Types of water heaters: Know which one is fit for your home

Hot water serves as an important factor when it comes to keeping your home comfortable. From steaming showers to spotless dishes, a good water heater is important in every household, especially during winter. Not only on winter days but in other seasons as well, we need hot water for cooking and even for bathing early in the morning. As there are many types of water heaters available in the market, but we will help you in selecting the right type for your home.

Now you may ask why do I need to know about the type of water heater. The answer is simple, before buying any kitchen product be it a kitchen chimney, gas stove, mixer grinder or water heater, you need to know everything about them. This helps you decide on the right product for your home. It helps you to get the right product at a reasonable price. If you know the types of water heaters, you will not choose a water heater that is not suitable for your home.

So let’s know what are types of water heaters available in the market, and which type is best suited for you.

Types of water heaters

Types of water heaters

Storage Tank Water Heaters

I have used many water heaters and I can say that storage tank water heaters are the most popular kind of water heaters that are used in homes. These heaters come with a large tank that holds hot water having the power of gas or electric heating elements that heat the water. The heated water is held in the tank until required, after which it is distributed to the appliances and faucets through several pipes.

Storage Tank Water Heaters

Pros

  • Storage tank water heaters are relatively lower in cost(Including initial purchase and maintenance costs)
  • Durable and long lifespan
  • Water heating is pretty efficient

Cons

  • Using too much at once can lead to running out of water
  • Not very energy efficient
  • Bulky in size

Storage tank water heaters are a dependable and budget-friendly option for many households, but they do have their limitations. If you are looking for a more energy-efficient option, you can look for other types of water heaters, such as tankless water heaters or heat pump water heaters.

How does it work?

Working of
  • Cold water enters the storage tank through an inlet pipe.
  • An electric or gas-powered heating element is located at the bottom of the tank to heat the cold water.
  • The water that got heated moves to the top of the tank, where it’s stored and ready for use.
  • When you turn on the water tap, warn water is drawn from the top of the tank through an outlet pipe.
  • Cold water enters the bottom of the tank to replace it as hot water is used.
  • The heating element turns on again as necessary to maintain the temperature of the water in the tank.

It is important to note that storage tank water heaters are also provided with a thermostat. It is a temperature-activated switch that regulates the temperature of the water inside. And it is usually set at around 50 degrees Celsius. You can adjust this temperature as per your needs. Furthermore, many storage tank water heaters also provide a pressure-relief valve as a safety measure so that it can open whenever there is a pressure build-up in the tank.

Tankless water heaters

Tankless water heaters are also called on-demand or instant heaters. When you go to the market you will find that this type of water heater is becoming a popular choice among homeowners. Unlike traditional storage tank water heaters, these do not use a storage tank to store hot water. They heat the water as it passes through the unit. It helps to provide an endless supply of warm water, and also requires less time to heat as compared to the traditional models

Tankless water heaters

Pros

  • These are energy efficient as they heat water only when needed and do not waste energy keeping hot water ready
  • Compact and takes less space. That means, a good choice for homes with limited room
  • Long Lifespan with proper maintenance

Cons

  • More expensive than traditional storage water heater tank

I would definitely prefer a tankless type of water heater over a Storage Tank Water heater but still, if you have a tight budget, then you can opt for Storage Tank Water Heater. But keep in mind that you have to sacrifice energy efficiency and space

How does it work?

How does tankless water heater work
  • Its working principle is pretty simple.
  • It heats water as it passes through the unit, rather than storing it in a tank.
  • When you turn on a hot water tap, cold water flows into the tankless heater where it is heated by either a gas burner or an electric element.
  • The heated water is then sent directly to the tap, providing an endless hot water supply.

Tankless water heaters totally depend on a heat exchanger, which transfers heat from the burner or electric element to the flowing water. And these units also have thermostats and flow sensors to regulate water temperature and detect when to activate heating.

Note that tankless water heaters require a larger gas or electrical line than storage tank water heaters. So it demands a more complex installation process which in turn also makes everything expensive. But, if you are among those homeowners who focus more on energy savings concepts and unlimited hot water, this water heater can be the best fit for you and you will feel this one is worth the money you spent

Electric Water Heaters

As their name suggests, Electric Water Heaters are types of water heaters that use electricity to heat a storage tank of water that is then ready for use whenever hot water is needed. These water heaters have a simple design and installation process. It is an ideal choice for homes without access to natural gas as they are cheaper to buy and easier to install than gas-powered options.

Electric Water Heaters

Pros

  • They don’t produce any harmful emissions. A good choice for homes in areas with air quality concern
  • Safer than gas-powered water heaters as they do not have a pilot light or other ignition system
  • Long lifespan with proper maintenance

Cons

  • Operating cost is high and less energy efficient
  • Heat speed is pretty slow compared to gas models

There are two types of electric water heaters:

  • Standard electric
  • Heat pumps.

