Learn How to Upgrade Your Water Heater
There are many options available when upgrading the water heater in your home. For example, water heater solutions include a range of efficiencies, fuel types, sizes and costs. Also, most water heaters use natural gas, electricity, propane gas or fuel oil, which produces hot water. Therefore, during water heater upgrades, most homeowners continue using the same fuel type as their previous water heater. However, it is possible to switch fuel types (if desired).
New residential water heaters require standard efficiency ratings in terms of Energy Factor (EF). For example, a water heater that operates at 90% efficiency is 90% EF. Conversely, one that operates at 60% efficiency is 60% EF. The higher the EF, the higher the water heater’s operating efficiency.
Water Heater Solutions
Additionally, the following list outlines the different types of water heaters available in the marketplace today.
Storage Water Heaters
Storage water heaters rely on a tank, which stores hot water until needed. Typically, storage water heaters contain between 30 and 50 gallons. Also, these tanks remain the most common type of water heater used across the country. However, because storage water heaters keep the hot water ready in storage, they only offer modest efficiency. Plus, they also run out of hot water during periods of high demand.
On-demand or Instantaneous Water Heaters
On-demand or Instantaneous water heaters have no storage capacity. Instead, they heat the water very quickly when needed. These water heaters sense water flow and then deliver the hot water virtually “instantaneously”. Plus, on-demand hot water heaters offer increased efficiency because they do not store hot water in a tank.
Heat Pump Water Heaters
Heat pump water heaters use electricity that absorb heat from the space they are in to produce hot water. For example, a heat pump water heater located in a basement absorbs heat from the air in the basement. Then, the heater uses that heat to produce hot water. Also, heat pump water heaters are more efficient than standard electric storage water heaters today. However, homes rarely contain these heaters today.
Indirect Water Heaters
Indirect water heaters work in conjunction with a high-efficiency boiler. The boiler runs, which keeps an insulated tank of domestic hot water ready for home consumption. For homes that use a high-efficiency boiler for space heating, an indirect-fired hot water heater offers an efficient choice.
Tankless Coil Water Heaters
Some boilers contain a hot water coil as part of boiler’s configuration. For example, hot water for showers, cooking and more receive heat by running potable through a coil located in the boiler. This coil heats the water. Tankless coil water heaters are not used as much today because they require the boiler to run continuously to “be ready” to provide domestic hot water at any moment. Running a boiler continuously, especially in the summer, leads to inefficiencies compared to other hot water heater options.
Solar Water Heaters
In simple terms, solar water heaters include a collector and storage tank. They use the sun's thermal energy to heat water instead of using natural gas, propane gas or electricity. The sun’s energy heats the collector panels commonly located on the homeowner’s roof. The sun’s energy is then used to pre-heat incoming water for domestic hot water use. The pre-heated water then enters a traditional hot water heater at a warmer temperature saving the homeowner energy on their monthly domestic hot water costs.
Proper Hot Water Heater Sizing
To properly size a typical storage type hot water heater, look to the water heater’s First-Hour Rating or FHR. The First-Hour Rating is an estimate of the maximum volume of hot water in gallons that the storage water heater can supply within an hour beginning with the water heater fully heated.
To properly size an on-demand or instantaneous water heater, look to the water heater’s Gallons per Minute or GPM rating. Gallons per Minute is the amount of gallons per minute of hot water that can be supplied by an instantaneous water heater while maintaining a nominal temperature rise of 77°F during steady state operation.
Other types of water heaters should be sized with the help of a contractor, specialized in that area of work.