Features Worth Noting...
Looking for a New Water Heater?

There is a wide range of prices and features in water heaters. Simple 50-gallon electric water heater - gaswater heaters range from $110 to $600. Heat pump water heaters will cost $700 to $1,500. Features that can affect cost and performance are listed below:
  • Warranty Regardless of the construction or features of a water heater, longer warranties drive up the price. Typically, electrical components are guaranteed for one or two years. Tank warranties range from 4 years to lifetime.
  • Tanks There are currently four types of tanks on the market. Most common is steel with a "glass" enamel finish. Newer products include concrete tanks, fiberglass tanks and steel with a plastic liner. Fiberglass and concrete will not rust and are guaranteed not to leak for life. These are expensive tanks however. They are at the top on the price range. Steel tanks are all the same. Some specialists question whether the plastic lined steel tanks are superior to the standard steel tank. Corrosion is typically found where the tank meets up with the fittings. The plastic liner does not prevent this. The best protection for a steel tank is a good anode rod. The anode rod prevents electrolysis from occurring. The anode rod will deteriorate over time. A steel tank will theoretically last forever if the anode rods are replaced before they completely deteriorate. Is replacing the anode rod a task you want to take on every 5 years or so?
  • Self Cleaning Features Several manufacturers produce cold water inlet tubes that stir up the water. This is intended to keep sediment from settling in the tank. This may be a good idea, but independent verification has yet not been performed.
  • Electrical Components Electrical thermostats and heaters: There is not any information that suggests one manufacturer has higher quality electrical components than another. A longer warranty may be an indicator, and it may not. These components are inexpensive to purchase and easy to replace.
  • Energy Efficiency For standard electric water heaters, the most typical upgrade is extra insulation. water heater energy guide labelStandard tanks are insulated to R-16; better tanks have R-20 to R-25 insulation. Heat trap fittings on the cold water inlet and hot water outlet also reduce heat losses. Both of these upgrades are available on all but the least expensive models. Remember to compare the energy cost for different models using the yellow Energy Guide label. Also check the listing of the most efficient water heaters. Heat pump water heaters can cut your electric water-heating bill in half. However, they are expensive and require additional maintenance. Examine this option in detail before you make a purchase.
Links to More Information
The following are links to information about some of the features listed above:
  • From the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Water Heating. The ACEEE also publishes the Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings, which contains a list of the most energy efficient water heaters.
  • Heat Pump Water Heaters Residential (pdf file), Washington State University Energy Program, 2003.
  • Residential Heat Pump Water Heaters (pdf file), U.S. Department of Energy Federal Energy Management Program, 1995.
Editorial Note: Portions of this article were provided by the Western Area Power Administration.
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