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Hot Water Matters: Picking the Best Water Heater for Your FamilyOctober 21st, 2019 by
If asked to picture the appliances in your home, you probably imagine prominent ones like your refrigerator, clothes washer, or oven. It’s not only the stainless steel that goes into your home that matters, though; the appliances that provide your heating, cooling, and water are easily the foundation of home living. Comfort, health, and safety are intertwined in the building and renovation of any home, but it’s easy to overlook things that aren’t constantly seen.
Easily accessible hot water has become an essential part of today’s home routines. You clean with it, bathe in it, and wash clothes with it. Hot water keeps your family clean and healthy, and a nice hot bath can ease stress and muscle pain.
In order to do all this, your water heater needs to be efficient. It needs to produce enough water to do everything you want, and the more members in your household, the more water there is that needs to be heated and delivered. Thankfully, with today’s standards and innovations, water heaters can easily be both energy efficient and comfortable.
Carefully compare water heaters when upgrading, renovating, or building your home. They are unobtrusive, yet completely essential, and there are several types to choose between. From energy source to volume to location, water heaters are a relatively complex appliance. Government regulations can be overwhelming, and output options are solely dependent on your specific needs. Weighing options and differences is best done with the help of a professional, so make sure to contact a plumber to help guide you through the process.
Water Heater Types and Heating Methods
Whether you’re upgrading your water heating source or building a new home from the ground up, you’ll need to settle on a hot water delivery system. What seems to be the stuff of textbooks and engineering journals can actually be shaved down to a few simple questions:
- How much water do you need at the most, at any given time?
- What is your energy source?
- How many people are in your household?
To help cut through the technical verbiage and marketing jargon, keep reading to see a simple breakdown of your options.
Water heater options based on your energy source
Your home can be powered by electricity, fossil fuels, or solar panels. It is important that you know what method can power which appliances. For example, you could have a gas-powered oven and water heater while everything else runs on electricity. Knowing what will power your water heater is a large part of deciding what water heater to get. Here is a list of water heater types and what energy source they can run on:
- Storage: electricity, propane, natural gas, oil
- Heat pump: electricity, geothermal, natural gas
- Tankless: electricity, natural gas, propane
- Tankless coil and indirect: electricity, oil, propane, natural gas
- Solar: solar energy
The best water heaters based on your household size
The size of your household is also important when determining what system is best. If there isn’t enough hot water when you need it, that is a big reason to consider upgrading your system. According to the EPA, each person in the US uses over 88 gallons of water a day at home. Can your current system handle that volume?
Storage tank, heat pump, and solar water heaters come in various sizes, but a good general rule is that a family of 2 would need a 40-gallon tank. That size increases to about 80 gallons when you have a family of 4 or more.
Tankless water heaters don’t hold water. Instead, water is heated on an on-demand basis (as you need it). This can seem like a great option, but it is important to know how many hot water applications would be in use at any given moment. Often, tankless water heaters can only heat enough water to run one appliance or take one shower at a time. There are whole-house tankless water heater options, and also the ability (because of their small size) to have multiple units installed throughout the house.
Water Heater Installation
Always consult with a professional plumber for your water heater installation. Not only are water heaters powered by potentially dangerous energy sources, the placement of the appliance is regulated and must be handled by a well-trained contractor who understands building codes.
Don’t allow a new water heater to be installed in your attic. In the past, builders often opted for attic installation either because of the out-of-the-way nature of the location or because the home had a concrete slab foundation and plumbing lines must run through the upper portion of the house instead of under the first floor.
The best location for water heaters is in the garage, where it is well ventilated and out of the way. There are several reasons to never install the appliance in your attic:
- Tanks full of water are heavy and can stress structural beams in the attic.
- The lack of adequate ventilation in attics is dangerous when using fossil fuel energy sources.
- Water heaters can leak due to corrosion or age, and a leak in your attic will find its way all the way down through the ceilings, walls, and floors.
- Getting up into the attic to repair or replace the unit can be difficult and can increase the cost of the project.
The Bottom Line
With so many options out there, water heaters are not something to breeze through when choosing appliances. Know your family’s needs, your local regulations, and your energy sources. Understand the pros and cons each system. And most importantly, always contact a professional contractor to perform any project involving water, energy, and health.
Your family is important, and a great water heater should give you what you need without you having to think about it. Whether you choose an on-demand or storage tank water heater, it needs to perform for your family’s specific needs. A qualified plumber can help you understand what options there are as well as the pros and cons of each.
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