An Overview on Electric Water Heaters

An Overview on Electric Water Heaters
November 8, 2012 Lorelie
Electric Water Heaters

Electric Water Heaters

Water heaters are great to have particularly if you live in cold areas where a hot bath or shower can be very relaxing.  There are many types of water heaters, but the most common water heaters are powered by either gas or electric.  Although gas-fired water heaters can be said as more popular, particularly since they are able to heat water faster and have a lower annual operating cost, electric water heaters are catching up because they require less maintenance and doesn’t leave households to worrying about possible exhaust fumes from entering their homes due to wear or misalignment of the vents and flue.

There are basically three types of electric water heaters – electric storage tank water heaters, electric tankless water heaters, and heat pump water heaters.

Electric Storage Tank Water Heaters

Traditional electric storage tank water heaters are in fact very simple water heating appliances.  The appliance basically consists of a storage tank with two electrical heating elements.  Models differ mostly only in tank capacity, efficiency, and recovery rate.  Most also have different lifespan.

If you plan on purchasing an electric storage tank water heater, what usually comes to mind is to size it based on the number of people in a household.  However, it is also equally important to consider the FHR (First Hour Rating) of the unit.  The FHR is the amount of hot water the unit can produce on a given hour of continuous usage and is something that should be found on the label of energy guide label of the unit.  The FHR serves as the measurement of the unit’s capacity and recovery rate.  The recovery rate of a water heating unit is greatly dependent on the power of its heating elements and equals to the amount of heated water the unit can produce in one hour.  A good example would be a 40 gallon electric storage tank water heater unit which an FHR of 50-60 gallons while less efficient models may have an FHR rating of only 45-47 gallons.

In storage tank types, since the heating elements are directly immersed in the water, all the heat energy created by the heating elements goes into the heating of the water.  The difference in efficiency between electric storage tank types, particularly different models, lies in the heat loss brought about by the walls of the tank.  Such heat losses are the result of different materials, insulation, and thickness being used to surround the tank.  A water heater’s efficiency is expressed by EF (Energy Factor) which can be conveniently found in the unit’s Energy Guide label.

While all electric storage tank water heaters may look similar with their exterior look, this does not always mean they have the same gut.  This is the very reason why you will find models with different years of warranties.  Some have 12 years of warranties while some have only 9.  The reason mostly involves the type of materials they have used.  Usually, those with longer warranties have larger heating elements, larger anode rods, thicker insulation, and more corrosion resistant storage tank lining.

While warranty is often a big thing when it comes to household appliances, if, however, the manufacturer offers poor warranty and aftermarket service, then you will still be getting lots of headaches.  According to consumer reviews, brands such as Rheem and Bradford White provide the best warranty services.

For high efficiency electric storage tank water heater models, there are many who recommend Rheem’s Imperial Electric Series.  These models have glass-lined tanks along with stainless steel elements, a 10-year warrant, and a very good First Hour Rating.  Water heater models, such as the Richmond 12E and the Reliance 1212, offer a good 12-year warranty.  The Richmond models features a heat trap and piping insulation kit that helps to reduce heat loss.  Both the Richmond 12E and the Reliance 1212 offer several advanced features that greatly contributes to their tanks long life span.  A.O. Smith’s Conservationist offers a 10-year warranty with their product which is easily understandable knowing that their products are very efficient, contain durable heating elements, and has a dip tube that helps to prevent any buildup of sediments.

Electric Tankless Water Heaters

A tankless water heater is basically a water heating unit that has rid itself of a storage tank with which to store the heated water.  Instead, it heats water instantaneously as water passes through its heating tubes.  This means that this type of unit is not limited by the capacity of a tank as it is able to provide hot water continuously.  It also means that it is not subjected to standby heat loss that most storage tank encounters.  There are basically two types of electric tankless water heaters – whole house and point of use.  The electric whole house tankless water heater is usually located on the basement or garage of the home and is capable of providing heated water for the whole home.  However, should the household require a higher heating capacity, particularly during peak hot water usage, then linking two units together can solve flow rate issue.  Point-of-use tankless water heaters on the other hand are small compact water heating units that can easily be installed on specific taps such as underneath the sink.

Heat Pump Water Heaters

Heat pump water heaters are great because they are super efficient and they lower your annual utility bills significantly.  In addition, they are also environmentally friendly types of water heaters.  Heat pumps have been widely used in HVAC applications for many years and it is only recently that they are being utilized for use in water heating.

A heat pump you can say works similar to how an air-conditioner works, but this time in reverse.  A heat pump is not capable of generating heat by itself.  Instead, it absorbs the heat present in the surrounding air.  This heat is then intensified and is used for heating the water inside the tank.  The tank on the other hand is a traditional electric storage tank water heater, which makes sense as its heating elements become very useful should there be a high demand of hot water.  In short, the electric storage tank water heating unit serves only as a backup.  This is the very reason why many call heat pump water heaters as hybrid water heaters, which is exactly what they are.

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