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The Comprehensive Buyer’s Guide to Water Heaters


As a homeowner sooner or later you will have to make an important decision concerning your hot water system – either when it suddenly goes down or when it is too old. If that’s the case your system becomes rather hazardous and energy-consuming than useful for your home. So the decision will have to be made in favor of the purchase of a new water heater.

In our comprehensive buyer’s guide we review the available options if you decide to buy a new unit or replace your current one, talking about different types of the water heaters, their advantages and disadvantages, as well as the appropriate size for your home.

Water heating usually accounts for about 25 % of standard household energy use. Weigh your options on water heaters before your current system gets out of use. Usually only when your water heater fails, you will start considering the alternatives. You might be surprised that there are numerous types of water heaters that save both energy and money and is more environment-friendly.

Which will be my choice – electric, gas, solar or heat pump?

Before buying a new unit, first you’ll have to decide on the heating method – electricity, gas, solar or heat pump?

Electric Water Heaters

Electric water heaters heat and hold heated water in an isolated cylinder. They provide hot water at mains pressure, and can service a couple outlets at a time, since they are able to deliver all the stored quantity of water instantly as needed. It takes time to reheat water after you empty them, but they do that fast, having more powerful or twin elements, and can operate on lower cost off-peak electricity.Such systems (that operate on off-peak electricity) are much cheaper to run, but require a larger tank because the water that was heated through the night will have to last you the next day. Plus not all homes have off-peak electricity. A family of four usually requires a 33–42 gallons tank for a continuous system or 66–83 gallons for off-peak. Electric water heaters can be installed indoors or outdoors.


If you have the right connection for it, natural gas is a great option. It’s cheaper than electricity and hot water systems can heat water only when you need it, since gas charges don’t vary through the day. A family of four needs a tank of about 36–45 gallons. Gas water heaters are mostly installed outdoors due to specific venting requirements. There is a pilot light at some of them; its ignition uses a small amount of gas.


Solar water heaters use solar collector panels and a storage tank. A family of four needs about four square meters of solar collector area (two panels) and a 79–95 gal. tank. A large tank is required to make up for days with less sunshine or more need for hot water. These systems are rather expensive and harder to install, but because of low running costs a high-quality system will eventually compensate for its cost.

Heat pump

Heat pump water heater is more efficientform of electric storage tank system that operates on the same principle as a fridge or air conditioner – it obtains heat from the air and applies it to heat the water in the tank. These units are usually combined (the tank and compressor together) but can also be isolated (a separate tank and compressor). They need to be installed outdoors in a well-ventilated space. You will need a 71–83 gal. tank for a four-member family.

Tank or tankless water heater?

The next decision the homeowner has to make when it comes to the purchase of a new water heater is whether to go for a tank or tankless system.

A tank water heater stores and heats up about 30-50 gallons of water in a tank. That preheated water is used for showers, the laundry or dishwashing. When water ends, the tank refills to be reheated again.A tankless water heater applies a heat source (electric or gas) to heat up cold water on demand, rather than storing hot water in a tank.

Advantages of a tank water system:

  • Lower initial cost
  • Easy and inexpensive to replace

Disadvantages of a tank water system:

  • Higher utility bill
  • Bigger and harder to place
  • Can run out of hot water(in case with the smaller tank)
  • Shorter life       – about 10-15 years

Advantages of tankless water heaters

  • Saves money in the long run
  • Doesn’t take up much space
  • Lives longer – 20+ years.
  • Delivers hot water on demand – 2-3 gal. of hot water per minute

Disadvantages of tankless water heaters:

  • Higher initial cost
  • Retrofitting ads to upfront cost if you decide to replace a conventional water heater with a tankless system, that will increase the installation costs even more.

Household size and water usage

One person uses about 13 gal. of hot water every day. This amount will vary if you use your washer and dishwasher often, take long hot showers or wash clothes in warm water.

Get a hot water system provider to examine your home and water usage, so that he can recommend possible options. A provider should ask three questions in order to determine the right size of the water heater – 1) How many people live in your home? 2) How much hot water do you use? 3) At what time do you use it? At Orange County Plumbing Heating & Air Conditioning we can answer more questions about water heaters, their costs, as well as installations and repairs. Do not postpone contacting our company and discovering the whole world of the water heater options!

Residential & Commercial Professional Services

Orange County, Tustin, 92780 | (714) 400-2913