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6 Different Types of Water Heaters Explained (with Pictures)

Water Heater_shutterstock_neotemlparsA water heater is not often something that homeowners are well acquainted with buying. They should last a long time. Their longevity means that people generally only need to buy a couple, if that, in their entire lifetime.

It is because of this that it can be a daunting experience to buy your first. There are so many different kinds on the market, and each works differently. It can be hard to know where to start and what your home’s needs are.

There are a few main types to know:

  • Traditional storage tank water heaters
  • Tankless water heaters
  • Condensing water heaters
  • Solar-powered water heaters
  • Heat pump water heaters
  • Point of Use (POU) water heaters

Within these categories, they might have different power sources, hook-ups, and accommodations. Inevitably, there are only a couple that will be the most doable choices for your home.

Getting an overview of each one helps you figure that out for yourself and feel more prepared to head into a shop or talk to a salesperson.

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Traditional Storage Tank Water Heater

The conventional tank water heaters are the most common. These are what many of the older homes have. If you are replacing a system in a home such as this, it can be easier to stick with a similar system.

What Is a Traditional Storage Tank Water Heater?

A tank water heater functions precisely as it sounds like it should. It stores water inside the tank and heats it, recording the temperature and pressure with a two-valve system. Thus, the tank’s size determines the amount of hot water that the household has access to at once.

These tanks are insulated, so once the water flows into it and is heated, it maintains the temperature.

The valves help moderate and control the water inside. One is the temperature valve, recording the temperature until it hits around 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

From that point, the pressure control valve reduces the pressure caused by the heat in the tank once it reaches about 150 Psi.

These water heaters are the most traditional and are prevalent in households. They present some challenges when it comes to their water-holding capacity. If you have a 40 L tank, then once the water is used up, it can take an hour or more for the tank to pump in and heat 40 L of water again.

The Maintenance for Traditional Storage Tank Water Heater

With the constant influx and outflow of water from the tank, there is a possibility that corrosive substances would begin to build up inside. Cleaning the water heater helps extend its lifespan, although it will not be detrimental to the heater and is not necessary.

Cleaning the water heater out once or twice a year aids with its maintenance. Otherwise, little needs to be done with these heaters, and they last for around 10 to 12 years.

  • Most common and thus most affordable
  • The installation process is simple
  • Little maintenance required
  • Size of the tank limits access to hot water
  • Refill time can take a while

Tankless Water Heater

Tankless Water Heater
Image Credit By: reverent, pixabay

Another name for this kind of water heater is the “On Demand Water Heater.” It has a much more modern design that functions without the restraints of a tank.

What Is the Tankless Water Heater?

The straightforward name gives you an idea of how this water heater functions, which is without any restrictive tank. Instead, it has coils inside of a control box. These coils become superheated when water is run over them. The box has exhaust for letting air flow through as gas for the coils and hot and cold water valves.

It is efficient at controlling water temperature and never holds the water but continually keeps it flowing in and out while heating it. The process gives the heater a greater aptitude for supplying large amounts of hot water.

Be aware that these tanks have multiple different sizing options. Even though it is a consistent process, overworking one that is too small guarantees you lukewarm water at best.

Depending on the size you need, you have to use different power options, such as natural gas or a gas line into the heater. Larger models might run electricity, but this means you need to budget it and increase household capacity.

The Maintenance for Tankless Water Heater

Any water heater needs periodic cleaning to keep mineral deposits or sediments from building up. The corrosion they cause reduces the life of your water heater. Cleaning it regularly gives you 8 to 10 years of use.

  • Useful for large families who need large amounts of hot water
  • Continuously replenishes and maintains water temperature
  • Able to reduce overall energy consumption
  • Tankless heaters are the most expensive
  • Requirements are stringent, making installation more of a renovation

Condensing Water Heater

Condensing Water Heater_shutterstock_Alhim
Image Credit By: Alhim, shutterstock

The Condensing Water Heater is often a highly regarded option for people who are more environmentally friendly. It can also help you cut your electricity bills related to water heating costs.

What Is the Condensing Water Heater?

The condensing water heater has a unique design. It uses the available gas fumes from your home to heat your water, meaning it runs primarily on natural gas.

It functions by funneling in the exhaust from your already installed natural gas system. When it hits the bottom of the tank, it flows around a coil that limits the amount of energy needed to get the job done.

