Water Heaters: Choices, Choices
Heating water is one of the most important functions the gas or electricity in our homes provides. Where would we be without water heaters to give us warm showers, powerful dishwashing, and effective laundering?
As with most other appliances, there are plenty of options to confuse consumers when it comes to water heaters. One major distinction, of course is gas versus electric. How are we to know which is better?
Well it turns out the winner is not very hard to call: Heating water with natural gas is faster and more efficient than heating water with electricity. Gas water heaters heat water twice as quickly as similarly sized electric units. This means times saved and costs saved. There are plenty of gas water heating options tagged with Energy Star ratings, which indicate high energy-efficiency.
The next question is whether to go with a storage (tank) water heater or a tankless one. Storage heaters heat water stored in a big tank every hour of the day to make sure there’s always a supply of hot water on hand. Tankless water heaters, on the other hand, only heat water when you need it.
According to Linda Cahill of Tankless Concepts, such heaters are activated by the twist of a faucet or the on button of a washing machine, and then take only five to ten seconds to heat the water up to the designated temperature. The tankless water heater will continue to heat water until hot water is no longer needed; no matter how long that takes.
Cahill states that a tankless water heater can save 30–50 percent or more on water heating costs compared to an electric tank water heater. Plus, this type of heater typically lasts for 20 years, twice the length of time the average storage water hangs on. Because tankless heaters continuously heat when you need it, they never run out of hot water. Not only that, but they are smaller and have no tank that might leak or burst.
There are even finer distinctions within the world of tankless heaters. You’ll have to choose between a condensing tankless water heater and a non-condensing tankless water heater. The condensing types are 96–97 percent efficient, whereas the non-condensing models are 82 percent efficient.
An efficient water heater is an investment in your home, just like a nice hot shower is an investment in your cleanliness (and sanity).