Electric Hot Water Heaters Buying Guide (with Pros and Cons)

If you’re considering an electric hot water heater for your home, you’re not alone. These units are a popular choice due to their efficiency, ease of installation, and low maintenance requirements.

But with so many models and brands on the market, how do you choose the right one for your needs?

Electric water heater
Electric Water Heater (photo: hotwatertalk.com)

Our comprehensive review covers everything from types to popular brands and models, as well as advantages, disadvantages, and key factors to consider when selecting a unit.

We also discuss the main parts, potential problems and how to repair them, and offer tips on selecting the correct size, so you can make an informed decision and enjoy reliable and efficient residential water heating.

Electric Hot Water Heaters: Benefits and Considerations

Selecting Tips

Many HVAC equipment manufacturers and dealers offer a range of electric hot water heaters in the US and Canada, including tankless or on-demand and storage tank types. These models vary in size from 2 to over 80 gallons, with point-of-use, Lowboy, tabletop, and large capacity cylinders available.

For whole-house water heating and multiple fixtures, the most popular models are electric hot water heaters with storage tanks from 30 to 60 gallons. Electric heaters are easy to use, require no venting or gas supply, and are more affordable and cheaper to install than gas types.

What Makes Electric Tank-Type Water Heaters Popular?

Electric hot water heaters with the storage tank have been a popular choice for residential water heating in North America for many years, thanks to their reliable and proven technology. They work by heating and storing water inside an insulated tank until it is needed. They are particularly recommended in areas where natural gas is not available and for supplementing solar water heating systems.

Another advantage of electric tank-type water heaters is that they are easier and cheaper to install compared to gas-powered options since they do not require venting or gas supply. The design is simple, consisting of a tank surrounded by foam insulation and one or two heating elements.

To get the best electric model, look for models with a longer warranty, typically 12 years, and Incoloy heating elements with protection against dry-firing. The powered anode or commercial grade types are recommended, as they come with special dip tubes for self-cleaning and reduced sediment build-up.

Rheem’s Marathon 50-gallon is a top-rated electric hot water heater with excellent features such as a non-metallic tank that eliminates corrosion, leaks, and rusty water, as well as the need for an anode rod. It also comes with a limited lifetime warranty.

Westinghouse’s 80-gallon electric hot water heater is another popular choice, with its stainless steel tank and limited lifetime warranty making it the best-selling model on Amazon.com.

Best Selling Models

  • Rheem Marathon 50-gal
  • Westinghouse 80-gal *
  • AO Smith PXNS50 50-gal *

* (available on amazon)

Electric Tankless Water Heaters

Electric tankless water heaters provide endless hot water on demand to one or two fixtures and have a sleek design, taking up minimal wall space. While they can be pricier than tank-type models, they typically reduce energy consumption by up to one-third.

If you opt for a tankless model, ensure that your home’s electric panel is properly sized to support it.

Electric tankless hot water heaters are a favorite among homeowners due to their compact size, endless supply of hot water, and high efficiency of up to 99%. Installed primarily under the sink, they deliver hot water instantly to one or multiple fixtures.

For instance, the Tempra Plus 24 by the reputable German manufacturer Stiebel Eltron is an advanced model available on Amazon that features a smart microprocessor, providing a steady temperature even if the water flow varies.

Another popular model is the EcoSmart ECO 27, available on Amazon, which boasts self-modulating technology, 27 kW of power, and up to 6 gallons of hot water delivery (enough for homes with up to 5 fixtures). It also comes with a limited lifetime warranty, making it a reliable and smart choice for homeowners.

Top Selling Models

  • EcoSmart ECO 27 *
  • Titan SCR2 *
  • Stiebel Eltron Tempra 24 *

* (available on amazon)

Heat Pumps (Hybrids)

Heat pumps, also known as hybrid electric water heaters, are among the most energy-efficient options available on the market and are also compliant with Energy Star ratings. By taking advantage of tax breaks and incentives offered by government authorities and utility companies, users can save significantly on their energy bills.

