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Hot Water Heater Buying Guide 2021 – What to Know When Buying a Hot Water Heater

Hot water heater buying guide - example of a tankless water heater

Are you looking to buy a new hot water heater? With an overwhelming number of options to choose from and factors to consider, it can be difficult to determine which water heater is right for your home.

There are traditional hot water heaters, tankless water heaters, different sizes and efficiency ratings. In Edmonton, the cold winter weather also adds an additional aspect that must be considered. Therefore, with so many options, you must be familiar with what to know when buying a hot water heater.

As a professional provider of water heater services in Edmonton, we know a thing or two about hot water heaters and which are the best on the market. So, we’ve created this hot water heater buying guide to help you determine which water heater is best for you.

Here’s what to know when buying a hot water heater.

What type of water heater is best?
Which is better hot water heater or tankless?
What should I look for when buying a hot water heater?
How big of hot water heater do I need?
Is a high-efficiency water heater worth it?
How much does it typically cost to replace a hot water heater?
What is the best hot water heater to buy?

Have more questions? We can help. Our experienced team will assist you in determining which solution is best for your home. Our technicians are familiar with local conditions and requirements and will ensure that you select the perfect water heater.

A water heating buying guide for 2021 – finding the right water heater for your needs and your home is important.

Common types of water heaters

There are several different types of water heaters to choose from. Each type offers different advantages and disadvantages and will be more suitable in some households than others. 

Before you buy a new hot water heater, familiarize yourself with these different options.

When it comes to different types, here’s what to know when buying a hot water heater.

Gas Hot Water Heaters

What to know when buying a hot water heater - gas powered water heaters

Water heaters that are powered by natural gas are very common in households throughout Canada, including in Edmonton. This type of water heater is often recommended by hot water heater buying guides and heating and plumbing contractors in Edmonton because of its various advantages.

Pros

  • Water is heated faster than with electric water heaters
  • More cost-effective in the long-run (due to the low cost of natural gas)
  • In the case of a power outage, you will still have hot water

Cons

  • More difficult and expensive to install
  • Typically larger than electric heaters

Electric Hot Water Heaters

Although less common than gas water heaters, electric water heaters can also be a suitable option for some households.

Pros

  • Easier installation (than gas water heaters), as no venting is required
  • Usually less expensive than gas heaters
  • Physically smaller than gas heaters

Cons

  • Cost of electricity may be higher than natural gas, making an electric water heater more expensive to run in the long-term
  • If the power goes out, you may not have hot water 

Propane Hot Water Heaters

Hot water heaters that run on propane gas are also less common but do have certain advantages. 

Pros

  • Water is heated quickly
  • Doesn’t rely on electricity (in case of a power outage)
  • More cost-effective than electric water heaters
  • More environmentally friendly than natural gas water heaters

Cons

  • More difficult to install
  • More expensive to buy and install

In addition to these three types of traditional hot water heaters, you also have the option of going tankless. 

Tankless water heaters can be electric or gas-powered. Like traditional water heaters, each type has different advantages and disadvantages, including initial and long-term costs, maintenance needs and efficiency.

For a detailed list of pros and cons, and our recommendation for the best tankless water heater, check out our article about tankless water heaters.

Tankless water heater vs water heater

Tankless hot water heaters offer many advantages over traditional hot water tanks. However, they are not for everyone. 

Here’s what to know when buying a hot water heater that’s tankless.

What is the difference between a tankless water heater and a regular water heater?

hot water heater buying guide - tankless water heater vs traditional water heater

The difference between a tankless water heater vs a traditional water heater is the tank. 

A traditional water heater stores preheated water in a tank. When water is required, the hot water from the tank is delivered. The water heater then refills the tank and heats more water to be kept on standby. 

A tankless water heater, on the other hand, does not have a large storage tank. Instead, it heats water on demand. Tankless heaters can rapidly produce hot water using high-powered elements. As a result, you will never run out of hot water.

Other hot water heater buying guides might recommend a tankless water heater from the get-go. However, we’re here to tell you that tankless heaters are not for everyone. 

For example, if your household uses a lot of hot water, a tankless heater is likely not for you. As well, if you live in a climate that is cold most of the year, a tankless water heater is not the best option. The biggest downfall of a tankless heater, however, is that it costs significantly more to purchase and install. In fact, a tankless heater can cost up to three times as much as a traditional hot water tank. As well, cold temperatures (like that during an Edmonton winter) can be hard on tankless heaters.

If a tankless heater is right for you, it can have many benefits over traditional hot water tanks, including:

  • Longer lifetime (in many cases, double the life of a traditional heater)
  • Unlimited supply of hot water
  • More energy efficient
  • Lower utility bills
  • Less space required

What to know when buying a hot water heater and important factors to consider

To choose the perfect water heater for your home, there are a few important aspects you’ll need to consider including:

  • Size
  • Efficiency
  • Costs

Here’s what to know when buying a hot water heater when it comes to sizing, efficiency ratings and initial and long-term costs.

Size

When purchasing a new water heater, you’ll want to ensure that it’s big enough to meet your hot water needs. Selecting the proper size will also maximize the efficiency of the unit.

Ultimately, the size will depend on the amount of hot water you use. Therefore, the number of people in a household is often used to determine size requirements. Below are size recommendations based on average household sizes and water usage. 

