Choosing a New Water Heater – Storage Water Heaters

Choosing a New Water Heater – Storage Water Heaters
December 15, 2011 Lorelie

If you have an old water heater that needs replacing and is open to considering new options to the type of water heater that you will get, it is important that you weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the different water heating system that will be able suit your water heating needs.  This is because a water heating unit is not just meant for heating our water, but it should also be energy efficient so we are able to save money on utility bills.  If a water heater heats the same amount of water at the same amount of time, but costs less to run, then you may want to consider aiming for that.  However, before making any early conclusions to the type of water heater that is suitable for you, it is important that you first try to understand the different type of water heating system along with how they work so you will have a better idea about them before getting one.

There are basically 5 types of water heating system – storage water heaters, on-demand/tankless/instantaneous water heaters, solar water heaters, heat pump, and indirect water heaters.  Each has its own advantage over the other as well as its significant disadvantage.  This is why it is very important to know which type will suit your water heating requirement best while offering you the necessary savings.

Storage Water Heaters

The storage-type water heater is the most common type of water heating system.  It has a reservoir, depending on the unit, that holds from 20 to 80 gallons of heated water.  The unit works by releasing the heated water inside the tank whenever a hot water tap is opened.  In order to replace the hot water that has been used, the unit automatically supplies the tank with cold water and heats it up to ensure that the tank is always full of heated water ready for use.

Storage tank water heaters, depending on the model, use different types of fuel source.  This would include propane, natural gas, oil, and electricity.  Basically, propane and natural gas water heating systems operate under the same principle – they have a burner underneath the tank which heats the water.  This heating occurs automatically as units are equipped with thermostats that help determine when the water temperature has fallen under preset temperature.   When this happens, a gas valve opens to heat the water and closes when the temperature reaches a setpoint.  Oil-fired water heating systems also operates same way.  The only difference is that they are equipped with burners that mix oil and air into a vaporized mist which is ignited via electric sparks.  Electric water heaters on the other hand use electricity to heat water.  Storage tank water heaters that are powered by electricity are equipped with heating elements that have their own thermostat.  A single unit may have one or two of these heating elements, installed at the bottom and at the top of the tank.  If a water heater unit has two heating element, the bottom heating element is intended for standby heating while the upper heating element is intended for rapid hot water recovery during high hot water demands.

When using storage tank water heaters, since water is constantly being heated inside the tank, energy is being consumed in order to maintain the temperature.  This happens even when there is no tap being opened.  This is called ‘standby heat loss.’  In order to minimize standby heat loss, better insulation is need.  There are certain tank models that are heavily insulated which further reduce standby heat losses.  When looking for such models, try to look for their thermal resistance value (R-Value) which is from R-12 to R-25.  The only water heaters that are not known for having any standby heat loss are tankless water heaters.  However, there is a big difference between storage tank models and tankless models.

Gas-fired and oil-fired water heaters also have their fair share of energy-related losses.  However, instead of simply standby heat loss, these water heaters also suffer from venting-related energy losses.  This energy loss is reduced with the use a fan-assisted gas water heater or an atmospheric sealed combustion water heating unit.  Fan-assisted units use a fan that induces draft to regulate the air that goes through the burner.  This helps to reduce the amount of air during combustion which in turn increases efficiency.  Atmospheric sealed-combustion units on the other hand are equipped with combustion and venting systems that are sealed from the main unit.

When buying a storage tank water heater, it is important to consider several factors such as size and first hour rating, fuel type and its availability in your area, energy efficiency, and most of all, cost.  This is because choosing most inexpensive unit may actually cost you more to operate in the long run as it not only consumes more energy as pricier models, but it also does not have the reliability that more expensive models do.

Once you have considered the factors need when purchasing a unit and may have already purchased one, it is now time to consider the installation and maintenance cost of the unit.  Proper installation is essential to ensure that your water not only works at optimum performance, but also to prevent any unnecessary installation-related problems in the future.  The truth is there are several factors involved with a proper installation.  This would include fuel type, climate, building codes, and safety issues.  The safety issue is mostly predominant with gas-fired units.  This makes it proper to hire a qualified contractor to install your water heating unit for you.  When hiring a contractor, be sure your contractor will be able to provide you cost estimates in writing.  Also, it won’t hurt if you ask around regarding the reputation of your contractor as well as the company they work for.  Make sure that the contractor you are hiring will be the one to acquire the necessary permits and that they know and understand the necessary building codes in your area.

In case you plan on installing the unit yourself, it is important that you consult the installation manual of the unit.  Make sure to also contact your local town or city engineering office to learn about the necessary permits that you need to acquire regarding building and safety codes involving water heater installation.

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