Renewable Energy

How to Choose the Right Electric Water Heater for Your Needs


  1. Introduction to Electric Water Heaters
    • Overview of how they work
    • Benefits over gas heaters
  2. Storage vs. Tankless Electric Heaters
    • Storage tank operation
    • Tankless on-demand operation
    • Comparing factors
  3. Key Specifications to Consider
    • Tank size
    • Heating element wattage
    • Efficiency ratings
  4. Installation Location Considerations
    • Proximity to fixtures
    • Indoor vs. garage/basement
    • Space requirements
  5. Features to Evaluate
    • Digital controls and wifi
    • Multiple heating elements
    • Warranty period
  6. Sizing Your Electric Water Heater
    • Household size
    • Peak demand
    • Allow for future needs
  7. Comparing Brands and Models
    • Leading manufacturers
    • Build quality and materials
    • Reputation and reliability
  8. New vs. Used Electric Water Heater
    • Cost savings with used
    • Risks and unknown history
  9. Electric Hookup and Wiring
    • Dedicated 220V circuit
    • GFCI requirements
    • Follow electrical code
  10. Removing an Old Water Heater
  • Turn off and disconnect
  • Drain tank
  • Cap lines and dispose
  1. Installing the New Unit
  • Unpack and position
  • Anchor to wall
  • Connect plumbing and electrical
  1. Safety Tips and Precautions
  • Proper grounding
  • Avoid electric shock
  • Leak monitoring
  1. Routine Maintenance
  • Flush mineral deposits
  • Inspect anode rod
  • Check seals and pipes
  1. Troubleshooting Common Issues
  • Not heating properly
  • Leaking tanks
  • Tripping breaker
  1. Saving on Energy Costs
  • Insulate tank
  • Lower thermostat
  • Limit heating element usage

How to Choose the Right Electric Water Heater for Your Needs

Electric water heaters provide an efficient, cost-effective way to keep your household supplied with continuous hot water. But with different types, capacities, and features available, choosing the ideal model for your home can get confusing. This guide breaks down how to select the perfect electric water heater.

Introduction to Electric Water Heaters

Electric water heaters work by using heating elements to heat water stored in an insulated tank or generated on demand. Electricity provides a clean, easily controlled heat source. Benefits over gas heaters include:

  • No risk of carbon monoxide
  • No combustion gases or exhaust venting needed
  • Easier installation in any location
  • Lower operating costs in some areas

Let’s explore the options for putting electricity to work and delivering reliable hot water.

Storage vs Tankless Electric Heaters

There are two primary types – storage and tankless:

Storage Tank Water Heaters

These contain a large insulated tank that continuously keeps water heated by electric elements ready for use. Recovery time is needed to reheat water after draws. Storage heaters are less expensive initially.

Tankless/On-Demand Electric Heaters

Heating occurs instantly as water flows through the unit. This provides unlimited hot water on demand without a tank. However, higher flow rates are needed to activate heating elements. Tankless costs more upfront but saves space.

Key factors when choosing include upfront cost, hot water needs, efficiency, and maintenance.

Key Specifications to Consider

These specifications impact performance:

Tank Size

Storage water heater capacity ranges from 20-80+ gallons. Right-size your tank to your household. Too large wastes energy and money.

Heating Element Wattage

Elements ranging from 1,500W to 5,500W+ heat the water. Higher wattages recover faster but cost more to operate.

Efficiency Ratings

Look for the Energy Factor (EF) rating. Higher EF numbers indicate better efficiency and lower operating costs.

Consider tank size, power, and efficiency together to determine the best unit.

Installation Location Considerations

Ideal installation locations include:

Proximity to Fixtures

Minimize piping distance and heat loss by installing near taps and showers. Basements or garages allow this.

Indoor vs Garage/Basement

Unfinished areas protect against leaks. But finished spaces allow more effortless adjustment of settings.

Space Requirements

Measure the area to ensure adequate space. Allow 18-24 inches clearance for servicing. Also, factor entry/exit routes.

Installation location impacts convenience, operating costs, and maintenance access.

Features to Evaluate

Modern electric water heaters add convenience and customization:

Digital Controls and wifi

Enable programming on/off times and temperatures. Monitoring remotely via smartphone.

Multiple Heating Elements

Allows adjusting power level. Utilize only as much electricity as needed.

Warranty Period

Aim for at least 6-10 years on the tank. Longer warranties signify trusted quality.

Factor benefits against added costs when deciding on features.

Sizing Your Electric Water Heater

Choosing the right tank size or flow rate is critical:

Household Size

More prominent families and higher demand require 40-50+ gallon tanks. Smaller households may need only 20-30 gallons.

Peak Demand

Account for high hot water use periods like mornings to ensure sufficient capacity.

Allow for Future Needs

Anticipate needs increasing over your ownership and size accordingly. It’s cheaper than upgrading later.

Take the time to calculate your family’s hot water requirements accurately.

Comparing Brands and Models

While specifications are key, also research brands and quality:

Leading Manufacturers

Look at Rheem, AO Smith, Bradford White, Rinnai, Bosch, and others with solid reputations in water heating.

