Tips in Finding Economical Water Heater Models

Tips in Finding Economical Water Heater Models
October 25, 2012 Lorelie

If you are looking to replace your old water heater, comparing the prices between water heaters may be a good idea as this is what most people will likely do.  However, should you try to evaluate its selling price in regards to its heating capacity, installation cost and operating cost, sometimes, you may not be getting the most out of what you pay for.  This is because when buying a new water heater, it is important to consider the three factors mentioned above including the manufacturer’s warranty.  This will allow you to get the most economical water heater model suitable for your household’s water heating needs.

Heating Capacity

Most people who buy storage tank water heater models often tend to look at the storage capacity of the unit as the basis for its price.  While the storage capacity of the tank too is important, the overall heating capacity of the unit is more important.  The heating capacity can be read through the unit’s FHR or First Hour Rating, and this can be found in the unit’s specifications.  The FHR shows you how much hot water it can make within a span of one hour.  To help ensure that the unit you are buying meets your water heating needs, make sure to focus on its FHR and not on the size of the tank.  Make sure that that the FHR of the unit exceeds the hot water usage of your household during peak usage.  The FHR is very important as it reflects the heating power of the unit.  In some cases, larger tank units have low FHR than some smaller tank models.

In case you are looking for tankless water heater models, then look into models with flow rates that exceed the hot water usage of your household during peak usage.  Once you have sorted the models that can meet your water heating needs, then this would be the time to compare prices.

Efficiency and Operating Cost

Water heaters running on electricity are usually more efficient and relatively cheaper than gas-fired models.  However, since natural gas is far cheaper than electricity and can heat water much faster, then not only do gas-fired water heaters have lower operating cost, but they also have a much faster recovery time.

High efficiency storage tank models are able to accomplish their efficiency through the use of more effective and better insulation.  This not only gives them better retention of heat, but since heat also hardly escapes, they are able to heat water a bit faster than normal units.  In fact, high efficiency electric water heating units have efficiency levels exceeding 95%, making it very effective and very efficient.

High efficiency gas-fired storage tank models on the other hand have efficiency levels of 63-64%.  This is about 10% percent more than ordinary gas-fire storage tank models.  The small increase in their efficiency does not justify their high cost.  However, when you consider that these models are more durable and equipped with more advanced features along with longer warranties, then surely their higher price tag makes it a bit more reasonable.  High efficiency gas water heaters are eligible for rebates, but electric models, however, are not.

Tankless water heaters are more expensive than standard tank models.  However, there are gas-fired tankless models that qualify for tax credit as they are rather more efficient that high efficiency gas-fired storage tank models.  This efficiency is achieved since they only heat water when it is needed.  With the use of a tankless model, you do not spend money to keep the water inside the tank hot.  A properly sized model can provide your household with endless amount of hot water without ever worrying about running out.

Installation Cost

Storage tank water heaters are cheaper to install as compared to tankless units.  Should you have a tank unit that needs to be replaced, it is more advisable, less hassle, and more economical to purchase a more efficient tank model that uses the same energy source as your old water heater.  This is because most, if not all, of the connections will be the same.  However, due to the extra insulation your new unit might have, it is important to take into consideration if the new unit will fit into the space previously occupied by your old unit.  One way of checking this is by simply looking at your old water heater and its location and determining if there is enough space, or it is simply too tight.  If the space is a wee bit restricted, then you should get the measurements of the new unit you are eyeing at before making a purchase.

In case you want to replace your old tank unit with a tankless unit, don’t be surprised if you are looking at a higher installation cost.  This is particularly true for gas-fired tankless water heater units.  This is because you will need to upgrade your gas lines from ½ inch to ¾ inch.  In addition, due to the high combustion temperatures used in gas-fired tankless models, you will also be required to upgrade your flue and venting system.  Before purchasing a gas-fired tankless unit, it is recommended that you first get a quote from your plumber so you can expect how much you will need to spend and that if you are willing to go through with the additional expense.

Electric tankless water heaters on the other hand will usually require a higher power which may require you to upgrade your electrical supply.  This is somewhat relatively cheaper as compared to upgrading your gas and venting system.


Although you will find a lot of water heater brands in the market, you will be surprised to know that there are just a few manufacturers making them.  This is because some of the competing brands are made by the same manufacturers themselves.  Take for instance A.O. Smith.  Their lines of water heaters are very reliable.  However, they are also the ones who make water heaters for American, Kenmore, Maytag, and Whirlpool.  The same goes for Rheem who makes and manufactures models for General Electric.

The prices of water heater units having the same feature, particularly ones made by the same manufacturer may often vary widely.  This is not because a brand may be more prestigious than the other, but because simply because the components they may have used are fairly substandard or inferior as compared to the other.

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