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Before You Buy Your Next Hot Water Heater

A water heater is a big investment for any household and can have a tangible impact on your family’s comfort. Let’s go over some of the factors you need to consider when selecting a new water heater for your home.

Water heater capacity

First, think about your household’s water usage. A couple living in a condo with one bathroom will not use as much hot water has a family with four kids in a three-bathroom house. Aside from baths and showers, think about how often your family runs the dishwasher or does laundry.

Storage tank water heaters come in standard sizes, and you’ll need to carefully consider how much water your household regularly uses before you make your purchase; tankless water heaters, alternatively, heat water on demand and may be a better option for your home, especially if your household’s water usage varies.

Your budget

Tankless water heaters are generally several hundred dollars more expensive than storage tank water heaters. However, tankless heaters also use less energy, meaning your utility bills will be lower and you’ll see savings over time. For long-range planning, storage tank water heaters usually last between 10 and 15 years, whereas tankless water heaters should last about 20 years.

Remember to consider maintenance as well. Both tankless and storage tank water heaters should be professionally serviced once a year to operate at their best. This is especially important for tankless water heaters, which have more components and are more susceptible to problems if they go without preventative maintenance.

Energy efficiency

Storage tank water heaters use more energy. So long as the appliance is on (and it’s rare that homeowners choose to turn off their water heaters), it’s using energy to heat the water in the tank as temperatures fluctuate during the day. Many water heaters in the Bay Area are located outdoors or in an uninsulated part of the home, such as the garage, which doesn’t help the situation.

Tankless water heaters only use gas or electricity when hot water is called for. If you’re on vacation for a week, the heater won’t use any energy. This makes tankless water heaters the more energy-efficient option. However, this efficiency comes with limitations. It takes longer to heat water, and it has a more limited flow rate compared to a storage tank heater. Tankless may not be a great option if several members of a household take showers at the same time or if you need to run many water-using appliances at once.

Preferred water heater brands

While I don’t promote any particular water heater brand over another, I do recommend going with products from companies that solely produce water heaters (Bradford White, Rheem and State, for instance), rather than those who make a wide range of appliances.

Summary

If it’s time to replace your water heater, don’t just buy a new version of the one you had before. Think about how much hot water your family uses, how many appliances and bathrooms will need hot water at the same time, and how much you can spend. Chances are your family’s water needs and budget have changed since your water heater was last replaced. Take the time to find the one that’s right for you.