Here’s a Complete Guide on How to Select a New Water Heater

28 / 03 / 2018

How to select a new water heater? Consider the size, capacity, energy source, upfront cost, long-term operating costs and energy efficiency. Other customers also consider other factors such as difficulty of installation and additional costs on disassembling the old system and putting in the new water heater.

Here in this comprehensive guide let’s discuss those factors and compare the pros and cons. We’ll also talk about the possible cost savings when choosing one option over the other. Let’s start.

Conventional versus tankless water heaters

Let’s first discuss the two general types of water heaters (conventional storage and tankless water heaters). The main difference is that the latter produces hot water on demand (just-in-time hot water for your immediate requirements). On the other hand, conventional storage water heaters have reservoirs that pour out hot water when needed. Water is heated constantly (the tank is always full) which could result to some heat loss and wasted energy.

This is one reason why many homeowners choose the tankless types instead. On-demand or tankless water heaters have lower heat and energy loss. As a result, this could translate to thousands of dollars of savings in the long run. In fact, you can realise up to 50% energy savings if you choose tankless.

However, the cost of a tankless unit could be up to three times compared to the conventional storage types. Not to mention the additional cost of installation especially when rewiring and reconfiguration are required. This could significantly increase the upfront cost. You might only be able to offset the upfront cost after a year or so.

Consider size & flow rate

Whether you choose a conventional or demand-type water heater, significant cost savings still depend on the proper choice of capacity and flow rate. For example, large conventional water heaters for homes may have a reservoir with capacity of up to 300 litres. On the other hand, some demand-type water heaters may produce up to 15 litres of hot water per minute.

The size and flow rate largely depend on the household and the usage pattern of hot water. For example, hot water could also be used in washers and as a booster for solar heaters. There are also times when the demand for hot water is at its peak (e.g. early morning where everyone is going to school or work, unusually cold nights).

It’s important to choose a unit that only has the right size, capacity and/or flow rate. For example, a water heater with 300-litre storage capacity might be too big for a 2-person household. Most of the energy and heat will be wasted because most of the hot water won’t be used. Also, larger units may require a more intensive maintenance.

In the case of demand-type water heaters, it might be good to install multiple units for each system that requires a lot of hot water. For instance, there could be a dedicated water heater for washers and another one for the bathroom. This maximises cost savings while still meeting the household’s demand. But then again consider the upfront costs of the unit and installation.

Energy source: Conventional or solar?

Aside from energy efficiency and upfront costs, many customers also consider the energy source for running the water heater. Electric, solar and gas-powered heaters each has its own advantages and disadvantages. This makes it a challenge for many customers to make a timely decision.

Solar-powered heaters are perceived to be the most sustainable because it’s free energy coming from the sun. However, it requires to be installed on the roof (or other exposed areas) to take advantage of the sun’s energy. This might make the installation very difficult or expensive. Its maintenance could also be costly and the output might not be hot enough (or plenty enough) for the requirements of the whole household. The upside though is you save on utility bills month after month.

Gas-powered water heaters might be cheaper to purchase and set up. In fact, it also has a lower running cost compared to electric units. Gas-powered heaters could only require $200 each month from you. In contrast, electric water heaters may add $600 to your monthly utility bill.

Electric water heaters are still popular though because of the ease, convenience and safety. However, it could contribute up to 33% of your total home energy use. It’s a significant chunk which is why you should choose an energy-efficient unit. Due to its high energy consumption, there were talks already about phasing it out. Whichever is the case, take note of the energy efficiency, output and fuel/electricity consumption when selecting a water heater for your home.

How long do water heaters last?

With proper maintenance, many quality water heating units could last up to 20 years. The maintenance might be performed once every 3 to 5 years. Perhaps it’s about removing the built-up scale or replacing the optimal components. Aside from lengthening the lifespan, the maintenance is also for keeping the unit energy efficient.

The warranty coverage might include the cylinder (e.g. up to 12 years) and other parts. The cylinders or tanks could be the most expensive as they form the heart of the water heater. Also, constant usage might result to failing electrical components (failure to start or heat appropriately).

Here’s another consideration. If you’re planning to purchase a solar water heater, it’s important to have a backup. Aside from rare failures, a backup system will provide enough hot water for your household especially during cloudy days or other less-than-ideal conditions. Many homes have a packaged solar water heater plus a backup of electric tankless unit. This is to prepare for higher hot water demands and any hiccups especially when hot water is needed the most.

Other considerations on how to select a new water heater

Aside from the cost, energy efficiency and quality of the unit itself, its installation is also as important because its proper function also largely depends on it. Improper setups might make the unit leaking or working far from optimal.

Installation services may require an additional of up to $500 of fees. The total fees may depend on the per-hour rate, difficulty of the job & the prices of the pipes and other materials. It might only take less than a day to complete the installation.

When it comes to the warranty, the coverage might vary depending on the type of unit, its use (for residential or commercial), the model, its energy source and other factors. The warranty may or may not include both parts and labour when servicing the unit.

Once the unit is installed, learn how to best operate it to maximise output and efficiency while reducing the wear and tear. Proper operation and maintenance could double the useful lifespan of the unit. This translates to an additional 6 to 10 years. The cost savings could further compound because of lower energy consumption and utility bills through the years.

All the pieces of information presented here seem overwhelming. To make things a bit easier, just focus on the upfront costs and energy efficiency. Compare the price of the units and calculate the monthly operating costs. Once you’ve covered that, you can then move on to other things such as energy source, installation fees and warranty coverage.

The purchase of a single water heater could cost more than $1,000 (add the installation and other fees). Moreover, making the right choice could spell thousands of dollars of savings in the long run due to lower energy consumption and longer unit lifespan.

If you require more information and you have some queries, you can also contact us here at NSW Hot Water. We have a wide range of water heaters for residential and commercial facilities. We can discuss how many of you are in the household and which size of water heater is right for you.