What Water Heaters Do Plumbers Recommend?

February 14, 2017

We often get asked by homeowners, “As a plumber, what water heater do you recommend?”

Well, that’s like someone asking you what kind of car you think they should buy. It all depends on their needs and budget, right?

But if you’re in the market for a new water heater and aren’t sure where to start, we can help you narrow down your options considerably.

Start by answering these 3 questions.

  •  Do you have access to natural gas?
  •  What is your budget?
  •  How much hot water do you use at any given time or day?

We’ll show you why these 3 questions help pinpoint the exact water heater that works for you and your home. But first let’s take a quick look at all the available types of water heaters.

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A quick overview of your water heater options

Traditional tanks

How it works: Water is collected in a storage tank and preheated to deliver hot water whenever you need it. Learn more about tank water heaters here.

Tankless water heaters

How it works: Water is only heated when you need it. As soon as you turn on a hot water tap, a tankless water heater draws in cold water and heats it up before delivering it to you. Learn more about tankless water heaters.

Solar water heaters

How it works: Solar water heaters capture heat energy from the sun and use it to heat your water. This is a great option for Florida homeowners who already have solar panels installed. They can save you anywhere from 70 to 90% on energy bills. Learn more about solar water heaters here. Related: Can a Solar Water Heater Work at Night?

Heat pump water heater

How it works: Heat pump water heaters use a small amount of electricity to move heat from the outdoors and dump it into a tank to heat water. Learn more about heat pump water heaters here.

Now that we’ve established the different types of water heaters, we’ll show you how to pick the right one using the following 3 questions:

Question #1: Do you have access to natural gas?

If you don’t have access to natural gas, you can narrow your water heater choices down to a heat pump water heater or a solar water heater.

Why? Well, water heaters that run off of electricity are actually a lot less efficient than gas water heaters. Even though most electric water heaters have better EF ratings (measurement of water heater efficiency) than gas water heaters, EF ratings don’t take into account the energy that is required to generate and deliver the electricity to your home (and you still pay for that additional energy).

So, electric water heaters usually end up costing more in operational costs than water heaters that run off of gas or other fuel.

But if you do have access to natural gas, you can basically keep your options open. So, let’s move on to another factor: your budget.

Question #2: What is your budget?

When it comes to water heaters, you need to consider the upfront installation cost before making your decision.

Remember that each water heater type comes with two types of cost to consider:

  1. Upfront cost to install the unit

  2. Long-term, monthly operational costs

And for many homeowners, a high installation price that just isn’t affordable can help cross certain water heater types off the list. To help you decide, we’ve listed the average installation prices for the 4 major water heater types discussed above.

  • Traditional storage water heater: $900 to $1,700
  • Tankless water heater: $3,000 to $3,700
  • Solar water heater: $8,000 to $10,000

Note: the price decreases substantially for homeowners who already have solar panels installed.

  • Heat pump water heater: $1,300 to $1,500

Note: the price decreases substantially for homeowners who already use a heat pump for heating and cooling purposes.

Finally, let’s make sure that the water heater type can accommodate your hot water needs.

Question #3: How much hot water do you use?

Regardless of the type of water heater you choose, you’ll need to make sure it’s able to deliver the amount of hot water you need at any given time. Otherwise, you won’t be happy with your level of comfort or your energy bills.

To help you determine if a water heater can accommodate your hot water needs, first calculate your “peak hour demand” (the hour of the day in which you use the hottest water).

Determine all of the hot water appliances you use during this hour and calculate their GPM (gallons per minute). Use the chart below to help you calculate the total GPM of your peak hour demand.

Source: https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/sizing-new-water-heater

If you have a relatively low GPM (under 5 GPM) …

...a gas tankless water heater or heat pump water heater could work well for you.

Both gas tankless water heaters and heat pump water heaters work well for households who don’t have a high demand for hot water at any given time. And both can provide considerable savings on water heating bills.

Note: Remember that if you don’t have access to gas, we suggest you stay away from tankless water heaters. Electric tankless units aren’t very efficient and have high operational costs.

If you have a relatively high GPM (over 5 GPM) ...
...your best options are:

Gas tank water heater

Solar water heater (if you can afford the high upfront cost or if you already have solar panels installed)

Both options store heated water in a tank so that they can deliver a large amount of hot water at a single moment in time.

If you have a high GPM, we suggest you stay away from tankless water heaters or heat pump water heaters. Both units have trouble keeping up during times of high demand. For example, if you ask for more than 5 gallons of hot water at a single time, most tankless water heaters won’t have time to heat the water to your desired level, meaning you’ll get lukewarm or even cold water.

Ready for the next step? Consult a Florida plumber

Once you’ve narrowed down the type of water heater that might work best for your needs, you can talk to a plumber to discuss brands and other water heater features.

Need to talk with a plumber now? Just contact us. We can help you find the perfect unit for your water heating needs. We have locations in Sarasota, Tampa, Orlando, & Naples and serve the surrounding areas in Florida.

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