Updated: June 8, 2015
Water Heater Reviews:Hot water is an essential part of our daily lives and water heaters are pretty much the norm in all households in America. The water heater will heat up the water and have it ready to go if you need to take a shower, wash the dishes, or do a load of laundry. Many water waters have a life span of perhaps 10 to 15 years. After that the tank gets corroded or you find that the drain leaks or your pressure relief valve goes bad. They don't last forever, but newer models are promising more energy savings and longer life. The first question you need to ask yourself is - Do you want a storage tank water heater or a tankless model?
Although tankless water heaters have been proven to save on energy costs, they tend to be more costly just to install and the overall maintenance may be more. So what you save in energy, you could end up spending on up front costs that may never get recovered. For now, we say stick with the storage tank water heaters and look for one with a solid warranty. Many brands offer 10+ year warranties and those are probably worth it. The 4 major types of tank water heaters are electric, gas, solar, and heat pump or hydrid models. Electric and natural gas water heaters each take about 50 % of the market share - so neither has shown to have a true advantage. Yes, electric water heaters are less expensive, but gas water heaters tend to be more energy efficient. Other hybrid or solar hot water heaters are great at reducing your heating bill related to water, but the up front costs are quite heavy. See our buying guide below with recommendations on brands and models.
Choosing a Hot Water Heater - Most families can get away with a 40 to 70 gallon water heater tank. Some houses have 2 water heaters - not necessary in most cases but larger homes with big families may want more hot water available. Unless you are having a new house built, most water heaters are already in place and the size won't change much when replacing an older one. All water heaters are clearly marked in terms of their gallon sizes. Consumer Reports says that the average sized family uses about 80 to 85 gallons of water a day. That equates to a load of laundry, 3 showers, using the dishwasher once, and running the faucet 9 times. If that sounds like your family, then you are close to normal in terms of daily water needs. They mention that the first hour rating (FHR) is an important factor when looking at storage tank water heaters. When you need that hot water for multiple uses, can the water heater deliver. We have all been taking showers before when suddenly the hot water turns cold. That means the water heater was unable to keep up with the demand for hot water and cold water is the only option until more water gets heated. The larger your hot water tank, potentially the more hot water you have available to use at once. Something to consider if you have a growing family. Don't think that the tankless water heaters are going to solve your hot water needs with their instantaneous hot water. Many owners have said that even tankless models can't always create enough hot water when the system gets pushed. Gas water heaters are superior in many ways to the electric models, so if possible go with gas. When it comes to long term durability and reliability, water heaters typically go bad when the tank gets corroded or the drain leaks. Some issues are repairable, but if you are talking a few hundred dollars, go with a new water heater. Some new models have anti-scale devices which are designed to keep the buildup of mineral scale to a minimum at the bottom of the tank. Also, consider brass drain valves versus the flimsy plastic we found on some models. Who makes water heaters? GE, Rheem, Whirlpool, Kenmore, AO Smith, etc. You can't tell a lot between water heaters just by looking at them from the outside. All the parts are pretty much inside the tank and hidden from view. The better models offer up features like thicker insulation, larger heating elements, and corrosion fighting metal anodes. Check with your local water heater shop and ask questions in regards to what's on the inside. Pricing - We found that most water heaters cost between $350 and $750 for the storage tank models. The tankless water heaters can be into the $1000+ range - depends on gallon per minute capacity. Most home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowes carry water heaters and so do plumbing supply stores. We have provided a short video below showing how to install a new water heater. It's not terribly difficult - something a solid DIY homeowner can do. View top selling water heaters online here