From there, the system functions similarly to that of the tank water heater. It is held until someone needs it and turns on a faucet somewhere in the house, starting the process again.

When you consider any other tank-style water heater, make sure you purchase one large enough for your family, or you might find it more of an inconvenience than a novel design.

The Maintenance for Condensing Water Heater

Maintenance is almost the same as these heaters as the others. Clean the tank out to prolong the life of the heater and keep your water cleaner. Additionally, you should clean the gas import valves at least once a year.

  • Most energy-efficient option
  • Often requires a larger tank, which means more water for a household
  • Little maintenance required
  • Larger tanks required makes it best for larger families
  • If your home doesn’t run on natural gas, the system won’t function properly

Solar-Powered Water Heater

Solar Water Storage Tank
Image Credit By: rasamoydas, pixabay

Solar-powered water heaters are the most environmentally friendly option for supplying your home with hot water. Instead of using natural gas or electricity drawn from the grid, power is taken from a never-ending source, the sun.

What Is the Solar Powered Water Heater?

A solar-powered water heater is a fantastic option for those who already have solar panels installed or are looking to get them installed. This is yet another reason to take that energy-efficient leap.

The energy is taken from solar panels, typically installed on your roof. Then it is run through a closed-loop system that incorporates heat-conductive material. It is this combination that heats the water in the tank.

Keep in mind that even if you don’t live in an exceptionally sunny location, this is still an option. You will simply keep a backup of natural gas or electricity as another power source.

There is also a tank that is generally used to store the heated water, although the size is entirely up to the household needs.

The Maintenance for Solar-Powered Water Heater

Since there is a tank involved with a water heater, it is crucial to keep it clean for increased longevity. Proper maintenance of the solar panels that maintain the home’s electricity helps keep them absorbing as much sunlight as possible.

  • Energy efficient
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Budget-friendly to run once installed
  • These water heaters are not typical and are expensive
  • With little sun, the return on your investment could be small

Heat Pump Water Heater

Heat Pump Water Heater_shutterstock_nikkytok
Image Credit By: nikkytok, shutterstock

The heat pump water heater can also be called the hybrid water heater. Like the dual-source functionality of a hybrid car, these heaters save money on the extra fuel and potential energy savings.

What Is the Heat Pump Water Heater?

The heat pump heaters are unique in their design, using the naturally-occurring heat in the air and the ground to do the work.

They only require enough electricity to transfer the heat instead of using electricity to do the entire job. Often, this equates to using up to 60% less power than more traditional options.

The pump is on the top, however, so it needs extra vertical clearance. Make sure you have around 8 feet, although it could require less.

The Maintenance for Heat Pump Water Heater

Like the others, this heater stores hot water in a tank and should be cleaned up to twice a year. Doing so prolongs the longevity of the water heater.

  • Once installed, budget-friendly
  • Energy efficient
  • More environmentally friendly
  • Difficult to use in regions with long cold winters
  • Shouldn’t be placed a basement where the ground and air is colder

Point of Use (POU) Water Heater

The name Point of Use describes the placement more than the heater itself. If you have a smaller area and fewer places needing a consistent supply of hot water, this could be the water heater that best fits your needs.

What Is the POU Water Heater?

A POU water heater is a small heater that you can install close to the outlet that needs hot water. It can be used separately but is often used in conjunction with a larger tank.

If the fixture is far away from the central heating unit, people install these to cover the distance. These are also useful backups for tank systems that run on gas or electricity.

Using a POU water heater also allows you more individualized use of the heater. You can typically decrease the temperature setting on these to save energy or match your preferences better.

They can be helpful for any fixture that uses less than 20 gallons of heated water each day. Appropriate examples include hot tubs, extra bathrooms, additions to a permanent home, etc.

The Maintenance for POU Water Heater

Even though they are smaller tanks, they should still be cleaned once a year. Clean them more regularly if they are used just as often as the main tank.

  • Allows further control and efficiency of the heating system
  • Serves as a backup or enhances farther distances
  • Not strong enough to supply much water
  • Only supplies fixtures that use 20 gallons of water or less a day

Some homes are cookie cutters, but most family and household situations require a slightly unusual solution. We hope that after reading our guide about the different types of water heaters, you feel more prepared. Making your selection can be difficult, but it is made easier through research.

Featured Image Credit By: neotemlpars, shutterstock

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