An Overview of Water Heater Types for a Home. Benefits and Drawbacks

Tankless water heaterTankless water heater

Water heaters come in various types and models, catering to different needs and applications. From heating water at home to camping, RV-ing, and marine applications, there is a device suitable for every situation.

Choosing the right type is crucial as water heaters consume about 20% of a home's energy and operating costs can be high.

In this comprehensive review, we will explore some of the most popular water heater types, including gas, electric, solar-powered, tankless, tank-type, hybrids, and boilers.

We will compare and contrast the features, benefits, and drawbacks of each type to help you make an informed decision when purchasing a new or replacing an old water heater.

Additionally, we will provide a list of the top-selling brands to consider when shopping for a water heater. Whether you are looking for a reliable water heating solution for your home or an efficient model for your outdoor adventures, this review has got you covered.

Water heater types and what to look for

Popular models

Check out the top 5 selling models for domestic water heating found on amazon.com:

Things to consider when buying a home water heater

When buying a new water heater, there are a few important factors you should consider to ensure that you are making the best possible purchase.

Here are some things to look for:

Fuel type

When purchasing a new water heater, it is important to select the appropriate fuel source and compare the fuel prices.

The most common fuel types are gas and electricity, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

We recommend considering natural gas as it is typically the most cost-effective option. However, if natural gas is not available in your area, propane can be a viable alternative that can be delivered to your home.

While solar energy is a free and renewable source of energy, it is not efficient in all locations and is highly dependent on weather conditions.

For electric-powered models, we suggest considering heat pumps or hybrids as they operate with ultra-efficiency.

Oil-fired water heaters are also available and can be a cost-effective solution for some homeowners due to their energy efficiency and fast heating capabilities. However, they use older technology, are costly, and require more cleaning and maintenance.

Price and operating costs

When choosing a water heater, you have the option to purchase an economy model or a more expensive high-efficiency or condensing heater. For example, condensing tankless water heaters are some of the most advanced types available and utilize the latest technology.

A good example is Rinnai RUC98, which comes with innovative features that provide superior efficiency with a rating of 0.96, resulting in significant savings and reduced emissions.

After reviewing many types and models, we recommend focusing on Energy Star products to take advantage of potential savings, government grants, and lower gas emissions. Choosing an Energy Star product can not only help you save money on your energy bills but also benefit the environment by reducing your carbon footprint.

Water heater size

Before purchasing a water heater, it's important to consider the capacity needed to meet your household's hot water demands.

Tank-type heaters come in various sizes, ranging from 2 to 100 gallons. A typical household with 4-5 family members may require a tank size of 50-65 gallons. It's also important to consider the First Hour Rating (FHR) and recovery rate when selecting a tank-type heater. For more information on sizing a water tank heater, refer to our guide.

Tankless water heaters, on the other hand, heat water on-demand and do not store hot water in a tank. The capacity of a tankless heater is measured in Gallons Per Minute (GPM). Use this article to learn how to size a tankless water heater.

Point-of-use models are small, while tankless heaters are medium in size and storage or tank-type heaters are typically larger.

After reviewing numerous water heater types and models, considering user feedback, features, and specifications, we recommend tankless or on-demand water heaters as an excellent solution for many homeowners.

Tankless units provide a continuous supply of hot water and are ideal for homeowners who want to switch from a large traditional tank-type heater to a small unit with on-demand heating. To learn more about the differences between tankless and tank type water heaters, refer to our comprehensive comparison guide.


Investing in water heaters with high-quality elements and advanced technology can lead to a longer lifespan, improved performance and efficiency, and a more attractive appearance.

However, these options often come at a higher cost and may include longer warranties. For those living in areas with hard water, it's crucial to consider commercial-grade elements such as heavy-duty anode rods, self-cleaning systems, or plastic storage tanks to prevent mineral buildup and ensure optimal functionality.

What's your favorite brand?

When choosing a brand for a water heater, it's important to consider various factors to ensure that you make the best decision.

One of the most important things to consider is the brand's reputation. You want to choose a brand that has a good reputation and great reviews. You can research online reviews and ask for recommendations from family and friends who have purchased water heaters before.

Additionally, consider the brand's history and how long they've been in the HVAC industry.

Another important factor to consider is the price of the water heater. Determine your budget and compare prices across different brands.

Keep in mind that higher-priced models may offer more advanced features, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are the best choice for your needs.

Additionally, check the length and terms of the warranty offered by each brand, as well as the specific features offered by each model.

By carefully considering these factors, you can choose a brand and model that meets your needs and provides reliable, efficient performance for years to come.

Lastly, it's worth noting that popular manufacturers of tank-type water heaters are Rheem, AO Smith, and Bradford White, while for tankless options, consider Rinnai, Takagi, and Noritz.

Repair costs and parts availability

Renowned brands typically have a superior service network and readily available parts compared to lesser-known or foreign manufacturers.

This can be an important factor to consider when purchasing a water heater, as it ensures that you can easily get help and replacement parts in case of any issues with the unit.

