Water Heaters: Buyer’s Guide

Buyer’s Guide

Once you have decided which type of water heater works best for your home, take the time to select the most efficient option in your budget. Though more efficient models might cost more initially, they can lead to significant savings over the course of a water heater’s 10- to 15-year lifespan.

EF: The Energy Factor

One of the first things to look for in a model is Energy Factor (EF). A higher EF signifies a more efficient water heater. 

 

Gas Water Heaters
Type Energy Factor (EF)* Things to Consider

Storage Tank

0.65

Also look for direct vented models with sealed combustion.

Tankless or Demand (no pilot)

0.82

If your water outlets are dispersed throughout your home rather than all near each other, you should consider purchasing multiple demand heaters to place at the outlets. This will prevent having to wait for the cold water to flush out when you turn on the hot water faucet.

Gas Condensing

0.86

Very efficient, yet it is a new technology and more expensive than more traditional models.

If you have an electric water heater, check to see if you have a gas line, which will allow you to replace your electric water heater with a more cost-efficient gas model. 

Electric Water Heaters
Type Energy Factor (EF)** Things to Consider

Storage Tank

0.95

When installing your new electric storage tank, also install bottom boards or rigid insulation to prevent heat loss through the floor.

Heat Pump

2.2

These are more efficient than electric resistance water heaters because they extract heat from the air or ground with electricity rather than heating the water itself.1They also dehumidify the outside air, which can be an added benefit for humid climates or basements.

* ACEEE. (2011). Consumer Resources:  Water Heating. Retrieved October 5, 2012, from http://aceee.org/node/3068
** ACEEE. (2011). Consumer Resources:  Water Heating. Retrieved October 5, 2012, from http://aceee.org/node/3068

 

Look for the Label: EnergyGuide

Most major appliances must meet specific energy standards outlined by the U.S. Department of Energy. Their energy use and efficiency ratings are displayed on the yellow EnergyGuide label, which compares the estimated annual operating cost with similar models and states how much energy the appliance is expected to use annually. The EnergyGuide label will also display the ENERGY STAR® logo, if the particular model qualifies.

EnergyGuide label compares the estimated annual operating cost with similar models

You’ll see an estimated yearly operating cost on a scale showing a range for similar models. The amount is based on the national average rate for electricity. Look for models with the lowest operating costs.

You’ll also find the estimated annual energy consumption for this model based on typical use. Multiply this by your local electricity rate to get a better estimate of your actual operating cost.

Look for the Logo: ENERGY STAR®

ENERGY STAR® is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. The program sets minimum efficiency standards for appliances and building products and recognizes and labels the top performing models on the market. The standards are more rigorous than federal standards, and vary by product category2. A list of qualified televisions can be found online at energystar.gov.

Use & Care

Proper maintenance, placement and installation of your home’s water heater will maximize efficiency measures. Learn more about Water Heater Use & Care, where to start, and how to care for water heaters for the most savings.

Overview

If you’re thinking about making efficiency improvements, the Water Heaters Overview is a great place to get acquainted with the basics and your options, before you buy or install a water heating system in your home. 

1 Goorskey, Sarah, Yang, G., Smith, A. (2004). Home Energy Briefs: #5 Water Heating. Snowmass, CO: Rocky Mountain Institute. Retrieved October 5, 2012, from rmi.org (p. 4).
2 ENERGY STAR®. How A Product Earns the ENERGY STAR Label. Retrieved October 4, 2012, from energystar.gov

This program is funded by California utility customers and administered by Southern California Edison under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission.