Very few appliances are designed to last indefinitely. That\u2019s especially true of your water heater. Regardless of the specific water heater type you have, you can bet you\u2019ll be replacing it at some point. Fortunately, many quality water heaters on the market last a long time. Buying a new water heater is similar to many big-ticket item purchases. You\u2019ll research issues like what\u2019s a good water heater capacity and what type of water heater is best for your home. Then you\u2019ll need to choose between electric vs. gas water heaters and a tankless vs. tank water heater. To help with these questions, what you really need is a clear and concise water heater buying guide. That\u2019s exactly what you\u2019ll get by reading on. Choosing a New Water Heater Choosing a new water heater is a serious issue, but it's a decision that you\u2019ll hopefully only make every 10-15 years. That's the average lifespan of storage water heaters, which are by far the most popular and conventional water heater used in America. Consumer Reports also states that nearly 20% of your home\u2019s energy costs come from your water heater. Efficiency is important in today\u2019s world where energy costs continue to rise faster than income. The United States Department of Energy (DOE) realizes this and recently introduced energy consumption regulations called the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA). This act took effect in 2015 and regulates minimum energy efficiency standards for all water heater types. This is good news for you as a consumer. Today\u2019s water heaters are far more energy efficient than appliances manufactured in the past 20 years. Now, you have the choice to buy an economical water heater designed for budget-conscious consumers. You can also choose more expensive water heaters with larger capacities and greater energy savings. You\u2019re in the driver\u2019s seat when buying a water heater. However, like with other purchases, you\u2019ll want to do your homework. Choosing a new water heater follows these logical steps: Determine your fuel source: Check out what energy options you have. The most common fuel sources are electricity, natural gas, propane, oil, solar and geothermal. You might be restricted to one energy source like electricity, or you may have any combination of options. Determine your type: Type refers to the water heating and storage mechanism. Basically, there are two main water heater types. One is the conventional storage tank. The other is a tankless system, also known as on-demand or instantaneous in-line water heaters. Determine your capacity: A water heater\u2019s delivery capacity comes in different sizes. Storage water heaters measure capacity rates in gallons and first-hour ratings (FHR). Tankless, or on-demand, systems use a gallons-per-minute (GPM) measurement. Determine your space: Where your water heater is or will be located has a big effect on what appliance you\u2019ll choose. If you have a basement home with lots of room, a large-capacity storage water heater may be ideal. However, if you\u2019re cramped in a condo or crawlspace home, you\u2019ll need something compact like a demand system. Determine your budget: Most of us have a cap on budgets. Likely, you\u2019re in a similar situation. Generally, small-volume storage water heaters are the lowest cost, while high-technology solar and geothermal systems are expensive. Before going for low price, though, look at the overall value, like return on energy costs, extended warranty and appliance service life. You might want to make a checklist or pro\/con matrix to determine the parameters you need to stick to. Once you know what you don\u2019t want, can\u2019t have or aren\u2019t able to afford, it\u2019ll be easier to narrow down options and make your best choice. Let\u2019s look at these five water heater selection steps in more detail. 1. Determine Your Fuel Source Determining your fuel source should be fairly straightforward. If you\u2019re in a water heater replacement situation, you\u2019ll likely be restricted by what fuel source your current water heater uses. Changing fuel sources in existing buildings might be expensive, impractical or impossible. However, if you\u2019re starting from scratch with a new home, you\u2019re wise to choose a fuel source that will remain economical and readily available. This might be the opportunity to invest in advancing technology fuel sources that have long-term savings and are environmentally responsible. Different fuel sources available are: Electricity: Electric water tanks remain the most popular fuel source option since electricity is available in almost all locations. Most electric water tanks use household current and are wired into dedicated circuits. This is so extra electrical loads don\u2019t trip your breaker and leave you cold. However, electricity can be expensive depending