Additionally, established brands often have better customer support and are more likely to honor warranties and provide after-sales services. This can give you peace of mind and make the overall ownership experience more pleasant.

Available features

When selecting a water heater, it's important to consider the benefits of the heater's features, as well as how user-friendly, easy to replace, and troubleshoot these components are.

For tank-type water heaters, some of the best features include a power venting system, an intelligent control valve with diagnostics, a heavy-duty or powered anode rod, heat traps, and a self-cleaning system. These features can help to improve the efficiency and lifespan of the water heater, enhance its performance, and make maintenance and troubleshooting easier.

On the other hand, top tankless models are equipped with advanced electronics, a voice control system, Wi-Fi connectivity, a recirculation system, and condensing technology.

These features can help to increase the efficiency and convenience of the heater. However, it's important to keep in mind that such features may come at a higher cost. Therefore, it's essential to weigh the benefits and costs of each feature and select a water heater that meets your specific needs and budget.

Buying vs. renting a water heater

When deciding whether to buy or rent a water heater, it's important to consider the pros and cons of each option to make an informed decision.

Renting a water heater can be an attractive option due to the affordable monthly payments and worry-free service and repairs that come with it. It is great for those on a tight budget but over the long term it can end up being more expensive than buying one outright.

Buying a water heater means a higher initial cost, but at the end of the term, it becomes yours and free to use. Also, if there is a problem, it can cost you a lot to repair it. Ultimately, this can be a more cost-effective option over the long term, especially if you plan to stay in your home for a while.

In this review, we will try to cover all the above factors and present you with an easy-to-understand guide so that you can find the best water heater for your needs.

Also, if you don't have time to read, you can check out our selection of the best models (you just have to pick the fuel-type).

Water heater type review based on the fuel source

Gas type

Gas water heaterGas water heater

Gas heaters can use both natural gas and propane gas, or LP. Gas appliances are an excellent choice where this energy is available because these are among the most energy-efficient systems - particularly those with condensing technology.

You can choose between the tank and tankless models – and they are both covered in our tankless vs tank-type review. Another important thing is to select the proper venting system; power vent, direct vent, power direct vent, or atmospheric.


Electric water heaterElectric water heater

Electric water heaters are recommended if electricity is the only option, or you just need a unit for one fixture.

Although electric models have higher energy factors than gas-burning units, the cost of using an electric unit in the long run is typically higher due to higher fuel rates, making them more suitable for small jobs or as point-of-use heaters.

For those in need of a water heater for demanding applications, a heat pump or hybrid model is highly recommended. These units have a high energy factor, making them very efficient and able to offset higher fuel costs. Additionally, they are eco-friendly as they produce no direct pollution, providing a greener solution for your water heating needs.


Solar water heaterSolar water heater

Solar water heaters utilize the energy from the sun to heat water, making them an eco-friendly and cost-effective option for homeowners. With a simple design that can even be made at home, solar water heaters make use of renewable energy that is free, making them an excellent long-term investment.

Oil-fired type

The popularity of oil-fired water heaters has decreased with the availability of eco-friendly technology systems, but they were once widely used in residential homes without access to natural gas.

Compared to gas units, oil-fired models typically have higher upfront costs, require more maintenance, and their emissions can be harmful to the environment.

However, in certain situations such as areas without access to natural gas or older homes with outdated infrastructure, oil-fired water heaters may still be the best option.

Wood-burning type

Wood-fired heaters and furnaces are heating appliances that use wood or wood pellets as an energy source. These appliances can be used for space heating and even cooking, in addition to water heating and preparation.

Wood is a renewable resource, making these types of heaters an eco-friendly option for those looking to reduce their carbon footprint.

However, it is important to note that wood-fired heaters require a significant amount of work and maintenance, including regular cleaning and refueling.

Selecting water heater types based on the size and technology


Tankless water heaterTankless water heater

Tankless water heaters, also known as on-demand water heaters, are a type of water heating system that do not use traditional water storage tanks. Instead, they heat water as needed, providing hot water on demand while reducing energy consumption and heating costs. In addition, they have a longer lifespan and are more environmentally friendly due to reduced gas emissions.

Tankless water heaters are compact yet powerful and are recommended for larger families with a high demand for hot water, or in situations where space is limited.

Most tankless models come equipped with digital displays, diagnostic systems, modulating gas valves, and a variety of safety features. The most popular tankless brands are Rinnai and Takagi.

Storage water tanks

Water tank heaterWater tank heater

Water tank heaters are the most popular home heating systems. They store hot water inside metal tanks, ensuring it is always readily available for use, even when you're away. Popular heaters come in sizes ranging from 30 to 100 gallons, making them suitable for whole-house water heating. They are also an excellent budget-friendly option due to their lower purchase and installation costs.

For homeowners looking for high efficiency and better performance, condensing models are an ideal choice. They operate by using the exhaust gases to heat the water, resulting in increased energy efficiency.

Some of the most popular tank-type brands include Rheem, AO Smith, and Bradford White.

