Sep 25, 2023

Which type of water heater is best for you?

by: Amy Evans, BestReviews Staff

Posted: Jul 29, 2023 / 02:59 PM EDT

Updated: Jul 29, 2023 / 02:59 PM EDT

Residential water heaters come in tank, tankless and hybrid varieties. Each type has its own distinct characteristics; benefits as well as drawbacks. By looking at factors including cost, energy efficiency, maintenance and lifespan, you’ll be able to determine which type is right for your home.

Shop this article: Rheem 50-Gallon Residential Electric Water Heater, Stiebel Eltron Tempra 36 Plus Tankless Heater, A.O. Smith 50-Gallon Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heater

Traditional water heaters feature a tank that stores hot water until it’s needed. They range in size from 30-50 gallons and run on either gas or electricity. These units cost less upfront compared to tankless and hybrid water heaters. Since they’re the most common type, costs associated with installation, repairs and maintenance are relatively low in comparison. Tank water heaters are associated with the most energy loss, referred to as standby heat loss. They waste energy by maintaining hot water in the tank when not in use.

Traditional water heaters have the shortest lifespan compared to the other types, typically lasting 8-12 years. Exposure to water, oxygen and minerals corrodes the tank over time, causing it to leak; this process is usually what causes a tank water heater to cease functioning.

Also referred to as on-demand water heaters, tankless models are powered by gas or electricity. According to the Department of Energy, “for homes that use 41 gallons or less of hot water daily, demand water heaters can be 24–34% more energy efficient than conventional storage tank water heaters.” While tankless water heaters cost more up-front and are pricier to install compared to tank units, energy savings make them more cost-effective in the long run. Tankless heaters also take up significantly less space compared to tank and hybrid models.

Tankless water heaters have the longest lifespan, capable of lasting around 15 to 20 years. This is in part due to the fact that they do not operate constantly the way a traditional tank heater does. However, tankless water heater components may also experience corrosion, eventually.

Hybrid water heaters run on minimal electricity, consisting of a tank and a heat pump. They’re larger than tank water heaters, with sizes ranging from 50 to 80 gallons. Unlike tank and tankless units, they don’t directly generate heat — heat is taken from the surrounding air and transferred into the tank. For this reason, hybrid water heaters are among the most energy-efficient options on the market. However, they are costly and more expensive to install compared to traditional storage tank heaters. Hybrid water heaters function best when the temperature of the surrounding air remains at or above 40 degrees.

Hybrid water heaters tend to last around 13-15 years. Similar to tankless water heaters, they do not run continuously, which increases their lifespan. They still contain a tank capable of corroding, though, so they won’t last as long as tankless units.

Rheem 50-Gallon Residential Electric Water Heater

This electric water heater has a 50-gallon capacity suitable for households of 3-5 people. The water heater includes a 6-year tank and parts warranty.

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Rheem 40-Gallon Residential Electric Water Heater

If you’re looking for an electric model for a smaller household, this unit is a better option. It can reliably heat water for two to four people, with an included six-year tank and parts warranty.

Sold by Walmart

Rheem 40-Gallon Natural Gas Water Heater

This natural gas heater with a 40-gallon capacity can support households of 2-4 people. It features a push-button ignition for an easier startup process. You’re covered with a 6-year tank and parts warranty, as well.

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Stiebel Eltron Tempra 36 Plus Tankless Heater

This tankless electric option provides a continuous output of hot water for three to four bathrooms in warm climates or two to three bathrooms in cooler climates. It has a digital display and preset temperature buttons that simplify operation. This heater comes with seven-year leakage and three-year parts warranties.

Sold by Amazon

EcoSmart ECO 27 Tankless Water Heater

Another electric pick, this tankless model can heat up to 6 gallons of water per minute, ideal for apartment and condo units in warmer climates. It features a digital display and dial temperature controls. The lifetime warranty offers peace of mind.

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Eemax Electric Tankless Water Heater

In cold climates, this tankless electric model produces enough hot water for one shower and two sinks to run simultaneously. In warmer climates, this heater can support up to four showers running at once. It features a digital display and dial controls, plus 5-year leak and 1-year parts warranties with purchase.

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A.O. Smith 50-Gallon Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heater

This hybrid water heater has a 50-gallon tank capable of servicing households of three to five people. You can access efficiency, hybrid, electric and vacation operating modes using the electronic interface. The electric heater comes with a six-year tank and parts warranty.

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Amy Evans writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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