Standard Tank Water Heaters | Traditional Hot Water Heater Information

Do you have a gas water heater or an electric water heater? Power source generally varies by geography; for example, in Oregon and Washington, about 40% of homes have electric heaters, while the vast majority of California homes are gas-powered.

What is a Traditional Water Heater?

Conventional water heaters are the most common type of heating system for water in a home. They work by holding a ready reservoir of hot water in a tank that can be anywhere from 40 to 120 gallons. 

When you have a need for hot water in the home – washing dishes, taking a shower, laundry – the system will release the water from the top of the tank and attempt to replenish it by “heating” additional water that is pulled into the bottom. A traditional water heater can operate on a variety of fuel sources, including electricity, propane, natural gas, and fuel oil. 

Most traditional water heaters have a number of common components, including the drain valve, an internal anode rode, dip tube, TPR valve, and pipes and fittings for pressure/overflow relief, and hot water. The internal tank is also insulated to ensure that the water stays hot as long as possible. 

A separate thermostat is included with an electric water heater while this is built into the gas control valve of a gas water heater. Gas water heaters also prevent overheating with a heat limiting device. An internal, central flue helps circulate heat and vent gas, and a thermocouple is installed to shut off the gas in case of an emergency.  

Traditional vs. Tankless Water Heater

When you begin your search for a water heater replacement, you may find that you have more options than you did in the past. This is an item that will be heating your home’s water for a decade or more, so it’s vital that you consider efficiency, cost, and longevity in your decision. You can replace your traditional water heater with the same type or perhaps get a larger tank that will take care of your family’s needs. Another option is to convert to a tankless water heater. 

Tankless water heaters, also referred to as on-demand systems, will cost you a bit more upfront than a traditional unit. However, these units last considerably longer and are more energy-efficient. Specifically, a tankless water heater can have a useful life of 20+ years compared to about 10-15 years for a traditional water heater. Further, a tankless water heater is up to 34% more energy efficient than a tank-type unit, costing you less to operate it. 

Instead of keeping a reservoir of hot water on hand for when you need it, a tankless water heater sits in standby mode and only heats water as you need it. These typically run on propane or gas, but some models use electricity. These units also take up less space than their traditional counterparts. 

Free Estimates

We offer free estimates on water heater replacements. That’s because every home is unique, and it’s nearly impossible to provide a 100% accurate estimate over the phone without seeing your set-up. So we come to your home, ready to install, but give you a full cost-breakdown before you pay a penny.

If you do not wish to proceed for any reason, the technician will take off, and you’ll be left with a no-cost, no-obligation estimate.

Water Heater Sizes

Rated by their gallon-capacity, water heaters most typically come in the following sizes:

  • 40-gallon water heater
  • 50-gallon water heater
  • 66-gallon water heater
  • 75-gallon water heater
  • 80-gallon water heater
  • 120-gallon water heater

Most homes have either a 40-gallon or a 50-gallon water heater. Larger tanks are generally used in homes that have a hot tub, or with serious hot water demands. We generally recommend swapping an existing tank with an equally-sized new one, but if you consistently run out of hot water, you should consider upgrading to a larger tank.

Our experienced installation coordinators and service technicians will walk you through all the details of your water heater installation or repair. Before beginning any work, we’ll go over a no-obligation, item-by-item checklist of any additional costs for parts and labor to bring the water heater up to code.

Efficiency Rating

The measure of the portion of heat that is transferred to your water from the energy source is your unit’s efficiency rating. A traditional electric water heater has an efficiency rating from 88%-95%, and a traditional gas tank will have an efficiency rating of 67% or higher. There is a higher rate of energy transfer with electric tanks because the heating element is submerged in the water tank, but water with a gas tank is heated with an element located beneath the water. 

Even though electric water heaters have higher efficiency ratings, they are more costly to operate because electricity is going to cost consumers more than gas. So, while you might see higher efficiency ratings with an electric tank, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll save more on energy costs with this type of unit. This is just one of the reasons that many local governments and utility companies urge residents to choose gas over the two options. 

Whichever type of water heater you choose, having the highest efficiency rating possible means that you will waste less energy when you heat the water for your home.

Recovery Rate

If you assume an increase in water temperature of 90° F, your tank’s recovery rate is the amount of water it can produce in a single hour. You can expect recovery rates of 20-22 gallons with electric tanks and 30-40 gallons with gas tanks. 

First Hour Rating

Your first-hour rating is the measure of how much how water your traditional tank is able to produce through a single hour of continuous use. The measure is a function of the tank’s capacity as well as its recovery rate. You can expect a first-hour rating of 70-80 gallons with a 50-gallon gas tank and around 60-gallons for a 50-gallon electric tank.

Estimated Operating Costs

The manufacturer of the unit will generally provide you with the typical costs to operate your water heater, but these can vary based on the energy prices in your area. If you assume $0.086/kilowatt hour and average usage, you can expect to pay about $400 per year to operate a traditional electric water heater. A gas tank will cost roughly $120-$130 annually to operate assuming average usage and $0.50/therm gas costs.

Is a Permit Required?

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, but we urge you to use caution. 

The average cost of water damage from a leaking water heater is $4,444. If you install your water heater without a permit, your home insurer can – and often does – deny the claim. In addition, there are multiple potential safety issues related to fire, carbon monoxide, and pressure that can result from an improperly installed water heater. 

For these reasons, it is strongly recommended that both for your safety and to protect your home from property damage, you only deal with licensed contractors that recommend permitting the installation. Fast Water Heater will process a permit for you when it is legally required.

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.

Give us a call, or fill out the form below to speak to an Installation Coordinator about commercial water heater work.

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Fast Water Heater currently services the following areas. If you need help or have questions, give us a call, and we’ll get it answered fast! 

Fast Water Heater currently services the following areas. If you need help or have questions, give us a call and we’ll get it answered fast!