Electric heat pumps - Hybrids

Electric heat pumps - HybridsElectric heat pumps - Hybrids

The electric heat pump water heaters, also known as hybrids, are highly efficient and cost-effective heating devices that combine two technologies. They typically resemble electric water heaters and are equipped with two heating elements. The heat pump and advanced electronics are located on top of the unit, which extracts heat from the air and transfers it to the water, resulting in ultra-high energy efficiency. This unique technology does not generate heat but moves it from one place to another, making them the only electric units that are Energy Star approved.

Hybrids are a great investment for homeowners looking to save on energy costs in the long run. They are highly efficient and have a lower impact on the environment compared to traditional electric water heaters.

The most popular hybrid brands in the market today include Rheem, AO Smith, and Stiebel Eltron.

Other types

High efficiency

In recent years, there has been a surge in popularity for high-efficiency water heaters, thanks to their ability to optimize energy savings, provide superior performance, and reduce emissions.

These products often bear the Energy Star certification, indicated by the blue tag logo, which is recognized worldwide as a symbol for energy efficiency.


Condensing water heater from NoritzCondensing water heater from Noritz

The article on water heater type also covers state-of-the-art appliances, such as ultra-efficient condensing models.

Condensing appliances are energy-efficient systems designed to operate with over 90% efficiency while minimizing energy loss. Due to their advanced condensing technology, professional installation, and regular servicing requirements, these units are more expensive than non-condensing units.

They are particularly popular in Europe, with brands such as Vaillant, Buderus, and Junkers, and are gaining popularity in North America, with brands such as Rinnai, Noritz, Navien, Bosch, and Weil-Mclain.

RV heater reviews

RV water heaterRV water heater

RV water heaters are a crucial component of any RV or camper, providing hot water for cooking, cleaning, and bathing while on the road. Whether you're camping in the great outdoors or traveling across the country, having access to hot water is essential for a comfortable and convenient experience.

In this guide, we'll explore the different types of RV water heaters available, their features and benefits, and what factors to consider when choosing the right one for your needs.


Portable water heaterPortable water heater

Portable hot water heaters are a convenient and versatile solution for outdoor enthusiasts, adventurers, and homeowners looking for a quick and reliable source of hot water. These compact and lightweight devices are designed to provide hot water on demand, making them perfect for a range of outdoor activities, such as camping, hiking, boating, fishing, hunting, and surfing.

One of the primary advantages is their ease of use. Most models require nothing more than a propane tank or a rechargeable battery for operation, making them ideal for remote locations or areas without access to electricity or natural gas.


If you're looking for an efficient way to heat your home's water supply, combining a furnace or boiler with a high-efficient storage tank can be an excellent solution. These systems, known as indirect hot water heaters, can provide reliable and efficient hot water without the need for a separate water heater.

Atmospherically vented water heaters

Atmospherically vented water heaters are the simplest and cheapest type of all gas heaters. They are equipped with the draft hood and metal vent, usually connected to the chimney, which transfers the exhaust gases from the heater to the outside atmosphere. Since the hot exhaust gas is lighter than the surrounding air, it rises through the vent and out of the house.

Direct vent review

Direct vent water heaters are a great option for homeowners who want to install a gas unit in a room with inadequate ventilation or no chimney. These units use a sealed combustion system, drawing air from outside the house and expelling fumes outside through a dedicated vent. This eliminates the need for an electric blower, making direct vent water heaters more energy-efficient and cost-effective.

Power vent units review

The power vent units are similar to direct vent models, but they use an electrically operated powered vent (blower) to assist in exhausting the combustion gases to the outside mechanically.

Tankless coil

A tankless coil doesn't use a storage tank for heating as the water is heated directly inside the boiler. It is commonly used for home space heating, with the option to heat water. These units are most efficient during colder months when used for space heating, but are less efficient during warmer months as the boiler is used less frequently.


Check out our review of the top marine hot water heaters manufacturers, like Atwood, Isotemp, Webasto, Torrid, and many more. These products are specifically designed for boaters and sailors to enjoy hot showers and other tasks where hot water is required.

Point-of-use type (POU)

POU water heaterPOU water heater

Point-of-use water heaters are small electric heating devices designed for water heating at the point of service, and they are often installed under the kitchen sink.

They are also known as under-sink water heaters and are very popular in residential applications as they provide instant hot water without taking up a lot of space.

The most popular tankless electric models come from EcoSmart, Eemax, Rheem, Stiebel Eltron, and Titan.


As you can see, this comprehensive review of various water heater types covers most of the devices used in residential water heating, providing valuable information for your benefit. We have included various fuel types and features to look for, as well as the best and most sought-after brands.

If you are looking for water heater reviews by brands, types, including specs and features, or comparisons, you can easily find them by clicking on the respective links on the navigation bar or searching for heaters by manufacturers.

Links to the most popular brands, such as Rheem, AO Smith, Bradford White, Takagi, Rinnai, and others, are also located on the navigation bar. However, if you are looking to buy one or see what other users like or dislike, we recommend checking online stores Amazon.com and The Home Depot.

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