5 Factors to Consider Before Buying a New Water Heater

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

1. Storage tank or tankless

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 house may have multiple tankless systems, depending on its size and demands.

2. How many gallons of hot water you need

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 must be chosen according to your family’s size and habits.

3. The energy source you should use

Different energy sources have advantages and disadvantages — both for you and 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 or renewable source, making this a potentially environmentally friendly option.

Natural Gas: Natural Gas is cost-effective, convenient, and efficient in providing hot water.

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

Solar: Solar energy can be a viable option for heating water. However, these systems have high upfront 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 highly energy-efficient.

4. The upfront and annual costs

When considering your overall budget, you must 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 expenses.

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 yearly to have hot water whenever and wherever you want.

There is often a trade-off between upfront costs and annual costs. It would be best to consider both to make an informed financial decision.

Also, remember that switching from one fuel source to another may involve running new gas or electric lines, changing 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.

5. The required maintenance

Regardless of style, size, or fuel source, every system will require some monthly, quarterly, or annual maintenance. Regular maintenance will improve your system’s daily performance and prolong its life.

Most of it can be done by a non-disabled homeowner with 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.

It’s decision time!

Here’s the good news: Choosing the right water heater for you isn’t a decision you must make alone.

There are complex trade-offs regarding style, size, fuel source, cost, maintenance, and life expectancy. There’s no 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) 438-6326.

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.

Headshot of a smiling man with short hair
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!