Traditional Water Heaters Come in Two Main Types
Traditional or storage hot water heaters are typically either gas or electric powered and come in a variety of sizes. Power source generally varies by geography. For example, in Oregon and Washington about forty percent of homes have electric powered heaters while in Northern and Southern California the vast majority of water heaters are gas powered.
Water Heaters Come in a Variety of Sizes
Both residential gas and electric water heaters come in a variety of sizes but the most common are:
The majority of homes have a 40- or 50-gallon tank with the 50-gallon tank being the most common. Larger tanks such as a 66- or 80-gallon tank are usually only used for very large homes or for homes that have a large hot tub or jacuzzi.
It is possible to upsize or downsize your water heater. Customers are often interested in installing a larger tank if they have recently installed a hot tub. When upsizing to a larger tank, we will ensure that your entire system is installed safely and typically this will entail increasing the size of the vent on gas water heaters. Larger tanks emit a larger volume of carbon monoxide and as a result, must have a larger vent to operate safely.
We can also check space requirements with you over the phone to ensure a larger tank will fit. Occasionally, a customer will choose to downsize their tank as 66- and 80-gallon tanks are often more expensive than more common 50-gallon tanks. We do not recommend downsizing from a 50-gallon tank to a 40-gallon tank, however, as 40-gallon tanks are typically comparable in price.
Smaller Tanks are Also Available
There are a also a variety of smaller tanks used for special applications such as an under-sink water heater, sometimes called a lowboy. Small 2-, 4-, 6-, 20-, 25- and 30-gallon tanks are sometimes used as supplements to your water heater system or used as application-specific tanks. Tanks of this size can be useful for a single sink or in same cases, are used as an additional heater for a recirculation system. Tanks of this size, however, are typically only available in electric-powered heating systems.
How Do Tanks Compare in Terms of Efficiency and Hot Water Output?
Typically, there are four measures of how a hot water tank operates:
- Efficiency Rating
- Recovery Rate (assuming a 90° F water temperature rise)
- 1st Hour Recovery Rate
- Estimated Operating Cost
Water Heater Efficiency Rating
Efficiency rating is a measure of the percentage of heat transfer from the energy source to your water. Standard electric tanks range from 88-95% efficiency while standard gas tanks range from 55-65% efficiency. Electric tanks allow for higher energy transfer because they heat your water with heating elements that are submerged in the water, while gas fired tanks are heated from below through a gas burner.
Despite higher efficiency ratings, typically electric tanks are more expensive to operate as the cost of electricity is higher than the cost of gas to heat your water. So, while heat transfer is more efficient in electric tanks, this does not mean your overall energy usage is less in an electric water heater. Because of this, many utility companies and governments often encourage residents to use gas heating if choosing between gas and electric.
Regardless, the higher the efficiency rating of your tank, the less energy is wasted in heating the water.
Water Heater Recovery Rate
Recovery rate is the amount of hot water your tank can produce in the space of one hour assuming a 90° F increase in water temparature. Electric tanks produce approximately 20-22 gallons of hot water in an hour while gas tanks 30-40 gallons in an hour. So, on average, gas tanks produce more hot water at a faster rate.
Water Heater First Hour Rating
First hour rating is simply the amount of hot water your tank can produce in one hour of continuous usage and is a function of the gallon capacity and the recovery rate. 50-gallon gas tanks will typically have a first hour rating in the range of 70-80 gallons; 50-gallon electric tanks will typically have a first hour rating around 60-gallons.
Estimated Operating Costs of a Water Heater
Estimated operating costs are typically provided by the manufacturer but are highly subject to energy prices. Assuming average usage and $0.086/kilowatt hour in electricity costs, your electric tank will cost around $400 to operate per year. Assuming $0.50/therm gas cost and average usage, your gas tank will cost you around $120-130 to operate per year.
Is a Permit Required to Replace my Water Heater?
While there are some exceptions, in most locations where we operate a permit is required to replace your water heater. There are some small plumbers that are willing to replace your water heater without processing a permit. Fast Water Heater will process a permit for you if it is required and we will not perform work without pulling a permit.
In most areas, because water heater replacement is considered an emergency service, your city or county will allow us to replace the water heater and apply for the permit at the same time so that you do not have to wait until the permit is processed to perform the installation. Typically, we are able to perform your installation the same day that you call us. When we collect for the installation, we will also collect for the cost of the permit.
Applying for a permit on your water heater replacement is a good idea. Water heaters have caused more accidents, injuries and deaths than any other home appliance. Most jurisdictions have adopted plumbing codes to make sure your water heater is installed properly. Once your permit is processed, depending on where you live, an inspector may come to your home to determine if the work was done up to current safety code. For your safety and the safety of your family, we recommend you only deal with a contractor that plans to process a permit on your behalf.
Water Heater Warranty Options
Fast Water Heater Company currently offers three warranty options on all of our installations:
- Basic 6-Year Water Heater Warranty: Our basic 6-year manufacturer's warranty covers tank leakage for 6 years, parts for 6 years and labor for 1 year.
- Standard 10-Year Water Heater Warranty: Our 10 year-warranty covers tank leakage for 10 years, parts for 10 years and labor for 1 year.
- Best 15-Year Water Heater Warranty: Our 15-year warranty covers tank leakage for 15 years, parts for 15 years and labor for 1 year. We install all of our 15-year warranty tanks with a second anode rod to protect your tank against corrosion.