types of water heaters solar powered on roof

The 6 Main Types of Water Heaters (So You Can Make The Right Choice!)

Folks don’t typically place much thought into the types of water heaters available to them. They mostly think gas or electric and that’s where the research ends.

But you’re not bound to just those two. There’s a whole world of water heater types for your home. And one of the 6 types of water heaters below might be the most beneficial to your needs and lifestyle.

Let’s dive in.

6 Types of Water Heaters

Here are 6 kinds of water heaters that make up the bulk of realistic options for your home. One or more of these is bound to provide you with all the hot water you need, in the way you need it, and at a price that fits your budget.

1. Storage Tank Water Heaters

There isn’t any wordplay here; these are insulated storage tanks full of heated water. These are the most common models found in the residential sector. All available water is heated inside the tank and is available at the homeowner’s convenience.

Storage tank-style water heaters run on a variety of home power sources: electricity, gas, propane, and oil. The appeal of this model is that as long as the size of the tank is proportionate to the amount of water used, hot water will never be an issue. When the tank is low, a timer kicks on, refilling and heating the water therein.

The problem arises when usage exceeds capacity. Water must then be refilled and reheated multiple times per day. If your tank is the right size for how much water you use (and when it’s being used), then this is a fine option for you.

types of water heaters - gas and electric storage tank diagrams
This illustration includes two types of storage tank water heaters: gas and electric. With minimal maintenance, a storage tank heater should last at least 12 years. Regular maintenance (at least twice annually) can expand its lifetime by years.

2. Tankless Water Heaters

Just as its name implies, this type of water heater has no tank. Water is heated as it passes through the system and is readily available, in any amount, at any given time. For this reason, it’s also called an on-demand water heater.

Since the heating element is only engaged when it’s being used, these water heaters are more energy-efficient than standard tank-style heaters. Another benefit is that they are space savers and look much nicer than a bulky storage tank.

The downside is less water flow. Most models only allow between two and five gallons to pass per minute, which makes for low water pressure. This might also force you to not run multiple water-using appliances at the same time.

To combat this problem, some homeowners install multiple tankless water heaters. Going even further, some property owners have a tankless water heater supplying water for each of their main water-using appliances.

types of water heaters - tankless
Although more expensive upfront, some of a tankless heater’s cost can be alleviated through future water bill savings and the fact that they have a standard life expectancy of 20 years (with yearly maintenance). That’s a long life for a water heater. And they sure look a lot nicer.

3. Heat Pump Water Heaters

Heat pump water heaters heat water through electricity. The water is pumped into the tank, and the heat is drawn from the ambient ground and air temperatures. Therefore, the unit does not need to create its own heat. This makes it one of the most efficient types of water heaters.

On the downside, heat pump systems are large. The tank and compressor typically occupy a 6×8 foot space outside your home. And these models carry a hefty price tag. They require a generally warm climate to operate (in areas that aren’t between 40 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the pump will likely struggle to extract heat).

types of water heaters - 2 types of heat pump
HPWH (heat pump water heaters) are another type of low-maintenance system. There are 2 types of heat pumps (integrated and split). Service on either type is recommended once per year. They can save money each month due to their high efficiency and low maintenance.

4. Solar Powered Water Heaters

These environmentally sustainable systems are heated by the power of the sun. Pretty cool, right?

They include two main parts: (1) solar panels for energy collection and (2) an insulated tank to store the water. These are clearly the most energy-efficient type available and can save loads of money on future water bills. They’re also the most eco-friendly. In some areas, they can be included as a tax write-off or be highly subsidized.

The cons of utilizing this model are again, the initial price, and also the aesthetics of your home. They are the most expensive water heaters on the market and should be viewed as a long-term investment.

Keep in mind, you’ll need a backup water supply during months when sunlight isn’t readily available. While the technology is improving quickly, be prepared for a fairly bulky system on your roof. Depending on the system and installation, this could make your home’s curbside appeal less than appealing.

types of water heaters - solar powered
Solar-powered water heaters require regular maintenance to ensure the panels don’t shift and everything is secured properly. But if you’re looking for the most energy-efficient, economically sustainable water heater for years to come, this is for you. And yes, it will still work if the Zombie Apocalypse comes to your town.

5. Condensing Water Heaters

Also known as CW heaters, these consist of a large tank for water storage and a system to funnel exhausted heat toward the tank.

This is only viable in homes that use natural gas as their main energy source because it repurposes the expended gas to heat the water. As you can then guess, these are highly energy-efficient as they recycle energy used for powering other appliances as a means of operation.

The tanks are large, meaning you’ll usually have available as much hot water as you need. The downside is that they only function in homes utilizing natural gas. The large tank may also be intrusive in your living space.

types of water heaters - condensing
If you’re interested in a condensing water heater, they are priced affordably. With regular maintenance, their lifespan is comparable to other types of tank-style heaters.

6. Combined Space & Water Heating Systems

This type of system provides heat to water in the home as well as the home itself. Because water is heated directly from the mains, a water tank is not needed.

This means two things: you’ll have available as much hot water as you need and only the hot water that you use is heated. In terms of efficiency and convenience, this is at the top of the line.

The drawback is that this is another type of water heater that requires a gas-powered home. While there is less maintenance without a standing tank, there is also much higher reliance on the availability of natural gas.

types of water heaters - combined space and water
A combination of heating appliances is used to heat the home and water supply efficiently in this type of system. As you can see in this image, here are just two different combinations that can work. Less maintenance in general is required and water is heated more efficiently, both helping to reduce your expenses. However, it does require natural gas.

Final Thoughts

With all of the different types of water heaters at your disposal, there’s every reason to believe you’ll find an option that works for you.

Most systems are highly efficient these days, although some are a bit more than others. But if you want to save space, you might consider a tankless. If you want the most energy-efficient, go with solar. And as you can see, there are many options in between!

Call 1-Tom-Plumber

Don’t hesitate to contact us here or call us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237) if you need to repair, or purchase and install, any of these 6 types of water heaters.

1-Tom-Plumber’s certified team of plumbers and drain technicians respond immediately to any emergency plumbing, drain cleaning, or water damage problem. We also handle the excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines. Our immediate-response team is available every day and night of the year, even on holidays.

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