Which Water Heater Type is Best for your Home? 
Benefits and Drawbacks

Tankless water heaterTankless water heater

A detailed review of various water heater types such as gas, electric, solar-powered, tankless, and tank-type models, hybrids, and boilers. Comparing types and models used for heating potable water at home, when camping, RV-ing, or in marine applications. Check out the list of the top-selling brands.

This article reviews different types of water heaters designed for residential applications. It guides the homeowners through many factors that have to be considered when buying a new or replacing the old water heater.

Choosing the right type is important due to the fact that water heaters account for around 20% of the energy used in homes and the high cost of energy to operate one unit.

Almost every type found in this review is further explained in detail, including comparison, pros and cons, specs, and essential features such as efficiency and Energy Star compliance.

Once you have selected the right type, check out our reviews of the best brands and models

Rheem, AO Smith, Bradford White are some of the popular manufacturers of tank-type models, Rinnai, Noritz, and Takagi of gas condensing and tankless water heaters. At the same time, Eemax, EcoSmart, Titan, and Stiebel Eltron are top-selling brands of instantaneous electric models.

Buying guide

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

Here is what you should look for when buying a new water heater and checking models' reviews:

Fuel source

Make sure to review and select the type of fuel source you can/want to use and compare the fuel prices.

The most common fuel types are gas and electricity both with pros and cons.

We think that natural gas is the best option due to the cost, but if it is not available, consider propane, which can be delivered to your house.

Solar energy is free energy, but this heating method is not efficient everywhere, and like other types, it heavily depends on the weather/climate.

From the electric-powered models, heat pumps or hybrids are recommended due to the ultra-efficient operation.

Oil-fired water heaters are also available, and for some homeowners can be a cost-effective solution as they are energy efficient, reliable, and can heat water fast. But, they use old technology, are costly, and require more cleaning and maintenance.

Price and operating costs

Do you want to buy an economy, or more expensive high efficiency, or condensing heater? For example, condensing tankless water heaters are among the most advanced types that utilize the latest technology.

A good example is Rinnai RUC98, which comes with the most innovative features providing superior efficiency of 0.96, and resulting in considerable savings and emission reduction.

We have reviewed many types and models, so our recommendation is to focus on Energy Star products and take advantage of the savings, government grants, and lower gas emissions.

Water heater size

Before buying a water heater, the first question you will ask yourself is - what capacity does my household need, or how much hot water can it provide?

Tank-type water heaters come in different tank sizes and can hold from 2 to 100 gallons of water. A typical household with 4-5 family members uses a tank size of 50-65 gallons. Also, you want to consider the first-hour rating - FHR and the recovery rate. See more about sizing a water tank heater.

Tankless does not store hot water but heat water while running through the heat exchanger. Here, we talk about how much water in gallons one unit can deliver in a minute (GPM). Find more info on how to size a tankless water heater.

Point-of-use models are small; tankless are medium size, and storage or tank-type heaters are big.

After reading many water heater reviews, user comments, comparing types, features, and specs, we have concluded that tankless or on-demand water heaters are an excellent solution for many homeowners.

Tankless is ideal for those who want to switch from a traditional storage tank-type to an on-demand unit and get a continuous supply of hot water. In addition, you can check out our article where we compare tankless vs. tank type.

Quality

Better quality of the elements usually ensures longer life of heaters, better technology, higher performance and efficiency, fancier look, and sometimes longer warranty, but at a higher cost.

If you live in an area with hard water, you want to consider commercial-grade elements such as a heavy-duty anode rod, a self-cleaning system, or maybe a plastic storage tank.

What's your favorite brand?

Do you have a favorite brand, or are you looking for the best seller that has many positive reviews?

Popular manufacturers of tank-type water heaters are Rheem, AO Smith, and Bradford White, while from the tankless brands consider Rinnai, Takagi, and Noritz.

Repair costs and parts availability

Popular brands usually have a better service network and available parts than less-known or foreign manufacturers.

Available features

What are the benefits of the heater's features, and are these components user-friendly, easy to replace, and troubleshoot?

The best tank-type water heaters often utilize a power venting system, intelligent control valve with diagnostics, heavy-duty or powered anode rod, heat traps, a self-cleaning system, and more. 

Top tankless models come with advanced electronics, a voice control system, Wi-Fi, a recirculation system, and condensing technology.

Buying vs. renting a water heater

Which one do you prefer - to buy or rent? Use this article to check the pros and cons and make the right decision.

Renting a water heater allows affordable monthly payments and worry-free service and repairs.

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.

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, as found in this article (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 and 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-type

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. Electric models have higher energy factors than gas-burning units, but using the electric unit is more expensive in the long run due to the higher fuel rates.

They are ideal as the point-of-use heaters for small jobs, while in demanding applications, heat pumps or hybrids are recommended because they have high energy factors which offset higher fuel costs.

