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Water Heater Selection Considerations - Whether you are building a new house or getting ready to replace the old water heater in a home improvement project there are things to consider before making the decision which water heater to get to replace the old one or a new water heater for your new home. You want the best system for the money but you don’t want high utility bills to get the best system.
Water Heater Selection Considerations | The Decision to Buy a Water Heater
When you go shopping for water heaters you want to make an informed decision which means you want to educate yourself about what water heaters are available and all the details about selecting a new water heater for your comfort and your utility bill at the end of the month without paying an arm and a leg to get this new water heating system. After all, you need to know whether you need a sporty economy car or a tractor-trailer.
You don’t want to buy luxury when you don’t need luxury but rather a mid-range more economical water heater. Here are the things you need to know about the selection process.
First, what kind of fuel is available to use for the new water heater.
Water Heater Selection Considerations - Considerations of Replacing the Hot Water Heater before Shopping
Do you have natural gas available for water heaters, gas cooking, and gas furnaces? Some places do not have natural gas available and if this is so then this eliminates one alternative for you to consider when shopping for a new water heater. If you have natural gas then this is a plus when shopping for a new water heater as it leaves your options open for new water heater selection.
If you do not have natural gas available in your neighborhood then you probably have a propane service or an oil service available where they will deliver the fuel to your residence on a time schedule based on estimated usage of fuel. Propane water heaters are available and so are oil water heaters. If you do not have oil or propane at this time some propane and oil companies will provide you with a tank if you sign a contract with them to purchase oil or propane from them.
Give a couple of these companies a call and find out what the cost would be to have this type of service provided. This will also be a factor in your decision to buy a new system. For more information on propane and natural gas see our natural gas versus propane.
Electrical Load | Water Heater Selection Considerations
Check the circuit breaker panel to see if you have enough to power an electric water heater if you decide to get an electric water heater. If the existing water heater is electric but you are going to purchase a bigger electric water heater then you need to evaluate the existing service or wires connected to the existing water heater. Are the wires large enough to handle the amp load of the new water heater? What is the amp rating on the existing breaker for the water heater? Wire sizing for new appliances, especially resistive loads, is very important.
Infrastructure Considerations | Water Heater Selection Considerations
Is this large enough for the new water heater and if not then will you need to hire an electrician to replace the wire and circuit breaker for the new water heater? Electric is the most commonly available source of fuel for heating in the world followed by natural gas and other fuels like propane and fuel oil.
If you decide to go from a regular water heater with a tank to a tankless on-demand water heater how much will the plumbing company charge you to rearrange the piping for the new tankless water heater? Maybe if you buy this tankless water heater from the plumbing company they will install it for a flat fee which could closely match the amount you would for buying your own at a hardware store and paying the plumbing company to install it for you.
Estimates from Contractors | Water Heater Selection Considerations
Compare these prices by getting estimates from the plumbing companies and then checking the prices of the water heaters at the hardware store. Remember, the plumbing company will give you a warranty on parts and labor if you buy from them and they will hassle with all the warranty stuff whereas if you buy from the hardware store the warranty hassles are on you.
They will also make recommendations. Do your homework and get what you want, not what they are pushing.
Is this replacement water heater installation or new water heater installation going to require permits from the local municipality to install the new water heater?
Water Heater Selection Considerations - Replacing the Hot Water Heater before Shopping: Water Heater Sizing
Secondly, you need the size of the new hot water heater based on the estimated amount you are going to use the new water heater. Do you have a big family where there is the constant use of washing machines, showers, washing dishes, etc… or do you live alone?
This usage estimation is necessary for helping you decide which size water heater to purchase to accommodate the need for hot water and without this estimation, you may buy a water heater that is too big which will cost you more to operate or you could buy a water heater that is too small which will never be able to meet demand.
Doing the Math | Water Heater Selection Considerations
How many hot water appliances do you have and how many hot water spigots are you going to use at any given time for a maximum total of hot water usage at any given time? Appliances like dishwashers and washing machines should have literature that tells you what the gallons (liters for those readers in Canada and Europe) per minute are for those appliances. The amount you use from a spigot-like at the hot water sink will be based on the type of fixture and attachments to the fixture you have.
A kitchen sink fixture can use up to 1 gallon per minute of hot water while a shower, depending on the attachment to the shower fixture, could consume as much as 4 gallons per minute. You need to run an assessment and find out what your maximum usage will be at the most optimum time when that maximum number of people are using the hot water supply.
Gallons Per Minute Demand | Water Heater Selection Considerations
Are you going to, on a regular basis, have someone in the shower, another person washing dishes, and washing laundry at the same time? If so, figure out your gallons per minute rate and this will help you select the right water heater that will keep up with demand so you won’t have any cold showers because the water heater couldn’t keep up.
After you figure out the type of fuel options available to you which you can use for your new water heater and the amount of hot water your hot water heater needs to produce you will be ready to go shopping for a new water heater. Aside from the above considerations here is what to look for or ask about when shopping for a new water heater:
Water Heater Selection Considerations - Replacing the Hot Water Heater while Shopping
How efficient is the heat exchanger at converting the fuel to heat for the hot water heater and what are you paying for this fuel? Electricity is 100% efficient while other methods of heating water are as low as 70% but electricity costs more if you measure the kilowatt-hour cost and the cost of BTU/h provided from fossil fuels you’ll see that a 90% gas water heater is cheaper to operate than an electric water heater. However, all-electric heat pump water heaters are the most cost-efficient to operate but they can be the most costly to install.
Return on Investment | Water Heater Selection Considerations
Selecting the most efficient water heater can pay for itself over the long term because of fuel costs so carefully make your choice on the type of fuel and the cost of this fuel before buying a water heater. It will make a difference on your utility bill at the end of the month. The best source to get this information is your local utility company. Believe it or not, the local power company wants you to use less electricity and many utility companies wholeheartedly help decide which is the most cost-efficient fuel for what you want to do especially with replacing major appliances like water heaters.
This is a very important consideration because over the next twenty years the cost of electricity and other fuels used for producing heat and hot water is expected to rise by 50%. Go for the best economy now because in the future it will save you on a monthly basis. Don’t let this scare you but use this to make a better decision about purchasing a new water heater for efficiency.
Energy Factor | Water Heater Selection Considerations
What is the EF or Energy Factor of the hot water heater you are looking at? Remember the EF is based only on lab tests of that particular model and not on the water heater you are looking at. The EF should closely match the model of the water heater you are looking for simply because it is the same size and model of the appliance they test in the lab to arrive at the EF. The higher the EF number the more efficient the hot water heater is.
Warranty | Water Heater Selection Considerations
Does this hot water heater have a warranty and how are warranty issues handled? Will the store where you purchase this hot water heater assist you with the warranty problem or are you on your own? How long is the warranty good for compared to other water heater models you are looking at purchasing?
Check to see if this hot water heater manufacturer and model number are listed for a recall and how this was handled. Has the model been fixed or is it still in the recall? You can do a search for this hot water heater model number and hot water heater manufacturer at www.cpsc.gov.
All these things should be considered when selecting a new hot water heater. Hopefully, this article has enlightened you on the best way to select a hot water heater for your home, and hopefully, it brings you many years of comfortable and efficient hot water.
Water Heater Selection Considerations