on your location, heater capacity and the type of tank or tankless system you have. Natural Gas: Natural gas water heaters have the lowest energy consumption costs. Storage tank systems work with a gas-fired burner heating a tank full of standing water. It\u2019s the same principle as electric element heaters, only your fuel comes from your home\u2019s natural gas supply system \u2014 not your electrical grid. Gas burners have two ignition types. One is a standing pilot light, which constantly consumes natural gas regardless if the burner is lit. The other is electronic ignition that\u2019s more energy efficient. On-demand gas water heaters are not popular due to design complications like venting and fire safety. As well, many areas have no natural gas service, and installing holding tanks is not effective. Propane: Propane is more affordable than natural gas in situations where a piped and pressurized natural gas supply is unavailable. Propane burners work the same as natural gas appliances except for pressure rates and control orifice size. As a rule of thumb, propane and natural gas water heaters don\u2019t interchange easily. Propane heaters are best suited for remote locations and vacation get-aways. Oil: Domestic home heating oil has fallen from favor in the 21st century. Oil can be prohibitively expensive in some areas, and many find oil dirty and environmentally unfriendly. Most oil tanks get replaced with new-technology electric, gas or propane water heaters. Because oil heaters are in low demand, their supply is limited. This combination leads to expensive replacement by sticking to oil-fired water heaters. Solar: Solar-powered water heaters are becoming more advanced and affordable as solar technology improves. Although solar heaters capture a tiny market share, their return on energy investment is large. Solar heaters make best sense in high-sun areas like the Southwest where long periods of direct sun are common. They don\u2019t have a reasonable return in the Northeast or Northwest. Geothermal: Geothermal energy taps into natural energy sources like heat from the air, ground or water. In the long-term, geothermal fuels have the best return on investment, but payback can take a long time. One form of affordable and common geothermal water heater comes from regular home heat pumps. Their drawback is that they lose effectiveness when temperatures drop toward freezing. Then, backup fuel sources like electricity or gas are mandatory. 2. Determining Your Water Heater Type There are two main water heater types. The first and by far the most popular is the conventional storage tank heater. You\u2019ll recognize one right away because they\u2019re bulky and usually placed in the open where the tank is accessible. The second water heater is the less-obvious on-demand or inline flow heater that gives you a constant and instantaneous hot water supply. Each water heater type has its pros and cons. Deciding on what type depends on several factors. The biggest consideration is the hot water demands of your family. It also depends if you\u2019re simply replacing an existing unit and the specific infrastructure is already in place. And then it goes to your fuel source, capacity requirements and your budget. Let\u2019s look at the two water heater types in more detail: Storage Tank Water Heaters: What makes storage water heaters so popular is their simplicity. Essentially, storage heaters are one holding tank containing a volume of water constantly kept hot by a consuming fuel source. Advantages of storage water heaters include a ready supply of hot water in a relatively uncomplicated and inexpensive system. Disadvantages to storage tanks are their limited capacity, which can run out during peak use periods. Then there's the waiting time while the tank recovers heat. Size is another disadvantage, making storage tanks challenging in cramped situations. Tankless Water Heaters: These on-demand water heaters never stop supplying hot water. Tankless water heaters don\u2019t use storage tanks. Rather, the heating device is plumbed right in with the water delivery service, and water is immediately heated as it passes through to the fixture. That can be your kitchen tap, bathroom faucet, dishwasher or laundry center. You never run out of hot water with a tankless system no matter how many family members take showers or how many loads you run on laundry day. Tankless, on-demand water heaters are compact and fit under cabinets or in crawlspaces. Their disadvantages are initial installation cost and being restricted to fuel sources. Also, in large homes, several point-of-use water heaters are needed in place of a large supply tank. 3. Your Water Heater Capacity Water volume capacity mostly refers to storage tank water heaters. Storage capacity varies according to tank size. It\u2019s measured in gallons of water with small tanks being in the 