5 Factors to Consider Before Buying

If you’re considering a new hot water heater — either because yours has failed or you’re just tired of poor or expensive performance — there are 5 factors to consider when choosing a new water heater:


Storage tank water heaters are the ones most of us are familiar with — a large metal cylinder that holds and heats a specific number of gallons of water. This style takes up a bit of space but can be installed in a laundry room, garage, outdoor closet, or basement.

Tankless systems heat water directly, without the use of a storage tank. They are often called “on demand” since they turn on only when hot water is required. Since they have no storage tank, the system is more compact and can be installed in more or smaller locations. A single house may have more than one tankless system, depending on its size and demands.


Conventional storage heaters hold and heat a set amount of water. One that’s too small means someone’s taking a cold shower. One that’s too large means you’re wasting money heating more water than you need.

For a household of 1–2 members, you may need as little as a 40 gallon tank. For a family of 5 or more, you’ll need at least a 50–75 gallon tank. Over time, the size you need may change depending on the number of people living at home.

Even tankless systems need to be chosen according to your family’s size and habits.


Different energy sources come with advantages and disadvantages — both for you and for the environment.

Electricity: Electricity is the most versatile way to heat water. It can be used with storage and tankless systems, and, to a lesser degree, with solar and heat pump systems. Your electricity may come from a traditional source or can be renewable, making this a potentially environmentally friendly option.

Natural Gas: Natural Gas is cost effective, convenient and an efficient way to provide hot water.

LP Gas: LP gas or propane can be used with both storage and tankless water heaters.

Solar: Solar energy can be a viable option for heating water. However, these systems have significant up-front costs, can impact the aesthetics of your home (and be prohibited by some HOAs), and require year-round, daily sunshine.

Geothermal: Geothermal energy and a heat pump can be used for heating water. These systems are extremely energy efficient.


When you’re looking at your overall budget, you need to consider the upfront costs of buying the physical components and having them safely installed by an expert. But also you need to factor in your annual costs.

Up to 20% of your household’s annual utility expenses come from heating water. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you’re likely to spend $400–$600 every year just to have hot water whenever and wherever you want it.

There is often a trade-off between upfront costs and annual costs. You need to look at both in order to make an informed financial decision.

Also keep in mind that switching from one fuel source to another may involve running new gas or electric lines, making changes to your breaker box, and adjusting how your system is vented. Those upfront costs may or may not be offset by efficiency savings. Any estimate Barnett Plumbing & Water Heaters provides will include these expenses.

REBATE ALERT! As of fall/winter 2021, there is a generous government rebate in California on the installation of environmentally friendly geothermal heat pump systems. Our customers can save more than $3,000. Ask us if you qualify.


Every system, regardless of style, size, or fuel source will require some monthly, quarterly, or annual maintenance. Doing this regular maintenance will improve your system’s daily performance and prolong its life.

Most of it can be done by an able-bodied homeowner who has the time and desire. (For example: here’s a video walking you through how to drain your storage-style system.)

For those who want help maintaining their systems, all maintenance (or needed repairs) can be performed by Barnett Plumbing & Water Heaters.


Here’s the good news: Which water heater is right for you isn’t a decision you have to make on your own.

There are a complex series of trade-offs when it comes to style, size, fuel source, cost, maintenance, and life expectancy. There’s not a simple formula you can use to get a magic answer.

But we can help. Our trained technicians will:

  • ask good questions
  • identify your preferences
  • help you understand the options
  • recommend the system that’s right for your house and your family

It’s easy to get started. Give us a call at (925) 872-0805.

Here’s my personal promise to you: When you call or schedule an on-site estimate, there will be no pressure. No obligation. We will not sell you a water heater you don’t need or want.

Thanks for letting us be your trusted plumber.

Phil Barnett
President of Barnett Plumbing & Water Heaters

Help is Just Around The Corner

If you need help with a water heater in Livermore, Dublin, Fremont, Milpitas, or anywhere in the East Bay, give us a call!