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Water Heater Basics

By Elizabeth R. Elstien

You thankfully get hot water for your shower each morning. How does this occur? The water heater performs this task of providing hot water each day. Next to heating or cooling, water heaters are the largest energy users in the home. The two main types of water heaters -- storage and tankless -- are discussed.

Storage Water Heater

The storage-type water heater is the most common and is probably what you are using now. Home tasks range in size from thirty to eighty gallons, but smaller and larger tanks are available to fit everywhere from apartments to larger homes. These commonly run on either electricity or gas and are most often set for 120 degrees, although this temperature may be adjusted to fit personal preferences.

Storage water heaters keep the water heated to the desired temperature as set to be ready when needed. This tank type turns itself on and off as required to maintain the stored water at the temperature set for instant use. When hot water is used, the tank stays on to heat the cold water coming into the tank to replace the hot water being used. This tank type is freestanding and commonly stored in a water heater closet (inside or outside) according to certain specifications.

Tankless Water Heater

Originating in Japan and a relative newcomer to the United States, the tankless water heater, also known as an instantaneous water heater, does not store water, as does the storage water heater. An electric element or gas burner serves to heat the water only when it is needed. The temperature may be set lower than on the storage tank, such as 105 degrees. These units are designed to be more compact, mount to walls and save energy, as hot water is not continuously kept heated until used, but rather heated only as needed.

When a faucet is turned on in the home, cold water flows through the coils in the tankless unit and is immediately heated to the preset temperature to be delivered to the faucet. However, hot water will never run out if the water used does not exceed the design rate. Multiple tankless heaters can be installed to meet high hot-water household demands. Use of this tank type may mean changing the way your household uses water.

Before installing a new water heater, review the costs and benefits of both the storage and tankless units. Look at the manufacturer's information to ascertain which type will provide adequate hot water usage for your household at the lowest price, including any energy savings.

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About The Author

Elizabeth R. Elstien has worked in real estate for over 15 years as a real estate...

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