Solar-type

Solar water heaterSolar water heater

Solar water heaters use solar energy to heat water. They have a simple design that can be made at home where the solar energy used for water heating is free. Using this renewable and cost-free energy, solar heaters can be an excellent lifelong investment in the long run.

Oil-fired type

Oil-fired units are becoming less popular systems for residential home usage, especially with the increased availability of gas and other "green" technology systems. Oil-fired models are also more expensive to install than gas, and they last less.

Wood-burning type

Wood fired heaters and wood furnaces are heating appliances that use wood and wood pellets as an energy source. Except for water heating and preparation, wood heaters can be used for space heating, even cooking.

Water heater reviews based on the size and technology

Tankless

Tankless water heaterTankless water heater

Tankless, usually called on-demand water heaters, do not utilize water storage tanks as the conventional type. This type heats water when needed (on demand) and provides hot water in an endless supply while reducing energy consumption and the heating costs at the same time. In addition, they last longer than conventional storage tank heaters and are more environment-friendly due to the reduced gas emission.

Tankless is small but powerful and is recommended for larger families with the high demand for hot water and where it is hard, or there is no room to install the tank type. Most tankless models come with an electric board and microchip, digital display, diagnostic system, modulating gas valve, and many safety elements.

The most popular tankless brands are Rinnai and Takagi.

Storage water tanks

Water tank heaterWater tank heater

Water tank heaters for home use are the most popular of all heating systems. They store hot water inside the metal tanks, and it is always ready for use. Even if you are away, the heater runs when required, keeping the water at the set temperature.

For the whole-house water heating, these are available in sizes from 30 to 100 gallons. For the budget-oriented families, they are the perfect solution due to their lower purchase and installation costs. In addition, condensing models are ideal for homeowners looking for high efficiency and better performance.

The most popular tank-type brands are Rheem, AO Smith, and Bradford White.

Electric heat pumps - Hybrids

Electric heat pumps - HybridsElectric heat pumps - Hybrids

Electric heat pump water heaters or hybrids are heating devices that utilize two technologies for efficient and inexpensive heating. They look like electric water heaters, and are usually equipped with two heating elements. On the top of the unit is the heat pump and advanced electronics, which help remove the heat from the air and transfer that heat to water.

What makes them unique is that the heat pump is not generating heat but moving it from one place to another, resulting in ultra-high energy efficiency. These are the only electric units that are Energy Star approved.

The most popular hybrids brands are coming from Rheem, AO Smith, and Stiebel Eltron.

Other types

High efficiency

High-efficiency units are very popular today due to their ability to maximize energy savings, provide a better performance, and reduce emissions. These products are often Energy Star approved, carrying the blue tag logo, an international symbol for energy efficiency.

Condensing

Condensing water heater from NoritzCondensing water heater from Noritz

Water heater reviews article also covers state-of-the-art appliances such as ultra-efficient condensing models.

Condensing appliances are energy-efficient systems that are designed to operate with an efficiency of over 90 % and, at the same time, very low energy loss. Due to its advanced condensing technology, required professional installation, and regular service, these are more expensive than non-condensing units. They are especially popular in Europe (Vaillant, Buderus, Junkers), while in North America are getting in popularity (Rinnai, Noritz, Navien, Bosch, Weil-Mclain).

RV heater reviews

RV water heaters are designed for mobile and recreational vehicles, mainly using propane gas and 120V AC. The most common sizes are 6-gallon and 10-gallon tanks.

These units are easy to operate, maintain, reliable, and can last longer.

The most popular brands are Atwood and Suburban.

Portable

Portable hot water heaters provide the perfect solution for heating water for outdoor activities like camping, hiking, boating, fishing, hunting, surfing, boating, cabin owners, and RVing.


Indirect

If you already have a furnace or boiler with a burner, just combining it with a high-efficient storage tank, you can have a very efficient system for heating. These systems are usually called indirect hot water heaters.

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 ideal when installing a gas unit in a room with no proper ventilation outside and through the chimney. It has a built-in venting system that brings the air in and forces the fumes out without using the electric blower.

Power vent units review

The power vent units are similar to direct vent models. They use an electrically operated powered vent (blower) as the assistance to exhaust the combustion gases to the outside mechanically.

Tankless coil

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

Marine

Check out our review of the top marine hot water heaters manufacturers, like Atwood, Isotemp, Webasto, Torrid, and others. Products are meant for boaters and sailors to enjoy showering and small jobs where hot water is needed.

Point-of-use type (POU)

Point-of-use water heaters are small electric heating devices, designed as mini storage tanks or tankless, used for water heating at the point of service, and are often installed under the kitchen sink.

Also known as under-sink water heaters, these heating units 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.

Conclusion

As you can see, this review of different types of water heaters is quite extensive because we have tried to cover most of the devices used in residential water heating for your benefit. We have also included various fuel types and features to look for, including the best and most wanted brands.

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

The links to the most popular brands like 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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