Standard electric water heaters use electric heating elements for heating the water.

Heat pump water heaters utilize electricity to transfer heat from the air or ground and heat the liquid which is more energy-efficient though you could find it costlier to purchase and install.

Personally, I really feel that electric water heaters are a reliable and good option for the majority of homeowners. Though they are less energy efficient when compared to gas-powered water heaters, they don’t produce any harmful emissions, So if you have air quality concerns then you should choose this one.

How does it work?

How does electric water heater works
  • Cold water enters the storage tank through an inlet pipe.
  • The water is heated by one or more electric heating elements, located inside the tank.
  • Just like other water heaters, it also has a thermostat that controls the temperature of the water which turns the heating elements on and off as needed to maintain the desired temperature.
  • As hot water is drawn from the tank, cold water enters the tank to replace it and the process repeats.

Some electric water heaters also come with an anode rod that is installed inside the tank. This rod helps to prevent corrosion of the tank and prolong the life of the heater.

Another component of the electric water heater is the temperature and pressure relief valve. This valve is designed to open if the temperature or pressure in the tank exceeds a certain level. It can prevent the tank from overheating or building up too much pressure.

Instant Electric Water Heater

Instant electric water heaters are a great option if you want hot water on demand with good energy efficiency. They are generally small, compact, and easy-to-install water heaters which not only makes them the perfect choice for homes with limited space but also for use as a backup water heater.

As the name itself suggests, Instant electric water heaters work by heating water as it flows through a heating element, which is located inside the unit. This means that you will get hot water as soon as you need it, without waiting for any storage tank to store and then heat the water.

Instant Electric Water Heater

Pros

  • Energy efficient – They don’t waste energy heating and maintaining a storage tank of hot water
  • Instant electric water heaters are also safer than storage tank water heaters because they don’t have a tank that could potentially rust or leak

Cons

  • Instant electric water heaters have a limited flow rate(Can only supply a limited amount of hot water at a time)
  • Less powerful than storage tank water heaters(May not fill the demands of larger households with larger families)
  • An electrical circuit is needed which may be a costly installation

How does it work?

How instant water heater works

Here is a flowchart using which you can understand the basic process of how an instant electric water heater works:

  1. Cold water enters the Instant Electric Water Heater.
  2. Water circulates through a heating element located inside the unit.
  3. The heating element quickly brings the water to your desired temperature.
  4. Hot water is then easily dispensed through the outlet pipe.
  5. After the hot water is used, cold water enters the unit to be heated again and this cycle repeats itself.

Condensing water heaters

Condensing water heaters are types of water heater having good efficiency that uses the heat from the combustion of natural gas or propane to heat the water. The main difference between a condensing water heater and a traditional water heater is that it captures the heat from the combustion gases and then these gases are made lost through the venting process.

Condensing water heaters

It has a second heat exchanger which is called a condensing heat exchanger. This exchanger captures the heat from the combustion gases before they are vented out of the unit. This heat is then used to preheat the incoming cold water. And overall, this process increases the overall efficiency of the unit.

The process begins when the cold water enters the unit and is directed through the primary heat exchanger. It is heated by the combustion of natural gas or propane and then sent to the secondary heat exchanger(condensing heat exchanger) where it absorbs the heat from the combustion gases and gases are vented out of the unit.

The water is then heated to the desired temperature and sent to the faucet or showerhead through an outlet pipe. The water is heated as it flows through the unit ensuring a steady supply of hot water and the process is continuous

I have personally noticed that condensing water heaters are more complex than traditional water heaters and require regular maintenance. It requires cleaning and inspection of the heat exchangers and venting system to ensure safe and efficient operation along with a constant supply of electricity.

Pros

  • Very energy efficient as it captures and utilizes heat that would otherwise be lost
  • Quiet operation as the sound of operation is quite low
  • Installation is pretty simple and durable also

Cons

  • The cost is pretty expensive
  • You may face drainage problems

How does it work?

How does an electric water heater work?

The process can be broken down into the following steps:

  1. Similar to other water heaters, cold and normal water enters the unit through an inlet pipe and is directed towards the primary heat exchanger.
  2. Cold water is heated through the combustion of natural gas or propane in an energy-efficient fashion. It occurs in a primary heat exchanger.
  3. The secondary heat exchanger, also referred to as the condensing heat exchanger receives the hot water. It increases the efficiency of the entire system by recovering additional heat from the combustion gases
  4. The hot water absorbs the heat from combustion gases before they are vented out of the unit.
  5. The heated water is then piped directly to your showerhead via an outlet pipe.

Heat pump water heater

Heat Pump Water Heaters are becoming increasingly popular due to their energy efficiency and environmental friendliness. These types of water heaters work by extracting heat from the air or ground and using it to heat water stored in a storage tank – unlike traditional water heaters which use electricity or gas directly for this purpose.

