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Cleveland HVAC Blog

Types of Water Heaters

Posted by Paul Wadsworth on Fri, Aug 06, 2010 @ 09:33 AM

Not surprisingly, most people wait until their water heater fails them before choosing a new one.  However, if your water heater is getting old, or is starting to act up, now is the time to look at your options.  If you wait until you have to do a replacement, you may not have the time to thoroughly research and choose the best one for you and a catastrophic failure can create a lot of damage to your home and possessions.

There are a few things to think about when choosing a water heater.  There are 6 basic types:

  • Storage (conventional)
  • Demand (tankless or instantaneous)
  • Heat pump
  • Solar
  • Tankless coil
  • Indirect

Conventional storage water heaters remain the most popular type of water heating system for the home.  A single-family storage water heater offers a reservoir—usually from 20 to 80 gallons—of hot water.  It operates by releasing hot water from the top of the tank when you turn on the hot water tap.  To replace that hot water, cold water enters the bottom of the tank, ensuring that the tank is always full.

Demand (tankless or instantaneous) water heaters provide hot water only as it is needed. They don’t produce the standby energy losses associated with storage water heaters, which can save you money.

Heat pump water heaters use electricity to move heat from one place to another instead of generating heat directly.  Therefore, they can be 2 to 3 times more energy efficient than conventional electric resistance water heaters.  To move the heat, heat pumps work like a refrigerator in reverse.

Solar water heaters—also called solar domestic hot water systems—can be a cost-effective way to generate hot water for your home under the right circumstances.   They can be used in any climate, and the fuel they use—sunshine—is free.  Solar water heating systems almost always require a backup system for cloudy days and times of increased demand.  Conventional storage water heaters usually provide backup and may already be part of the solar system package.

A tankless coil water heater uses a heating coil or heat exchanger installed in  the main heating unit- usually a boiler. Whenever a hot water faucet is turned on, the water flows through the heat exchanger.  These water heaters provide hot water on demand without a tank, like a demand water heater, but because they rely on the furnace or boiler to heat the water directly, tankless coil water heaters work most efficiently during cold months when the heating system is used regularly.

Indirect water heaters offer a more efficient choice for most homes, even though they require a storage tank.  An indirect water heater uses the main heating plant- usually a boiler to heat a fluid that’s circulated through a heat exchanger in the storage tank.  The energy stored by the water tank allows the furnace to turn off and on less often, which saves energy.  Therefore, an indirect water heater is used with a high-efficiency boiler and well-insulated tank can be the least expensive means of providing hot water.

Each system has its own specific service requirements and the payback varies depending upon your home’s unique needs, so discuss your options fully with your professional contractor.

Next time, we’ll talk about how to choose the right water heater for your home.

P.K. Wadsworth services the Greater Cleveland, OH area including cities Chagrin Falls, Shaker Heights, Eastlake or anywhere in between.  To get started, check out our website.

Topics: storage water heaters, solar water heaters, instantaneous water heaters, resistance water heaters, water heating systems

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