Most people will only pick out a replacement water heater roughly every 10 years. Even if you’ve done it before, with technology changing and more options becoming available, you will have new things to consider if you are entering the market today.
Let’s take a look at the determining factors and break down your options:
Hot Water Delivery
No one wants to run out of hot water in the middle of a shower. But with a traditional storage tank water heater, that’s a possibility. These heaters can only heat what they can hold, so if you run through your whole tank’s capacity, you’ll be waiting while it refills and heats up more water.
If you’re not willing to risk running out of hot water for bathing, dishes and laundry, you might consider tankless water heaters. These models heat your water as needed, so you won’t risk gaps of lukewarm water while a reservoir is being heated.
The good news is that despite a lot of misinformation out there, a tankless water heater can provide a similar flow rate to a traditional tank. This is because no matter what kind of water heater you have, the pipes carrying heated water from it are now different.
Did you know your water heater is the second most energy consuming appliance in your home? Water heating currently accounts for almost 20% of the average household’s energy usage, second only to the cost of space heating.
As Hydro costs balloon in Ontario, electric options are becoming less and less attractive next to natural gas. Gas fueled models have a much higher initial cost (roughly 2-3X as much), but even so you will save money in the long run on operation costs, not to mention saving the environment some wear and tear. Of course energy costs can always fluctuate – things may look very different in 5 or 10 years. The best things you can do are stay informed of energy trends, and buy the most efficient equipment you can. (Our John Wood Envirosense® is one of the most energy efficient water heaters on the market.)
One way to keep operation costs as low as possible is by making sure you have the correct sized heater (if you go with a tank model). You don’t want a tank that is too small or too big. This chart has approximate sizing for gas fueled and electric tanks.
Another thing to keep in mind is whether your lifestyle creates low, average, or high water consumption, and is it concentrated within short time frames or spread throughout the day? For most people, hot water is used in the morning and evening. Remember that a tank is being heated all day and all night, even when you will not be running any water. A tankless only heats water on demand, when you need it.
Tank water heaters generally are expected to last 8-12 years, whereas tankless water heater lifespans are closer to 20+ years. However, how long a water heater lasts depends greatly on its use, care and environment.
The most common environmental factor to affect water heaters is water with a high mineral content, such as that in much of Southwestern Ontario (you’ll notice Kitchener has the highest hardness on this whole list). Though not an issue for tankless models, hard water can leave scale build up in a tank, reducing efficiency and leading to break down over time.
You can combat this problem by caring for your equipment by installing a water softener. Softened water is much gentler on your water heater, as well as your fixtures and pipes. You should also have a water heater maintenance where the tank is fully drained semi-regularly.
A decision between tankless and tank models will sometimes be made for you based on the amount of available space. Tankless models are significantly smaller than tanks, so can be placed in much tighter areas.
Installation and placement code requirements will affect venting type. The breakdown of most common vent types is: direct, conventional, and power vented. These distinctions have to do with the tank’s proximity to chimneys or outside vents and the best method to move and clear exhaust outside the home. Power vents have an electric fan that can push exhaust a farther distance than a conventional vent can. Direct vented heaters draw air from outside the home whereas conventional draws from inside. Your home will require an inspection by a trained technician to determine which vent type is appropriate.
Cost to Repair
One reason that tankless water heaters last so long is they don’t deal with the burden of standing water. No matter how pure your water, over time it has corrosive properties on metal and electronics. Gas valve and sacrificial anodes are typical parts that need to be replaced within the lifespan of a tank water heater. And concerning manufacturer warranty periods, tanks usually have 5 year warranty on the gas valves, and 8 years’ coverage on the tank body. For a tankless, the heat exchanger (the main component of the unit) usually has warranty coverage of 15 years.
These are all factors to keep in mind when choosing a new water heater. For more information our Comfort Advisors are happy to assist. We offer free in-home consultations and quotes.