Electric Water Heaters
Buying Guide

A review of the electric water heaters for residential whole-house and point-of-use water heating, with the focus on tank-type and tankless heaters. Find out how electric models work, about main components, manufacturers, best models and are they a good investment or not.

Highlights

Types

Tank-type

Electric hot water heaters with the storage tank are the most popular type in US and Canada. They are big, heavy, but reliable. There is a variety of types such as the conventional tall, medium or short, Lowboy, Tabletop, where the 50-gallon heater is the most popular.

Users and plumbers love this type, because electric heaters are simple, easy to operate, service and troubleshoot, no venting is required, can be used in the majority of homes and are cheap.

Tankless

Tankless electric water heaters are small, wall-hanging, and provide hot water only when there is a demand. These are often installed under the sink and used at the point of service while delivering hot water in an endless and continuous supply.

Heat pumps

Heat pumps or hybrid heaters are ultra efficient and with the energy factor of two or more they are Energy Star compliant and eligible for tax credits and rebates. Heat pumps are great for the attic, garage and basement installation. It is the favorite type of those homeowners who are looking to go "green". The most popular are AO Smith, GE GeoSpring and Rheem.

Electric water heaters tank-type

Main components

The following components are used in most of the traditional type heaters:

How it works

marathon electric water tank heaterConventional electric water heaters utilize one or two heating elements (lower and upper) for water heating. As the heating elements are fully immersed, they are able to transfer more than 90% (even 99%) of the heat.

Either the tap is open or not, water inside the tank is being heated and kept at the pre-set temperature.

Cold water from the home plumbing fills the tank through the dip tube, which is submerged almost to the bottom of the tank.

One of the heating elements is turned ON when the thermostat senses that the temperature of the water is below the set value. Every heating element carries the thermostat which is mounted against the tank surface.

When the hot water tap is open, hot water from the top of the tank is drawn, and since the level drops, fresh water gets inside the tank. The lower temperature initiates the heating elements to heat the water to the set value. Once it reaches the set value the thermostat turns the heating element OFF waiting for another "call".

Electric hot water heaters are equipped with the safety elements, such as the high limit switch that prevents water from boiling or reaching the temperatures over the given on the thermostat, and in the case, if the thermostat fails.

Popular manufacturers

American AO Smith Bradford White Giant GE
John Wood Kenmore Marathon Rheem Richmond
Ruud State Whirlpool

Electric tankless

How it works

electric tankless water heater from Stiebel EltronElectric water heaters with the tankless technology heat the water on demand. They don't utilize the tank, so they are small and most of the time are wall hanging. Tankless models produce an endless hot water and only when there is a demand. A great example is Stiebel Eltron and its popular model Tempra, DHC and DHC-E models.

When there is a "call" for hot water (the tap is open) cold water passes over the heating element and is heated instantaneously. Based on its power, the tankless water heater can supply one or more fixtures at the same time while working as the point-of-use or whole-house heater.

Popular models

Bosch Tronic Ecosmart Eemax HomeAdvantage II
Rheem RTX Seisco Stiebel Tempra
Stiebel DHC Stiebel DHC-E Titan

Benefits

  • Electric water heaters can be used in almost any home (in NA).

  • Easy to install and use. Less risk is involved.

  • No venting required.

  • The efficiency is higher than on gas models, it can go up to 99%.

  • Simpler troubleshooting. They are almost maintenance-free.

  • Cheaper to buy and install.

Summary

When searching for the best electric water heaters look for the high efficient models. These units save energy, heat fast, but are not Energy Star compliant. Actually, none of the tank- or tankless-type heaters are eligible for government grants, unless they utilize the heat pump technology. Heat pumps are the only electric appliances that are Energy Star approved.

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References:

hotwater.com
Rheem.com
bradfordwhite.com
sears.com
homedepot.com
stiebel-eltron-usa.com
hot-water-heaters-reviews.com

Pictures are courtesy of Amazon.com company

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