Watt, Why & How e-Newsletter

Tank Water Heaters: Selecting the Right Unit

Source: www.energy.gov
Water heater

Water heating makes up 20 percent of total energy use in a typical U.S. household, which means there is a lot to consider when selecting a new water heater. Choose a system that will provide enough hot water and still be energy efficient; saving you money. This includes determining the right size and fuel source for your home.

Technology options

Tank water heaters have been used for decades, however solar and heat pump units are increasing in popularity as clean energy options. Solar systems include a tank and solar collector. They typically require a backup for cloudy days and periods of high demand. Heat pump units take heat from the surrounding air and transfer it to water inside the tank. These systems typically cost more to install, but they more than pay for themselves in lower energy costs. 

Sizing your water heater

Proper sizing is important; not only in meeting your family's hot water needs, but also to optimize energy efficiency. To find the right size for your home, use the water heater's first-hour rating (FHR). FHR is the amount of water (in gallons) the heater can supply per hour. It depends on the size of the tank, the fuel source and the size of the heating element.

You can find the FHR on the EnergyGuide label, which the Federal Trade Commission requires on all new water heaters. Match the FHR to your peak hot water demand to find the right size for your needs. To estimate your peak demand, determine what time of day you use the most hot water, while keeping in mind the number of people living in your home. The following table provides average hot water use for common household appliances and activities.


Hot Water Use  Average Gallons of Hot Water Per Use 
Shower  12
Dishwasher  14
Washing dishes by hand  4
Clothes washer  32
Food preparation  5


The capacity of your water heater should slightly exceed your family's peak demand. For example, if your morning routine includes four showers (48 gallons) and breakfast preparation (5 gallons), then a 60-gallon water heater may be appropriate.


Source: www.ftc.gov
EnergyGuide label
Energy efficiency and operating cost

Energy-efficient water heaters may come with a higher price tag, but they can provide substantial energy cost savings over the life of the unit. Energy factor (EF) indicates water heater efficiency based on the amount of hot water it produces for the amount of fuel used. EF appears as a factor of 1; the higher the EF, the more efficient the water heater. 

While higher EF values generally equate higher efficiency, they do not always mean lower operating costs; especially when fuel prices are compared. Annual energy use and operating cost estimates can be found on the EnergyGuide label. Cost estimates are based on national averages for utility rates. To determine your operating costs, multiply the annual energy use (in therms or kilowatt-hours) listed on the label with your local utility rate, which you can find on your most recent bill. 

A little extra effort will help to ensure that your new water heater meets your family's needs while helping you save on energy bills.

When purchasing a new water heater, look for units that are ENERGY STAR certified for high-efficiency performance.  

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