Choosing an Energy Efficient Water Heater for Your Eco-Friendly Home

Updated on July 2, 2018
This solar water heater is just one of the many ways you can save money on your utility bills and make your home more eco-friendly.
This solar water heater is just one of the many ways you can save money on your utility bills and make your home more eco-friendly. | Source

Do you know that about 20% of home energy use is attributed to water heating? There are approximately 80 million single-family homes in the U.S., and homeowners spend about $24 billion a year on water heating, releasing approximately 192 millions tons of carbon dioxide into the environment. If every household replaced their energy-wasting water heater with a high-efficiency version, each family would save hundreds of dollars per year while eliminating over 100 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. There will be more money in your wallet and more clean air to breathe. It's a win-win situation.

If you want to make your home more eco-friendly, using an energy efficient water heater is absolutely a great way to do it.

Types of Energy Efficient Water Heaters

Model
Heating Method 
Energy Saving 
High-Efficiency Conventional Water Heater 
Water is kept hot and running in a storage tank all the time.
10%–50%
Tankless Water Heater 
Water is heated instantly when the tap is turned on without the use of a storage tank.
25%–60%
Hybrid Water Heater
Water is kept merely warm in a storage tank, then quickly gets heated up when the tap is turned on. Some models also contain a high-technology heat pump.
up to 70%
Solar Water Heater 
Water is heated in a storage tank, which is connected to solar collectors. Most models also have a gas back-up system. 
up to 90% 

Things to Consider Before Buying a High-Efficiency Water Heater

If the purchase prices were all you have to consider, buying a new water heater would be such a simple process. Unfortunately, not all eco-friendly water heaters are created equal, and as a conscientious consumer, you've got some research to do. It is advisable that you evaluate the price of each model in relation to the following factors.

Heating Capacity and Flow Rates - If you're buying a tank water heater, find out what its "first hour rating" (FHR) is. This number defines how much hot water the heater can provide during one hour of use. If its FHR doesn't exceed your household’s hot water usage during the peak hours, you'd better start looking for another water heater with a higher heating capacity. If you're buying a tankless water heater, find out whether its flow rates can handle your peak hot-water demand. Unfortunately, some tankless models can't supply adequate hot water for simultaneous uses, such as showers and laundry.

Efficiency and Operating Cost - Learn how much it approximately costs to run the heater and how much time it takes to heat up the water. In general, gas water heaters are more economical than electric models, because they usually require less heating time, and natural gas is much cheaper than electricity.

Installation Cost - Never forget to consider the installation cost. A water heater is not something you could just put anywhere you wish like a couch. Some high-technology models require specialized service which can be pretty costly. Some old-school plumbers whose low-cost service you have trusted for years might not be qualified to install them. To make sure you will be able to cover all the expenses, always add the installation cost to the purchase price before you buy.

Warranty Coverage - A high-efficiency water heater is a great product, yet it is by no means a perfect machine. Some minor and major malfunctions are possible to occur, thus the warranty coverage is another important factor to put into consideration.

Average Prices of High-Efficiency Water Heaters (for Residential Use)

Model
Average Price
Gas and Electric High-Efficiency Conventional Water Heaters 
$250–$900
Gas and Electric Tankless Water Heaters 
$400–$1,300
Solar and Hybrid Water Heaters 
$1,500–$3,500
Before buying a new water heater, find out which types of heaters are within your affordable price range. An energy-efficient water heater can help you save more money in the long run, but it usually comes at a lofty price.
Click thumbnail to view full-size
A tankless water heater.A tank water heater.
A tankless water heater.
A tankless water heater. | Source
A tank water heater.
A tank water heater. | Source

Tankless vs. Tank Water Heaters

Tankless water heaters have become very trendy in the past decade, as they are compact in size, earthquake-safe, and able to eliminate standby energy losses by forgoing the storage tank. The electric tankless models actually use a pretty high amount of energy to operate the instant-demand systems, however, so they might not even save more energy than some high-efficiency tank water heaters.

If you're determined to buy a tankless water heater, a gas model is a better option, since it usually costs much less to operate. The installation cost is another thing you should consider before deciding to go "tank or tankless." On average, the installation cost of a tank water heater is around $300–$1,000. As for the tankless models, it costs about $2,500–$4,000 to install one. Yes, thousands of dollars more!

How to Make Your Water Heater More Energy Efficient

Old water heaters usually leak about 30% of their heat through their exteriors. If you can't afford to buy an energy efficient water heater quite yet, there is one simple thing you can do to upgrade the one you have, cut down your energy bill each month, and make your home more eco-friendly: insulate it!

