Types of Water Heaters

How to Choose a Water Heater

By: First Supply


To an outsider, the thought of choosing a water heater might seem overwhelming. There are so many factors to consider and types available that most homeowners will rely on the guidance of a professional. In any case, it helps to use terminology that is understandable to everyone involved. This article will define relevant terms and explain the selection criteria and various options available when choosing a hot water heater.

Types of Water Heaters

Providing a short description of the types of water heaters available will go a long way toward fostering a trusting relationship to customers. 12-year warranties are available on some models to help buyers feel more comfortable.

Most water heaters fall into one of the following categories:

  • Storage tank models feature a reservoir that holds heated water until it’s used
  • Tankless models heat water as needed instead of storing heated water
  • Heat pump water heaters transfer heat instead of directly producing heated water
  • Solar units use energy gathered from the sun to heat water
  • Indirect models use heat produced by an HVAC system to heat water

Considerations Before Purchase

The best unit for a given situation will depend on several factors. These factors will ultimately affect the overall satisfaction and cost efficiency of a water heater. A unit’s energy efficiency is determined by the energy factor (EF), which is based on the amount of hot water produced per unit of fuel consumed during a typical day. The higher the energy factor, the more efficient the water heater.

For best results, each of the following should be carefully considered before installation:

  • Size is a major consideration as you will need a properly sized unit to provide enough hot water for the number of people using the system
  • Fuel type will affect the operating cost of a unit chosen
  • High efficiency energy ratings are included on energy star rated appliances. These ratings can provide direction for consumers who want to get the most for their money and reduce energy costs.
  • Cost of ownership includes the purchase price along with the operating costs. Calculating long term cost will provide a means of comparison to help determine the most economical version.

Water Heater Fuel Options

The fuel type available in a home or building may determine the unit purchased. If there are multiple fuel types available, a cost analysis should be run to compare the expense of each.

The following list includes the most common fuel options available for water heaters:

  • Electric models can be used to power heat pump, conventional storage and on-demand models. Heating elements on electric models may wear out but replacing them is an easy fix.
  • Geothermal energy is an option if a geothermal heat pump system is in place for heating and cooling.
  • Natural gas can be used to power conventional storage and gas tankless water heaters.
  • Propane is available in areas of the United States and used to power conventional storage and demand heaters, as well as indirect combination water and HVAC-R systems.
  • Solar energy is primarily used in the Southwest United states for to take advantage of the abundance of sunshine. These energy efficient systems provide an energy efficient way achieve desired water temperatures.

Additional Information

First Supply offers a full line of water heaters from A.O. Smith and Navien. These are the brands that professional contractors trust. Learn more about our selection of commercial, residential and tankless water heaters for your next project or installation.

A.O. Smith Navien