Keep in mind, however, each household is different. You may have a hot tub or several showers with rain heads, meaning you’ll use more hot water than the average household. Working with a professional Edmonton plumbing services provider is, therefore, the best way to determine what size of water heater your household requires. This will ensure that your water heater isn’t too small, causing you to run out of hot water, or too big, resulting in more energy consumption and higher utility bills.

The size recommendations below are for traditional hot water tanks. 

Number of PeopleGas Water HeaterElectric Water Heater
220 Gal (90 L)30 Gal (135 L)
3 – 440 Gal (180 L)50 Gal (225 L)
4 – 540 Gal (180 L)65 Gal (290 L)
5 – 650 Gal (225 L)80 Gal (360 L)
6+75 Gal (340 L)120 Gal (540 L)

While the size of a traditional hot water heater is measured in litres or gallons, the size of a tankless water heater is expressed in GPM. GPM stands for Gallons Per Minute and represents how much water your tankless heater can heat in one minute.

GPM recommendations based on family size can be found here – How big should my tankless water heater be?

Efficiency

Are you looking to reduce your carbon footprint? There are many energy-efficient hot water heaters on the market today. Unfortunately, these heaters often come with a steep price tag. However, it’s important to keep in mind that, although a more efficient water heater costs more upfront, it will save you money in the long run.

The efficiency of a gas-powered water heater (tank and tankless) is rated using the unit’s energy factor (EF).

What is the energy factor? 

EF = hot water produced / amount of gas used (in 24 hours)

That is, a water heater’s EF is calculated based on the amount of hot water produced divided by the amount of gas used within 24 hours.

The higher the EF, the more efficient the water heater.

The efficiency of electrical hot water tanks, on the other hand, is measured by standby loss (in watts).

What is standby loss?

Standby loss measures the amount of heat loss from the tank. The lower the standby loss, the more efficient the hot water heater.

To determine how efficient a given appliance is, look for its EnerGuide label. This label can be found on the appliance and in its product literature. The label will show you the appliance’s EF.

When looking for the most energy-efficient water heaters, look for an ENERGY STAR symbol. Products that have this symbol meet or exceed energy efficiency requirements set out by the government.

To be awarded an ENERGY STAR label, the following efficiency ratings must be met:

  • Gas water heat – 0.67 EF
  • Gas tankless water heater – 0.82 EF

Initial Costs vs Long-Term Costs

Before making your purchase, you’ll also want to consider the upfront and long-term costs of different types and models.

For example, some water heaters, especially highly efficient models, can be very expensive to buy and install. High-efficiency tankless heaters, in particular, can cost up to three times more than a less efficient, traditional heater. However, these models will save you money in the long run by cutting down your energy consumption. Also, their lifespan is much longer. Therefore, you’ll want to consider the pros and cons offered by a more expensive model before making your decision.

Still unsure about which water heater is best for you? 

If you’ve read our hot water heater buying guide and familiarized yourself with what to know when buying a hot water heater and you’re still unsure about which option is the best for your home, we can help!

Our plumbing experts can help you select the right hot water tank for your home based on your location, water usage, efficiency requirements and budget. As Edmonton locals, we’ll always recommend what we use in our own homes, so that you get the best and most reliable product.

Looking to increase the energy efficiency of your home? We can help with that too! With Edmonton’s new Home Energy Retrofit Accelerator program, you can receive government rebates for upgrading to a more efficient appliance. Our expert team is familiar with the new program and can help you achieve the efficiency needed for a maximum rebate.

Best hot water heaters in 2021

Our hot water heater buying guide wouldn’t be complete without a few recommendations. So, here are our top choices for water heaters in 2021.

Best Eco-Friendly Hot Water Heater

If want to make your home more energy-efficient, this water heater is for you. With one of the highest efficiency ratings on the market, this water heater will significantly reduce your carbon footprint and save you money in the long run on energy bills.

EZ111 Noritz

The Noritz EZ111 features inlet and outlet connections that are positioned on top of the unit, minimizing water line exposure and digital control. This tankless water heater is a modulating unit and therefore creates only the amount of heat that is required – as demand increases the heat supply is increased. As a result, energy consumption is reduced and all fixtures can be run at once. Unlike other top tankless brands, replacement parts for the Noritz EZ111 are easy to get in Canada.

Additional features include:

  • 199,000 BTU
  • 96 – 97% gas efficient
  • Wall-mounted tankless unit
  • 25-year warranty on heat exchanger, 5 years on parts

Best Value Hot Water Heater for Families 

If you have a family (2 adults, 2 children), this hot water heater is the perfect mix between value and efficiency.

Rheem 50 Gallon RHE50

The Rheem RHE50 is a power direct vent gas water heater. This non-condensing, gas-efficient model is able to provide sufficient hot water for households with 3 to 5 people.

Additional features: 

  • 40,000 BTU
  • 80% efficiency
  • Energy Star rated
  • 6-year limited tank and parts warranty

Biggest, Baddest, Best Hot Water Heater for 2021

This water heater has it all. Good value. Great output. If your hot water demands are high, this option is perfect for your household.

A.O. Smith 75 Gallon VertexTM GDHE-75

The A.O. Smith GDHE-75 Vertex™ Power Direct Vent gas water heater will provide all the hot water you’ll need and is highly efficient to boot. 

More features:

  • 100,000 BTU
  • 96%+ gas efficient 
  • 6-year limited warranty