Things You'll Need

  • water heater insulation blanket (it should come with a roll of special tape)
  • pen
  • tape measure
  • scissors or box cutters

Instructions

  • Clean the top of your water heater with a damp towel and gentle detergent. Wipe it completely dry.
  • Measure and cut the insulation blanket to fit your water heater.
  • Wrap the blanket around the water heater, and secure it with the tape.

Note: If you have a gas water heater, make sure the blanket does not cover the top vents. If you have an electric water heater, don't wrap the blanket over the heater element controls or power sources. Failing to take these precautionary steps can lead to overheating or electrical shock.

Where to Find More Information

If you've been eyeing a few water heaters for a while but have a hard time deciding which one to get, perhaps you need some extra advice from reliable sources. These websites provide detailed information about environmentally friendly products, compare water and energy usage, give energy ratings of household appliances, and help consumers make informed purchases that will minimize air pollution as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Energy Star (energystar.gov)
  • The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (aceee.org)
  • Green-e (green-e.org)
  • Consumer Reports' Greener Choices (greenerchoices.org)

Questions & Answers

    Comments

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    • Om Paramapoonya profile imageAUTHOR

      Om Paramapoonya 

      5 years ago

      @cclitgirl - Thanks, CC. I'm glad you learned something new from this eco-friendly hub. Thanks for stopping by. Always glad to hear from you :)

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      5 years ago from Western NC

      This is a super-fantastic, well-put-together hub! Totally deserving of HOTD. I love the way you broke everything down, explained it and you even taught me a few things, and I like to consider myself an amateur expert when it comes to home efficiency. Amazing job here!

    • Om Paramapoonya profile imageAUTHOR

      Om Paramapoonya 

      5 years ago

      @greatstuff - Great! I think you'll be very happy with the decision.

      @icmn91 - Nope, that doesn't exist but hey, it's an awesome idea!

      @mrsponge - Glad you found this article helpful! The proper FHR number for a large household is around 70 - 90. You might want to check out the FHR chart in this article on ConsumerEnergyCenter.org: http://www.consumerenergycenter.org/home/appliance...

    • mrsponge1 profile image

      Richie Rosen 

      5 years ago from Florida

      You talked me out of a tank-less water heater. The cost and it's limitations are too much, and I only have electric available. I was not aware of that FHS number, what is a good number for a family of 5?

    • icmn91 profile image

      icmn91 

      5 years ago from Australia

      We live in a tropical environment so solar panels on the roof tend to be a debatably good and bad idea. Is there such a thing as an exercise bike that can provide a means of energy? I'm probably dreaming... zz :/

    • greatstuff profile image

      Mazlan 

      5 years ago from Malaysia

      Congrats on HOTD, I didn't know that hubs that were published more than a year will be reviewed for current HOTD award. That's great.

      We are thinking of changing the current hot water system once we move to the new house. Your write up has helped us decide and it's going to be a Solar WH

    • Om Paramapoonya profile imageAUTHOR

      Om Paramapoonya 

      5 years ago

      @healthylife2 - Thanks a lot for dropping by! I hope you find an eco-friendly water heater that fits your needs very soon.

      @ImKarn23 - Haha. I like his clever tactic a lot! Thanks for reading this and sharing it with your friend.

    • Om Paramapoonya profile imageAUTHOR

      Om Paramapoonya 

      5 years ago

      @gfcampbell - Totally understand. New water heaters can be very pricey. Insulating your old water heater should help you save some bucks, though!

      @astonerattnet - That's a wonderful idea! A solar heating system still costs a lot to install but it can help you save more in the long run.

      @janderson99 - Hmmm...The roof does appear slightly ramshackle. I just noticed that right now. Well, you're very observant!

    • Om Paramapoonya profile imageAUTHOR

      Om Paramapoonya 

      5 years ago

      @SidKemp - Thanks for the tip on painting an outdoor water heater, Sid. I never heard of that before but it does sound like a smart strategy! Hybrid water heaters (solar + gas or electric tank system) are supposed to be very energy efficient, so if you're interested in purchasing one, I'd wholeheartedly encourage you to do so. The second type of water heater you mentioned probably falls into the tankless category, which could save energy and money if it uses gas to operate. If it's an electric version, it might not be as energy-efficient.

    • Om Paramapoonya profile imageAUTHOR

      Om Paramapoonya 

      5 years ago

      @CSCZCZ - Thanks! Glad you found these tips and info helpful.

      @adjkp - I've heard about Solahart water heaters quite a bit. Great products. You made an excellent decision!

