Water Heaters

Conventional storage water heaters remain the most popular type of water heating system for the home. Here you'll find basic information about
how storage water heaters work; what criteria to use when selecting the right model; and some installation, maintenance, and safety tips.


A single-family storage water heater offers a ready reservoir -- 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.

Conventional storage water heater fuel sources include natural gas, propane, fuel oil, and electricity.

Since water is constantly heated in the tank, energy can be wasted even when a hot water tap isn't running. This is called standby heat loss. Only
tankless water heaters -- such as demand-type water heaters and tankless coil water heaters -- avoid standby heat losses. Some storage water
heater models have heavily insulated tank, which significantly reduce standby heat losses and lower annual operating costs. Look for models
with tanks that have a thermal resistance (R-Value) of R-12 to R-25.

Gas and oil water heaters also have venting-related energy losses. Two types of water heaters -- a fan-assisted gas water heater and an
atmospheric sealed-combustion water heater -- reduce these losses.

You might also want to consider some less conventional storage water heaters --
heat pump water heaters and solar water heaters. These water
heaters are usually more expensive but they typically have lower annual operating costs.

The lowest-priced storage water heater may be the most expensive to operate and maintain over its lifetime. While an oversized unit may be
alluring, it carries a higher purchase price and increased energy costs due to higher standby energy losses.

Before buying a new storage water heater, consider the following:

  1. Size and first hour rating
  2. Fuel type and availability
  3. Energy efficiency and costs.


Proper installation and maintenance of your water heater can optimize its energy efficiency.

Proper installation depends on many factors. These factors include fuel type, climate, local building code requirements, and safety issues,
especially concerning the combustion of gas- and oil-fired water heaters. Therefore, it's best to have a qualified plumbing and heating contractor
install your storage water heater. Be sure to do the following when selecting a contractor:

  1. Request cost estimates in writing
  2. Ask for references
  3. Check the company with your local Better Business Bureau
  4. See if the company will obtain a local permit if necessary and understands local building codes, etc.

Periodic water heater maintenance can significantly extend your water heater's life and minimize loss of efficiency. Read your owner's manual
for specific maintenance recommendations.

Routine maintenance for storage water heaters, depending on what type/model you have, may include:

  1. Flushing a quart of water from the storage tank every three months
  2. Checking the temperature and pressure valve every six months
  3. Inspecting the anode rod every three to four years.


After your water heater is properly installed and maintained, try some additional energy-saving strategies to help lower your water heating bills.
Some energy-saving devices and systems are more cost-effective to install with the water heater.
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