Given that as much as 25% of household energy costs go to heating water, it makes sense to evaluate various systems with an eye toward saving both energy and money. Here we take a look at some of the water heater options for homeowners to consider.

Storage (Tank) Water Heaters – These are by far the most common type of residential water heater. Once the water in the tank reaches the desired temperature, the heater cycles on and off to maintain the temperature of the water. Most of us know the phenomenon of running out of hot water after family members take one shower after another; this will happen if the tank’s storage capacity is insufficient to meet demand. Whether water is being used or not, the heater must still fire on and off to keep the contents of the tank hot. While tank heaters are an affordable option, it is quite inefficient to keep a tank of water hot all day.

Tankless (Demand) Water Heaters – Rather than being stored in a tank, water is rapidly heated by gas or electricity when the faucet is turned on. Because it reaches the desired temperature so quickly, much less water is wasted while waiting for hot water to flow through the faucet; however, the results are not truly instantaneous. Tankless systems normally cost more up front than a conventional storage water heater, so homeowners should take that into account along with what type, size, and location makes the most sense for them.

Solar Water Heating – This uses the sun’s energy to pre-heat water for the home. The pre-heated water then flows into a solar tank that monitors temperature. Then it’s piped into the regular hot water system, usually a storage water heater. If no water is turned on within a brief period of time, the water circulates through the system again, making it unnecessary to keep a large tank of water constantly hot. The pre-heating is done by one or two solar panels, usually installed on the roof.

With efficiency and decreased energy use as a goal, the best choice of water heater depends on what pencils out in any given home.