove that to you when you need us.

So, if you need a water heater or have questions about the right water heater for your home, call Environmental Heating & Air Solutions today!

company icon