There are multiple ways to deliver hot water to a home or business. Some systems rely on filling a large tank with water and maintaining a stable temperature, while others try to deliver a quick, immediate contact-level of heating as soon as the water goes through the pipes.
An increasing number of water heaters use a little bit of both techniques and more, and the reasons to choose any option can vary depending on your level of water use, the building infrastructure, the local climate, and many other factors.
Here are a few water heater options and their performance details to help you pinpoint your best option.
Standard Tank Water Heater
The oldest of the modern water heaters used in most homes is the storage tank system. This system fills up a tank with water until needed, and then heats the water as necessary.
There are many types and generations of tank water heaters, with performance issues that are well known depending on how old your previous home or homes were, along with income level. One of the worst parts of a storage tank system is the long amount of time needed to heat an entire tank, along with the higher power bill for models that keep the tank hot for much of the day.
The storage tank part of the water heater industry is all about striking a balance between a faster delivery of hot water and a lower power bill. Some systems pulse the heater to a desired hot temperature a few times an hour, but allow the water to drop below a certain threshold to avoid wasting money on electricity. Other systems try to find the best tank materials and insulation to hold the temperature at a stable level for longer times, which reduces the amount of heating needed throughout the day.
Your local weather will have a major effect on tank systems because of the outer cooling that fights against your system's insulation. This isn't an issue for most of the United States, but can be a problem near the US-Canada border and Alaska during the worst winters.
Tankless And Hybrid Water Heating
Instead of using tanks, some tankless systems use coils of water that are filled with water. These coils are made of heat-conductive materials and can transfer the heat through the water a lot faster. This delivers a burst of heat on-demand, which is great for washing hands or a shower under 5 minutes.
Getting a longer duration for heated water means investing more money, and are often used in conjunction with natural gas systems. A middle ground system uses a combination of a tank and a coil system to create a heat pump, which maintains a larger supply of hot water as storage while delivering some of the water straight into the plumbing.
Contact a hot water heater professional to discuss different models and price points for an option that fits your home.