Choosing a New Water Heater: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Your luxurious shower experience can quickly turn into a nightmare if your water heater is not up to the task. In the dead of winter, a warm shower is essential to start your day on the right foot. However, if your water heater malfunctions, you’re left shivering and frustrated. Choosing a new water heater can be overwhelming, with so many brands, sizes, fuel sources, and energy ratings to consider. But fear not, HowStuffWorks has got you covered. In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of selecting the perfect water heater, from conventional tank models to tankless options.

Imagine enjoying a warm shower on a cold winter morning. The hot water hits your face, rolls over your shoulders, and relaxes your muscles. You lather up with soap and shampoo, basking in the warmth of the water, and then it happens – a sudden burst of icy cold water hits your chest. You frantically turn the cold water down to zero, but the temperature remains stubbornly low. It’s at that moment that you realize your water heater has given up the ghost.

Visiting a big-box home-improvement store can be daunting, with so many options to choose from. You might feel overwhelmed by the different sizes, brands, fuel sources, and energy ratings. And what about the tankless heaters that don’t have a tank? How can they possibly meet your needs? Unfortunately, the employees at the store might not be very helpful, leaving you to figure things out on your own.

Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. This article will guide you through the process of selecting a new water heater. We’ll explain the differences between gas and electric models, and we’ll help you decide whether a tankless model is right for you. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to make an informed decision and enjoy a hot shower once again.


1. What are the different types of water heaters available?

There are several types of water heaters available, including tankless, storage tank, hybrid, and solar water heaters. Tankless water heaters are compact and heat water on demand, while storage tank water heaters store heated water for use later. Hybrid water heaters combine the benefits of tankless and storage tank water heaters. Solar water heaters use energy from the sun to heat water and are environmentally friendly.

2. What size water heater do I need?

The size of your water heater will depend on several factors, including the number of people in your household and your hot water usage habits. A general rule of thumb is to choose a water heater with a capacity of 10-15 gallons per person in your household. However, it’s best to consult with a professional plumber to determine the appropriate size for your specific needs.

3. What is the most energy-efficient type of water heater?

Tankless water heaters are generally considered the most energy-efficient type of water heater because they only heat water as needed, reducing energy waste. However, hybrid water heaters that combine tankless and storage tank technology are also highly energy-efficient.

4. How much does a new water heater cost?

The cost of a new water heater will vary depending on the type and size of the unit. Tankless water heaters are typically more expensive than storage tank water heaters, but they may have a longer lifespan and lower energy costs over time. On average, a new water heater can cost anywhere from $500 to $2,500, including installation.

5. Should I choose an electric or gas water heater?

The choice between an electric or gas water heater will depend on several factors, including the availability of natural gas in your area and your energy preferences. Gas water heaters may have a lower operating cost over time, but they require a gas line installation and may have higher upfront costs. Electric water heaters are typically less expensive upfront and easier to install, but they may have higher operating costs over time.

6. How often should I replace my water heater?

The lifespan of a water heater will depend on several factors, including the type and quality of the unit, as well as regular maintenance. On average, a water heater can last anywhere from 8 to 15 years. It’s recommended to replace your water heater before it fails to avoid potential damage and costly repairs.

7. What should I look for in a reputable water heater installer?

When choosing a water heater installer, it’s important to research the company’s reputation and credentials. Look for a licensed and insured plumber who has experience installing the type of water heater you wish to purchase. Ask for references and read online reviews to ensure the installer has a positive track record.

8. What maintenance is required for a water heater?

Regular maintenance is essential for extending the lifespan and efficiency of your water heater. This may include flushing the tank to remove sediment buildup, inspecting the heating elements, and checking for leaks. It’s recommended to have your water heater professionally serviced at least once a year.

9. What safety measures should I take with my water heater?

To ensure safe operation of your water heater, it’s important to install a pressure relief valve and a carbon monoxide detector near the unit. Keep the area around the water heater clear of flammable materials and avoid storing chemicals or combustibles nearby. If you notice any signs of a gas leak, such as a rotten egg smell, immediately turn off the gas supply and call a professional plumber for assistance.

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