Part of a home’s basic utilities, hot water heaters are intended to be functional, durable, and dependable. As long as they are putting out the hot water we need, we don’t think much about them. Other than minor adjustments to temperature settings, they’re unobtrusive and forgotten. That is, until the day your heater starts malfunctioning or stops working completely. At this point, you have the option of calling in a repair technician, trying to fix it yourself, or buying a new one. Besides comfort and convenience, hot water heaters are actually a pretty critical component of your HVAC system. Here’s what you need to know:
While each type of hot water heater performs the same basic function, it does so in a different manner. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages. Understanding the different types can help you choose the best fit for your house.
This is the most common type of water heater. Storage water heaters have a large tank that holds heated water. They can be either electric or gas powered. Gas heaters are faster, while electric models are usually less expensive.
Storage tank hot water heaters should receive regular maintenance that includes cleaning and flushing so sediment and buildup doesn’t occur. They take a long time to fill, and the amount of hot water available at a given time is limited to the amount of hot water the tank can hold.
Tankless hot water heaters, often called on-demand heaters, essentially give you an unlimited amount of hot water as soon as you call for it through a fixture. Since they only heat water when you need it, rather than keeping a large tank of water constantly heated, they are more energy efficient to operate. Because of this more sophisticated equipment, they do tend to be more expensive than storage tank styles. Since they heat the water as it flows through them, they are limited in how much hot water they can provide at one time should multiple water fixtures call for hot water (think multiple showers at the same time, or washing dishes and laundry at the same time).
Heat pump hot water heaters work like heat pump heating/cooling systems, transferring heat from the outside air to the storage tank of the unit. They use a little electricity to run, but they don’t use a traditional heating element, making them extremely energy efficient.
As the name indicates, solar water heaters use solar panels on your property to heat the water. The advantage of solar water heaters is that they essentially are “free” to operate. The drawback is that you need to have solar panels installed already, which is an expensive investment and not worth it for everyone. You also need enough sun year-round to heat enough water for your daily needs.
Condensing hot water heaters are only for homes that have natural gas heating systems. They have a water storage tank, but use the exhaust gas from the central heating unit to power the heating elements. This highly efficient process can save a lot of money and make good use of your gas heating system.
If your hot water heater is more than 10 years old, or has any of the warning signs of leaks or malfunctions, it’s probably time for a replacement. The consequences of a burst hot water heater are disastrous, so it’s not worth taking a chance. Newer models are also much more energy efficient, and you will likely see savings in your utility bills right away.
No matter which type of water heater you have, or if you need a new one, you can contact Gelinas HVAC. We are licensed for all types of heating systems. Our team of highly trained, experienced professionals are happy to answer any questions and help you decide which kind of water heater is right for your home. If your heaters is older, please schedule an inspection so we can make sure it is safely providing you with hot water, and help you plan for a replacement when necessary.