Home Water Heaters Review

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Home water heaters review explains the most popular types and systems for potable water heating. Find the main features, advantages and disadvantages of the gas, electric, solar, RV, tank and tankless units.

This review article gives you the information about different systems or technology used in water heating, covering tankless, tank, hybrid, tankless coil; fuel source, and the major manufacturers. Either you are buying a brand new or replacing the old water heater, this review will help you with the general information, this infographic or if looking for more in depth review check out dedicated articles.

Types of home water heaters based on technology

Storage tank type

storage tank type water heaterStorage tank type water heaters are found as standard or conventional type and these are the most popular type in US and Canada, while in Europe are known as cylinders.

Most of the units use the metal tank where they store hot water which is always ready for use. 

They are ranging in sizes from smaller such as 20 gallons to over 100 gallons capacity, where the 40- and 50-gallon sizes are the most popular. The main advantages are the lower price, smaller burner or the heating elements, low water flow and reduced "cold-water sandwiches." The major disadvantages are the stand-by heat loss, water is heated even if not used, big size and inability to repair when leaking.

There are three major manufacturers of home water heaters in North America: AO Smith, Rheem and Bradford White, and brands such as American, State, Reliance, Whirlpool, GE, Kenmore, Ruud who are linked to the above three producers.


tankless type water heaterTankless heaters heat water only when there is a need or call for hot water (when the tap is open). Stand by heat losses are eliminated as there is no storage tank, and the heater provides hot water in endless supply, as long as it is needed. 

With the tankless heaters, you never run out of hot water but the flow is limited, and the heating elements or burner draws a lot of fuel. They are small, usually wall mounted, and gas units can be installed indoor or outdoor. Indoor gas models are usually designed with the sealed combustion, which allows installation anywhere inside the home. Electric tankless such as Tempra from Stiebel Eltron or Hubbell marine are even smaller.

The most popular tankless gas water heaters in North America are Rinnai, Noritz, Paloma, Bosch and Takagi. In Europe German and Italian brands are widely used; Vaillant, Junkers, Riello, Ariston, Baxi, Ferroli...


Hybrid home water heaters are heaters that combine two technologies, such as the electric heating and the heat pumps. Also, you can find the combination of the tank and tankless technology as found on AO Smith Next model. The main advantages are the high-energy efficiency and performance while the cons are the high purchase and installation prices.

Tankless coil

Tankless coil does not require a separate storage tank since water is heated directly inside the heat exchanger and inside the boiler used for home heating. The greatest advantage of the tankless coil is getting the hot water when home is heated, where the highest efficiency can be achieved during the winter cold days and months. During the warmer days, the efficiency drops significantly since there is no need for home heating.


As the name indicates, indirect water heaters heat water indirectly. Water is heated in the boiler, and then circulates through the heat exchanger which is located in the separate insulated storage tank while transferring the heat to the surrounding water.

Types of hot water heaters based on the fuel source

Gas powered water heaters

Gas water heaters can use natural gas or liquid petroleum, or short LP or propane. This is affordable and environment-friendly heating, while the electricity is more expensive, and if it is made by the nuclear or coal plants, is bad for the environment.

Gas-powered home water heaters heat water faster, and the first hour delivery is higher than on the electric type. This group offers a variety of types and models, which include atmospheric, direct-vent, power-vent and power-direct vent models. The new condensing water heaters are becoming more and more popular due to their advanced features and ultra-efficient heating.

With all the advantages gas unit has, there are also disadvantages such as the higher price, safety issues, the venting system and installation constrains, complexity...

Smaller propane gas water heaters are mainly used for heating water when camping or use in RV (recreational vehicle).

Electric WH

Electric water heaters are simpler by its construction than the above gas units. While they usually have higher EF their first hour rating is lower, and they are less economical to operate. The most popular models are coming from the group of point-of-use heaters, which are mainly used for delivering hot water to one fixture.

Solar WH

Home water heaters that are powered by sun are expensive, but the operating costs are lower and the fuel is free. Solar heating systems are reliable, durable and when properly installed provide enough hot water - especially in southern regions while in colder areas can be used as the backup or to supplement the existing system. SWH systems are designed as active or passive systems, and if you are a handy man you can even make your own.

Selecting the right water heater for home

Now when you have selected the right type, take the following factors into consideration when buying a water heater:

  • First hour rating on storage tanks (flow rate on tankless) - this is what shows how many fixtures your heater can supply during the peak time.

  • Energy efficiency - energy factor or EF is the best indicator of the heater's efficiency. More efficient the unit is less wasted energy. Look for the blue tag with the Energy Star logo as the indicator of the high efficiency.

  • Energy Guide Label found on every model gives you the information about the FHR, capacity, annual energy use and annual cost to run the unit.

  • Price and warranty.

As seen from the above, there is a water heater type for almost every home, either you have an access to gas, electricity or live in southern sunny regions. Selecting the best home water heaters should not be done in a hurry, since the cost of purchasing, installation and operating one unit varies greatly between the models and manufacturers.

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Pictures are courtesy of Bradford White and Rinnai

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