    • ImKarn23 profile image

      Karen Silverman 

      5 years ago

      My buddy made his hot water heaters more efficient - he puts a heat trap on the hot water outlet pipe at the top of the hot water tank. Its basically just a loop on the line that exits the tank so that the heat doesn't travel the full length of the pipe.

      He says 'good hub'...'very informative'..

      I say 'd'uh'....

    • healthylife2 profile image

      Healthy Life 

      5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Thanks for this information. We are talking about getting a separate water heater that is more efficient and would enable two people to shower at the same time. It's great to know it will also help the environment.Congratulations on Hub of the Day!

    • janderson99 profile image

      Dr. John Anderson 

      5 years ago from Australia on Planet Water

      why don't you choose a better photograph - the one you shows is busted with tiles coming off the roof!

    • astonerattnet profile image

      astonerattnet 

      5 years ago from South Central PA

      We have an instantaneous hot water heater and would love to add a solar component to it. Love the unending supply of hot water.

    • profile image

      gfcampbell 

      5 years ago

      Thanks for the information. Cannot replace old gas fired water heater right now but I am going to wrap my old one today.

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 

      5 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Thanks, Om, and congratulations on Hub of the Day! I've been wondering about these options for quite a while. It's good to get them laid out.

      One note - if you have an outdoor water heater, like the one in your photo, you can paint it black. Then the sun directly on the heater will keep it hotter.

      I'd be interested to know your thoughts on two items:

      - using solar to pre-heat the water into a standard water heater to reduce costs (a double-tank system)

      - something I heard about but don't know the name of where, at the faucet, you press a button that runs a pump that feeds hot water through the pipe without wasting it. About 10 seconds later, completely hot water comes out.

      Thanks for your great research!

    • adjkp25 profile image

      David 

      5 years ago from Northern California

      We live in the USA and have a Solahart water heater with an electric backup. We love the fact that we turn it off completely during the hot summer months here in California and let the sun take care of all of our water heating needs.

      Congrats on the HOTD

    • CZCZCZ profile image

      CZCZCZ 

      5 years ago from Oregon

      This was an interesting read thanks. I have been looking at different tank less options and will make sure to include gas options for our situation. Congrats on getting HOTD!

    • Om Paramapoonya profile imageAUTHOR

      Om Paramapoonya 

      6 years ago

      I hope so, too. I can't afford to buy a solar water heater right now, either. Thanks for the comment and vote, Peggy. :)

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Great and informative article about different types of water heaters. It would be wonderful to have the solar option. Maybe by the time we need to change ours, they will become even more affordable. Up and useful ratings!

    • Om Paramapoonya profile imageAUTHOR

      Om Paramapoonya 

      6 years ago

      hehehe Yeah, it's a pigsty because a pig lives in it! Too bad I can't kick him out. He's my beloved boyfriend. :)

    • Mrs. Menagerie profile image

      Mrs. Menagerie 

      6 years ago from The Zoo

      Awesome ...and I 'm still laughing about your pigsty caption ...so funny.

    • Om Paramapoonya profile imageAUTHOR

      Om Paramapoonya 

      6 years ago

      Thanks. I'm glad you found this useful and interesting, prasetio. :)

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 

      6 years ago from malang-indonesia

      This was another great hub from you. Unfortunately, I don't have this stuff in my house. But thanks for share with us. I learn much about water heater from you. Vote up and useful. Cheers...

      Prasetio

    • Om Paramapoonya profile imageAUTHOR

      Om Paramapoonya 

      6 years ago

      @Cardisa - Yeah, gas-powered tankless water heaters are better than the electric models. Great choice!

      @anglnwu - Yes, you absolutely should talk that stubborn hubby of yours into insulating the water heater for more energy saving. lol

      @Simone - Wow you childhood home was really cool. I've been dreaming of getting a solar water heater myself. Right now I'm just using a conventional water heater. the tank is huge! It's new and quite energy efficient, though.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      My childhood house had a solar water heater and it saved us a lot of money! I currently have an energy efficient water heater that just heats water on demand and am pretty happy with it. I love your tip about improving the efficiency of your existing heater though- I had no idea that the heat loss accounted for as much as 30% of energy used! Yikes!

      Thanks for putting together the great Hub!

    • anglnwu profile image

      anglnwu 

      6 years ago

      Such an informative hub. Eco-friendly heater is defintely the way to go but in the meantime, maybe, I'll consider the water heater insulation blanket. Rated up.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      6 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi OM, first of all the prices are pretty reasonable. I personally prefer the tankless gas heater. Thanks for the information.

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