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Water Heater Buying Guide: Storage Type

Buyers Guide - Storage Type

There are a number of different water heater storage type options available on the market, and which one works best for your needs can be based on the size of your family, available storage space, and the fuel source available in your area.

Storage Tank Water Heaters

The storage tank water heater is the most common and versatile water heater storage type. They consist of an insulated tank that both heats and stores the water until needed. Electric, liquid propane (LP), natural gas, and even solar fuel sources manufacture storage tank water heaters.

This type of water heater consists of a tank that ranges in size from 28 to over 100 gallons. Determining your household’s hot water needs is called sizing. If sized correctly, you will have a nice balance of not running out of hot water, while operating the most energy efficient unit to meet your demands.

How to properly size a storage water 

There are a number of methods to determine your hot water needs, but probably the simplest, is to use this general rule of thumb guideline, and make adjustments to suit your individual needs.

2 people          45-55 gallons

3 people          55-65 gallons

4 people          65-75 gallons

5 people          75-85 gallons

6 people          85-100 gallons

7 people          100+ gallons

Something you also want to consider when selecting a storage tank water heater is the recovery rate. The recovery rate is how many gallons of water the unit can heat in an hour. The greater your household’s demand for hot water, the higher the recover rate you will want to select in a water heater.

Tankless or On-Demand Water Heaters

Tankless or on-demand water heaters don’t actually store hot water. Cold water is run thru a series of coils or heat exchangers in the unit when hot water is needed. The advantages of a tankless hot water heater is that there isn’t a tank to limit your use of hot water (provided you have selected the proper unit size). They also tend to be more energy-efficient than traditional storage tank water heaters. You can find tankless water heaters in both electric and natural gas models.

Determining the correct size may be a little more critical since there is less margin for error. If you underestimate, your water heater won’t be able to keep up with the demand for hot water . . . and there isn’t a reserve tank to pick up the slack. A tankless hot water heater is not limited by its tank size, however, it is limited by its flow rate. There are a couple things that are important to consider when determining the proper size unit to purchase.

  1. How many hot water points will be in use at one time
  2. The temperature rise (determined by subtracting the temperature of the incoming water from the temperature you want your hot water to be)

The majority of on-demand units can distribute 3.5 gallons of hot water each minute. This would typically be sufficient in a home that never needed hot water in more than 2 points at the same time.

Check out our detailed buyer’s guide on tankless water heaters HERE

Point-of-Use or Utility Water Heater

These are small water heaters usually ranging in size from 2.5 to 19 gallons. They are commonly used in outbuildings, shops or garages, and they can even be used to provide hot water to a secondary bathroom that may not be served well by the house’s primary water heater.

Mobile Home Water Heaters

A traditional water heater will not work in a mobile home. However, there are water heaters that are specifically constructed for this purpose, and they are available in both electric and gas models.

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