A heat pump water heater is an energy-efficient option because it uses a small amount of electricity to operate the compressor and circulate the refrigerant, but the majority of the energy used to heat the water comes from the air or ground, which is a renewable resource.

Heat pump water heater

People prefer this Water Heater because it can reduce energy consumption by 30%-60% compared to traditional electric water heaters which can save you money on your utility bills while also decreasing your carbon footprint.

One thing to keep in mind is that heat pump water heaters tend to be more costly to purchase and install than traditional heaters. However, the long-term savings on energy costs and environmental advantages may make this an advantageous investment.

Pros

  • Energy efficient as it can reduce energy consumption by 30%-60%
  • Easy to instal and can be installed anywhere
  • Low maintenance cost and longer lifespan compared to traditional water heaters

Cons

  • Costlier than traditional water heaters

How does it work?

How does Heat pump water heater work?

As I have already mentioned, it works by extracting heat from the air or ground and using it to heat the water in the storage tank. Here is the step-by-step process:

  1. The heat pump unit is situated outside the home. It draws in warm air or ground heat through a refrigerant coil.
  2. By compressing heat with a compressor, it is further raised in temperature.
  3. The hot refrigerant is passed through an evaporator coil located in a water storage tank. As it passes through, it releases its heat energy, warming the water within the container.
  4. Once cooled, the chilled refrigerant is passed back through the compressor to complete this cycle.
  5. The heated water is then stored in a tank, ready for whenever hot water is needed in your home.

Did you know Heat Pump Water Heater is also known as a “hybrid” water heater? As it can also use electric resistance elements as the backup to heat the water when the heat pump alone can’t meet the hot water demand.

Solar water heater

From the name itself, you could understand the function and work of Solar water heaters. These types of water heaters use the energy from the sun to heat water for domestic or space heating applications. If we talk about the parts, the solar water heaters consist of solar collectors, a storage tank and circulation equipment.

Solar collectors, which are generally installed on the roof, absorb energy from the sun and transfer it to a fluid(usually water or a water-glycol mixture) that circulates throughout the system. Once heated, this heated fluid transfers its heat back into storage tanks of water which then gets distributed throughout homes for use.

Solar water heater

Pros

  • Efficiency in converting solar energy into heat can be significant cost savings on energy bills
  • Solar water heaters are a renewable and sustainable energy source, reducing the reliance on fossil fuels

Cons

  • Require a significant upfront investment, and may not be suitable for homes with limited roof space or shading issues
  • May not be able to provide sufficient hot water during periods of extended cloudy weather or during the winter months

If you can invest money in solar water heaters and you are quite concerned about the environment then you can consider it as it reduces their carbon footprint and energy costs. Still, it’s important to carefully consider the specific needs and limitations of your home before making a decision.

How it works

How does solar water heater work?
  1. Solar collectors which are usually situated on the roof absorb solar energy and transfer it to a liquid, usually water or a water-glycol mixture.
  2. The heated fluid then flows into a solar storage tank where it remains until needed.
  3. The heated water in a home’s conventional storage tank is then pumped through a heat exchanger, where it transfers its heat to the stored liquid inside.
  4. Hot water is drawn from the conventional tank and filled it again with preheated water from a solar storage tank.
  5. A backup system such as a gas or electric heater can be used to heat the water if the solar storage tank becomes too cold

Conclusion

All the types of water heaters that we mentioned above are available on the market today. Each type has its own unique set of pros and cons and is best suited for different situations.

  • Storage tank water heaters are the most common type and are suitable for most homes.
  • Tankless water heaters, on the other hand, are for those households that need hot water on demand.
  • Electric water heaters and instant electric water heaters are also popular options, but they require a lot of electricity to operate.
  • Hybrid water heaters(Heat Pumps) are somewhat more energy-efficient options, but they are more expensive to install.
  • And finally, solar water heaters are for those looking for an energy-saving option. However solar water heaters depend on weather conditions and require a lot of sunlight to operate effectively. But they are well worth the price, as it is only a one-time investment and you will be free from expensive electricity bills.

Ultimately, the type of water heater you need depends on your specific needs and the climate you live in.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which type of water heater is best?

It all depends on your needs and preferences. There are many factors that can be considered like location, household size, and hot water usage.

What is the most common type of water heater?

Storage tank water heaters are the most common type of water heater found in homes. They are quite affordable which is one of the top priorities of an individual.

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About the author
As a current electrical engineering student, I have a strong interest in gadgets and an in-depth understanding of how they work. On my kitchen blog, I share my knowledge on a variety of electrical kitchen gadgets, offering reviews, repair tips, and buying guides. Whether you are looking to upgrade your kitchen appliances or simply want to learn more about the inner workings of your gadgets, I am here to provide valuable advice. In addition to my technical knowledge, I also share my experiences and tips on how to clean and maintain your kitchen gadgets.Connect with Us :LinkedIn | Instagram | Facebook

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