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Choosing a New Water Heater

New Water Heater Varieties

The average water heater will last 10-15 years. If your water heater is over 7 years old, however, it would be beneficial to start doing a little research on a new water heater. Most often a water heater failure will be unexpected, unpleasant, and needs to be dealt with quickly. It is helpful to make yourself knowledgeable about the variety of new water heater options available to you early on. You will save yourself a great deal of time, money, and stress when your water heater lets you know it is time for a replacement.

Options for Buying a New Water Heater

Conventional Storage Water Heaters

Conventional Storage Water Heaters, the most popular type of water heater, feature a storage tank, or ready reservoir, to hold and heat water. Conventional storage water heaters can hold between 20 and 80 gallons of hot water. The conventional storage water heater releases heated water from the top of the tank when you turn on the hot water at your tap. As hot water is used, cold water enters the bottom of the tank to be heated. In this way, the tank is always full.

The drawback to a conventional storage water heater is standby heat loss. This happens because energy is constantly used to keep the water hot, even when no hot water is being used. Some conventional storage water heaters are equipped with a heavily insulated tank, lowering annual energy expenses and reducing standby heat loss. When looking for a new conventional storage water heater, choose a model with a thermal resistance (R-Value) between R-12 to R-25. Gas and oil storage water heaters also suffer from energy loss, but fan-assisted gas water heaters and atmospheric sealed-combustion water heaters offer significantly reduced energy losses.

Tankless or Demand-Type Water Heaters

Tankless water heaters are not subject to standby heat loss because they only heat water as it is needed. Also known as demand-type or instantaneous water heaters, tankless water heaters use either an electric element or a gas burner to heat cold water when the hot water tap is turned on. So a tankless water heater can provide a constant supply of hot water, but limits the flow rate.

A typical electric tankless water heater provides hot water at a rate of 2-5 gallons per minute and gas-fired tankless water heaters can deliver even more. Even a large gas-fired tankless water heater, however, cannot meet the demands of multiple simultaneous uses in one household. Two or more tankless water heaters can be installed to offer extra hot water delivery, and a dedicated tankless water heater can be used for individual appliances.

Heat Pump Water Heaters

A heat pump water heater transfers heat from one place to another rather than generating heat directly to make hot water. They can function as a stand-alone water heating system or can be used with the dual purposes of water heating and space conditioning. Heat pump water heaters can be 2-3 times more energy efficient than a conventional water heater because of their use of heat transference. A heat pump water heater can be purchased as a stand-alone heating system with a ready reservoir and back-up resistance heating element or a heat pump can be fitted to work with an existing conventional storage water heater. Heat pump water heaters work most efficiently in a warm environment.

The first choice for homeowners is usually a geothermal heat pump, which pulls heat from the ground during the winter and from indoor air in the summer. A geothermal heat pump is generally used for heating and cooling the home, but for heating water a desuperheater can be added. A desuperheater uses superheated gases from the heat pump’s compressor to heat water. The hot water is then delivered to the storage water heater tank. Desuperheaters are even available for demand-type or tankless water heaters.

Solar Water Heaters

A solar water heater harnesses energy from the sun to heat water. They use storage tanks and solar collectors. Also called solar domestic hot water systems, they are very cost-effective and can be used in any climate. They usually require some sort of backup system for cloudy days. This can be a conventional storage tank, tankless water heater, or another type of solar water heater. Many different types of systems have been produced to use the energy of the sun, but the two basic forms of solar heating are active solar water heating and passive solar water heating.

Active solar water heating systems have circulating pumps and controls; passive solar water heating systems do not. If you decide to buy an active solar water heating system, you can choose from a direct circulation system, which works well in climates where freezing temperatures are rare, or an indirect circulation system, which is intended for climates in which freezing is a likelihood.

Passive solar water heating systems are generally less expensive than active solar water heaters, but tend to be less efficient. Their reliability and long life are a great plus, however. Those looking to purchase a passive solar water heating system have the option of either an integral collector-storage passive system, good for freezing temperatures and households that use a lot of hot water, or a thermosyphon system, which tends to be more expensive, but very reliable.

Tankless Coil and Indirect Water Heaters

Tankless coil water heaters and indirect water heaters use the building’s space conditioning system to heat water. They are part of a larger system called integrated or combination water and space heating systems. Tankless coil water heaters are not a very efficient choice for warmer climates because they work in conjunction with a furnace or boiler. They operate best at times when the heating system is being used regularly.

Indirect water heaters require a storage tank. Even so, they are a more efficient choice for most homes. Working in conjunction with the furnace or boiler, the system’s heavily insulated tank prevents the heating system from turning on too often. This is a very inexpensive method of water heating for many homes.

Tips for Selecting Your New Water Heater

When deciding which type of water heater will work best for you, here are a few important factors to consider:

  • Size of the water heater
  • Energy efficiency
  • Annual operating costs
  • Fuel type, cost and availability

There are so many varieties of water heaters to choose from, so once again, don’t delay your research. If your water heater is over 7 years old, it is time to begin evaluating your water heating options. Check out the U.S. Department of Energy’s website, . They have a wealth of information to offer on the plethora of water heaters available, how they work, and each one’s advantages and drawbacks. Remember, when a water heater goes, it tends to happen suddenly. No one wants to be without hot water for too long while the benefits and disadvantages of each system are being sifted through. Learning your options now may just save you some aggravation in the future. A water heating expert can offer much guidance in this area.

AAA Able Air Conditioning & Appliance Co. Inc.

For over 30 years, AAA Able has provided South Floridians with reliable, professional water heating expertise. We carry all major brands of water heaters, and can guide you when it is time to purchase a new water heating system. We also repair all makes and models of water heaters, and can set up a routine water heater maintenance schedule. Don’t be left cold--contact us today for expert water heating sales, service, and installations.

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