30-40 gallon range, mid-sized tanks holding 50-60 gallons and large storage tanks containing up to 100 gallons. Gallon capacity isn\u2019t the main criteria for gauging hot water capacity. This is truly measured by a storage tank\u2019s first-hour rating or FHR. That tells the tank\u2019s efficiency, or how much hot water it can deliver in its first hour starting from a full-capacity load. The FHR capacity should match what your typical hot water requirements are at peak periods. The federal government\u2019s Energy Guide FHR sizing rates recommend: 2 occupants \u2013 45-55 gallons 3 occupants \u2013 55-65 gallons 4 occupants \u2013 65-75 gallons 5 occupants \u2013 75-85 gallons 6 occupants \u2013 85-100 gallons On-demand, tankless systems have an unlimited ability to produce hot water provided the supply maintains a steady pressure. This should never be an issue in civil systems on a city water supply. Homes on wells and cisterns may experience hot water drop if their supply runs low, but this is a matter of water use discipline. Tankless water heaters don\u2019t have a gallon capacity in storage requirements. Rather, their capacity gets restricted by the amount of flow through your home\u2019s pressurized water lines. Typical flow rates get measured in the number of gallons passing through a fixed point in a one-minute period. An average on-demand heater should supply about 3.5 gallons of hot water per minute to be effective. 4. Determining Your Water Heater Space One clear advantage of on-demand water heaters is how compact they are. Most heaters are small enough to fit in tight spaces like inside kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Some large instantaneous heaters get installed in crawlspaces or closets. It\u2019s important to get them close to the end-use place as possible for maximum heating efficiency. There\u2019s no doubt that storage tank heaters take up more space than on-demand units. That\u2019s not a problem if you have the room, such as a basement or dedicated mechanical room. But it's challenging to put a large-capacity water heater in cramped quarters. If you want the simplicity and cost-effectiveness of a storage tank heater but are space-challenged, consider using a lowboy or point-of-use compact tank. They\u2019re made for low areas like tight crawlspaces or garage sites where codes call for elevated tanks. If width is at a premium, but height is less restricted, you may want a slender, taller tank. 5. Working Within Your Budget Budget restrictions are a fact of life for most people. It\u2019s tempting to go with the lowest price, especially when being surprised by a sudden water heater failure. But that might be a stop-gap measure and a short-sighted solution. Assuming you have a clear choice about water heater type, fuel, capacity and space, you\u2019re always best to go with the highest-quality appliance you can afford. It\u2019s almost always the case of getting what you pay for. Here are some thoughts about dollar value when choosing a water heater: Closely examine a water heater\u2019s Energy Guide label. It tells you how effective the appliance is and what to expect in estimated annual operating costs. A professional plumbing company can help you interpret Energy Guide labeling. Make sure you size your tank properly. An oversized water heater uses unnecessary energy and an undersized unit will always struggle. Don\u2019t hesitate to contact a reputable plumbing company for advice. Pay attention to product warranty conditions. A short warranty period like two years is a red flag, but 12-year coverage indicates a good investment. Reputable plumbing suppliers can recommend proper warranty coverage without you taking a chance. Do your homework on brand reputation. That can be internet articles or, better yet, call a local plumbing professional who\u2019s in the water heater supply and installation business. Always rely on a professional plumbing company to install your water heater. Not only do they have the time, tools and knowledge to properly serve you, but they\u2019ll back their labor with a strong guarantee. Call Haller Enterprises for Your Water Heater Haller Enterprises is your best choice for a professionally installed water heater that will give you years of trouble-free service. Whether you\u2019re looking for a conventional storage tank water heater or a high-tech on-demand product, Haller Enterprises knows what brands give you the best warranty and energy efficiency. We know what you need to make sure your family never runs out of hot water. Haller Enterprises gives you friendly, professional service at the best possible price. For over 30 years, we\u2019ve served the Lancaster, York, Harrisburg, Lebanon Water, Chester County and Quakertown regions of Central PA and beyond. Learn more about our water heater installation services today, or contact us directly with your questions.