Let's face it, a water heater is not on the top of our priority list as a big want. So our consideration must be making sure we get the most for our money. So with this in mind I will discuss the mainstream choices below, and you decide what is best for your home.
When you think about heating water the two most obvious sources of energy to do so are gas and electric. The Gas hot water heater in my opinion is an obvious choice if you have access to natural gas. A natural gas water heater is much more efficient than electric and a 50 gallon gas water heater supplies considerably more hot water than an electric water heater in the same size. If you do not have access to natural gas you can use propane to heat your water. If you use propane for heating your home you can use the propane supply for your propane water heater.
There are circumstances that make gas impractical. One is of course availability. The other is lack of space, or confined space. Gas water heaters need ventilation and flu piping to operate safely.
Now that we have discussed Gas versus Electric hot water heaters we need to explore a fairly new hot water heater design. This is the tankless hot water heater. Tankless water heaters offer a more compact design they are naturally more efficient because they only heat water on demand and do not maintain the temperature in a large tank of water. They are available in both gas and electric models. Some electric models claim to have a 90% or better efficiency rating. This is higher than gas models. If you have limited space or do not have a source of gas an electric tankless would be ideal.
What are the disadvantages of tankless hot water heaters? Primarily it is the initial cost of the unit. They can cost as much as four times as much as a conventional hot water heater. There have been some issues with calcification (mineral build up) in the units. This is because of minerals build up in the heater elements causing failures and also effecting the flow sensing switch. Most of the newer models have overcome these problems with coatings that inhibit the minerals from sticking. Some of the new models utilize flow sensors that do not contact the water reduce failure rate substantially.
In my opinion if you intend on keeping your home long term the investment in a tankless hot water heater may make sense. I personally went with the old standard tank model on my home because of the higher price. Prices are coming down and the efficiency of the units are going up. When it comes time to replace my water heater I will probably install a tankless unit.
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