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  • Writer's pictureKeith Groninger

Water Heater Decisions

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

There are many different options to consider before choosing a water heater for a new home. Make sure your builder allows you to be involved in the decision. The type of water heater, its energy source and location, all have to be determined, and each aspect affects the performance and cost of the other characteristics. Most people don't need anything as elaborate as illustrated above.

The variety of water heaters now includes, conventional tank-style, tankless, solar, hybrid and heat pump. If natural gas is available then a tankless unit is worth considering but, there are pros and cons and every “expert” has an opinion.

Regardless of the type, the location will control how long it takes for hot water to reach its destination. Waiting for hot water wastes time, water and money. Tankless heaters are a good choice for multiple locations, but of course that will increase the initial cost.

If you opt for single heater, you may want to consider a hot water circulation system that continuously pumps hot water throughout the house making it readily available. This adds some to the initial cost but saves the time and water elements of a standard piping setup. The circulation system needs to be well-planned or the initial and use cost could offset any potential savings.

Electric Water Heater - Tank

An electric tank-style water heater is the most common and has the lowest up front cost. Generally, the electric heating is more expensive and you are also paying for standby which is the cost to keep the water in the tank hot, even when you aren't using it. There are available models that have some better efficiency and also some with features like timers that can be controlled by an app on your phone. For a household that doesn't use much hot water, this could be a sensible choice.

Gas Water Heater - Tank

A gas tank-style water heater is also affordable on the front end but don't forget the cost of gas piping and venting. The cost to run a gas water heater should be less than a comparable electric version so over time it could offset the additional up front cost. If you are planning additional gas appliances within your home, then the cost could make sense.

Hybrid or Heat Pump Water Heater

Hybrid water heaters are also electric tank-style but have the added feature of a heat pump that heats the water instead of just electric resistance coils. They cost a little more but save electric cost compared to a conventional electric heater with the added benefit that they also cool the garage space where they are located.

With tank-style water heaters you also need to consider the capacity which can range from 40 to 80 gallons. Everyone hates to run out of hot water but this must be weighed against to cost of keeping excess water hot all the time just so you don't run out once in a while.

Keep in mind that a tank water heater has to be located somewhere inside the house. The garage is a common location but it can be a good distance away from the kitchen and baths. Other interior locations may require a drain pan and of course they occupy precious space and aren't attractive to look at.

Tankless Water Heaters

Gas tankless water heaters have become popular with most of our customers. We frequently install them on both sides of the house. They save space because they are mounted on an outside wall and frequently reduce the distance that hot water has to travel before it's used. Like other gas water heaters, they make sense when we are already planning to have gas piping run in the house for other appliances.

Electric tankless water heaters can also be used but they have a pretty high electric cost however a small unit mounted under the kitchen sink is a nice convenience for hot water without the wait.

Solar Water Heaters

A solar water heaters makes sense for a family that uses a lot of hot water. This assumes that a convenient roof area facing south is available. We installed one recently for a family that had three active boys that took long showers. It used a large conventional electric heater in the garage as the storage tank and the customers told us the seldom needed to turn on the power on. That being said, there's a logical argument that electric photovoltaic solar panels could provide the a comparable energy cost savings instead, but that's a topic for another blog post.

Little is more meaningful and personal than a home, and the experience of designing and building your own home should be rewarding and enjoyable. Choosing a builder is difficult. The process of designing and building a home involves numerous decisions about components, systems and services selected from criteria that includes price, quality, appearance and performance. How can you possibly understand everything unless the builder is willing to share all of the information?

Allow us to introduce you to The GCH Way of building your next home. Please let us know if you have any questions. Keith Groninger

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