Build Quality and Materials

Compare warranties, tank construction, and element quality between brands.

Reputation and Reliability

Read reviews and talk to contractors to confirm reliability, lifespan, and customer satisfaction.

Paying a little more upfront for a trustworthy brand often pays off long-term.

New vs Used Electric Water Heater

You can save with a used water heater, but consider:

Cost Savings with Used

Gently used electric water heaters that still have life left cost 50-75% less than new ones.

Risks and Unknown History

Difficulty determining maintenance history or leaks. Older tanks may fail sooner.

Weigh risks vs the lower price when going for a used electric heater.

Electric Hookup and Wiring

Electrical installation is critical:

Dedicated 220V Circuit

Electric heaters require their dedicated 220V breaker and wiring sized for the amperage rating.

GFCI Requirements

New codes often require having GFCI protection on the circuit. Check local regulations.

Follow Electrical Code

All wiring methods and materials must follow national and local electrical codes for safety. Don’t take shortcuts.

Consult a qualified electrician if you have any doubts about the electrical specifics.

Removing an Old Water Heater

When replacing your water heater:

Turn Off the Power and Water Supply

Locate shutoffs and turn off breaker, water valves, and water heater power switch.

Drain Tank

Hook up the hose and drain spigot to remove the remaining water from the old tank.

Cap Lines and Disconnect

Cap water lines to prevent leaks. Disconnect and remove the old heater.

Take precautions against spills and leaks when removing old units.

Installing the New Unit

To install the new water heater:

Unpack and Position

Unbox the new unit and carefully move it into position. Double-check measurements.

Anchor to Wall

Securely anchor to wall studs using straps or bolts to avoid tipping or shifting.

Connect Plumbing and Electrical

If needed, run new pipe and fittings to cold inlet and hot water outlet. Connect wiring.

Follow manufacturer instructions closely, especially for condensing and tankless models.

Safety Tips and Precautions

Practice safety during all installation and maintenance:

Proper Grounding

Ensure the electrical system is well-grounded to prevent shocks.

Avoid Electric Shock

Never touch electrical components with wet skin or standing in water.

Leak Monitoring

Place drip pans underneath and check for leaks initially and routinely. Shut off the water if leaks occur.

Routine Maintenance

Regular maintenance improves safety and efficiency:

Flush Mineral Deposits

Periodically flush the tank and piping to clear scale buildup.

Inspect Anode Rod

Check the sacrificial anode rod which protects the tank. Replace if deteriorated.

Check Seals and Pipes

Inspect plumbing seals and inlet/outlet pipes for leaks or corrosion.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

If problems arise, check:

Not Heating Properly

Insufficient hot water points to elements needing replacement. Check the power supply also.

Leaking Tanks

Once tanks start leaking, repairs aren’t worthwhile. Time to replace the unit.

Tripping Breaker

If the breaker trips repeatedly, ensure the circuit wiring is adequate for the amp load.

Know when issues necessitate calling a repair pro versus DIY troubleshooting.

Saving on Energy Costs

Reduce operating costs by:

Insulating Tank

Adding an insulation wrap reduces standby heat loss significantly.

Lower Thermostat

Set only as high as needed. Each 10°F reduction saves 3-5% on heating costs.

Limit Heating Element Use

Switch off elements using vacation mode or on-demand recirculation pumps.

With some savvy efficiency tweaks, you can cut the costs of electric hot water heating.

Choosing the perfect electric water heater ensures your family stays comfortable while saving energy and hassle. Follow this guide to make the best selection! Let us know if you have any other hot water questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What size electric water heater is best for a family of 4?

For a family of four, a 40 or 50-gallon electric water heater is typically recommended to provide adequate capacity. Calculate your peak demand to size appropriately.

How long should an electric water heater last?

The typical lifespan of a residential electric water heater is 8-12 years. Higher-end models may reach 15+ years with proper maintenance.

Can I install an electric water heater myself?

Installing an electric water heater involves both plumbing and electrical work best left to professionals unless you have expertise in both areas.

Why does my electric water heater make popping or cracking noises?

Mineral deposits cause this in the tank. Try flushing the water heater to clear built-up sediment and scale.

How do I reset a tripped breaker for my electric water heater?

Switch the breaker entirely to off, wait a minute, then switch back on. Call an electrician to diagnose causes like overload or shorts if it trips again.


Engr. Muhammad Ali Raza

Hello, I'm Engr. Ali Raza, an Electrical Engineering Professional with a passion for innovation and a commitment to excellence. I completed my electrical engineering degree in 2017 and have since been actively engaged in the field, where I've had the opportunity to apply my knowledge and skills to real-world projects. Over the years, I've gained valuable experience in Engineering field, allowing me to contribute effectively to the development and implementation of electrical systems and solutions. I thrive in dynamic and challenging environments, constantly seeking opportunities to expand my expertise and make a meaningful impact in the world of Electrical Engineering.

2 thoughts on “How to Choose the Right Electric Water Heater for Your Needs

  • florida contractors

    Your blog is quickly becoming my go-to resource. Keep up the fantastic work!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *