How To Consider a New Water Heater for Your Home

Gas or Electric Tank Water Heaters

Tank water heaters are the most common type of water heater installed in American homes. You will have a gas-powered water heater or an electric water heater depending on what power source your house runs on. If the rest of the house is powered by gas you will have a gas-powered water heater; if it runs on electricity, you will have an electric water heater. Because of this, trying to compare the two is somewhat impractical. However, you can compare gas to gas or electric to electric.

  • The first feature to look at is the energy factor (EF). Don't worry about combustion efficiency or heating efficiency if they are listed. The bottom line: overall efficiency is the EF.
  • Also on the energy-guide label, check the “first hour rating” to find out how many gallons the water heater can produce in one hour and make sure the amount will be enough for your needs.
  • Lastly, check the “temperature rise” measurement; it should be at 90° F or close to it.

For electric heaters, make sure your hose has a 220 volt outlet to plug the tank into as well as enough room for the tank. Electric heaters often have larger heaters so they can provide a larger ready supply of hot water to make up for slower heating time compared to gas heaters.

Other Types of Water Heaters

Are you considering switching from an electric to a gas water heater? Are there gas lines available for the water heater or can they be installed? Do you have proper ventilation with the outside for the gas and air? Is there a second story directly above the water heater? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might want to consider a direct vent water heater or a power vent water heater.

  • Direct Vent. Direct vent water heaters are ideal for spaces with difficult angles or for those wishing to convert from an electric to a gas heater. It has a built-in venting system using a two-pronged pipe which brings in air from the outside and expels the exhaust through an adjacent wall, instead of the roof. And because this venting system creates an air tight combustion chamber, it effectively prevents backdrafting, where gas fumes escape into the air directly around the water heater.
  • Power Vent. The power vent water heater is very much like the direct vent water heater. The only differences are that the power vent heater uses the air inside the house not the outside air, and the power vent heater is electrical so it will need an electrical outlet nearby.

Other Considerations

  1. Anode Accessibility. On tank-type water heaters, check to see if the anode rod is easy to access. Look for a hexagonal-shaped head on top of the water heater or ask if the water heater uses a combination anode rod (for more information see Anode Rods). If you cannot find the rod on the top and the water heater does not have a combination anode rod, then the anode rod is hidden. If this is the case, look for a different water heater. Easy access to anode rods means easier tank maintenance for a professional plumber.

    One more question to ask is if the water heater has a curved dip tube, or a straight dip tube. Curved dip tubes prevent sediment from building up at the bottom of the tank.

  2. Insulation. The average tank-type water heater has an insulation of R-6 or R-8. However, ask if there are any water heaters with an insulation of R-16. The cost is only a little more, but the tank heating efficiency is much higher.
  3. Warranty. Tank-type water heaters usually come with either a five-year warranty or a ten-year warranty. A ten-year warranty comes with a tank that has two anode rods instead of one. This is the only physical difference between the two warranties.

    Note: Most manufacturer defects show up within the standard five-year warranty period.

John Haynes is a water heater expert who has written dozens of very informative articles on water heaters and owned his own water heater installation company. You can visit his website at

Content Provided By:

Author: John Haynes