One recommended model is the 80-gal heat pump from GE (available on Amazon) that has received positive reviews from hundreds of homeowners and builders. This model boasts a high first-hour delivery of 67 gallons and an ultra energy efficiency rating of around 3, which is three times higher than standard electric hot water heaters, resulting in savings of up to $490 per year for households with 3-4 family members.

Things to Consider When Buying an Electric Water Heater

When choosing a new electric water heater, there are several important factors to consider.

First, consider the hot water needs of your household. If you have a large family with teenagers and small children, make sure to choose a heater with a high recovery rate and first-hour rating to meet all your hot water needs. Look for useful specs on the energy guide label, including the estimated yearly energy cost.

Next, consider the storage tank volume. Popular sizes include 30, 40, 50, and 60 gallons, and the size you choose should be based on the size of your household.

Energy efficiency is also an important factor to consider. Look for high-efficiency models or those with lower standby heat loss, as they will save you more on energy costs over time.

Finally, consider the purchase and installation costs. While more advanced electric hot water heaters, particularly high-efficiency models like hybrids, can be expensive, they will ultimately save you the most in terms of energy costs over the long term. Additionally, be sure to research tax breaks and incentives offered by government authorities and utility companies to maximize your savings.


  • There are four different types of electric hot water heaters that you can buy: tank-type, tankless, heat pumps, and those that work in conjunction with solar. 
  • Although tank-type heaters have a low recovery rate, they have the advantage of high tank capacity.
  • They are also easy to install and can be installed in many areas of a home, including close to the actual point of use. Find out how to install an electric water heater.
  • Various sizes and models. 
  • Since no venting is needed, there are no exhaust gases to worry about.
  • The cost is significantly lower than on the gas heaters.
  • Longer service life. 
  • Electric hot water heaters are also energy-efficient, with efficiency rates up to 99% for standard types and over 2.5-3 for heat pumps.
  • Electricity reaches more households than gas.
  • Electric tankless water heaters are one-third of the size of gas heating systems.
  • Very little maintenance needed, easy to clean.
  • Much easier to diagnose the problem, troubleshoot, and repair. Find out how to troubleshoot an electric water heater.
  • They are safe – safer than gas types.


  • Electric tankless water heaters can be more expensive to operate than gas heaters due to the higher cost of electricity.
  • They have a relatively low recovery rate compared to other types of water heaters, which means they can take longer to heat water to the desired temperature.
  • Electric tankless water heaters are high-power appliances that draw a lot of electrical current, especially when hot water is used during peak periods. As a result, their operating cost can increase significantly.
  • Even though the installation cost may be lower, it is important to ensure that there is adequate electrical supply to support the high output of the unit.
  • One major issue with electric hot water heaters is standby heat loss, which occurs as heat escapes through the tank’s surface even when hot water is not being used.

Main Parts

  • The electric hot water heater has a cylindrical storage tank that comes in typical sizes of 40, 50, 60, and 80 gallons for residential use.
  • The steel tank is lined with a bonded glass liner to prevent rust.
  • Insulation is used to keep the heat inside the tank for longer.
  • The heater has a cold water inlet and a hot water outlet or pipes.
  • Thermostats are used to control the water temperature inside the tank.
  • There are usually two heating elements, one upper and one lower, to heat the water.
  • A drain valve is provided to drain the tank.
  • A temperature and pressure relief valve (TPR) is included as a safety feature.
  • A sacrificial anode rod is used to prevent corrosion, although some models have a non-sacrificial powered anode.

How Electric Hot Water Heaters Work

The water heating process in tank-type electrical hot water heaters is very simple.

  • Cold water enters the tank through a dip tube and fills it from the bottom up.
  • There are usually two heating elements used for heating; one at the top and one at the bottom of the tank, both submerged in the water.
  • The top thermostat controls the upper heating element and turns it on when needed to heat the water.
  • As the water becomes warmer, the power switches from the upper to the lower heating element, which is controlled by the bottom thermostat. 
  • A high-limit switch acts as a safety device and cuts power to the heating elements if the water becomes too hot. 
  • When a hot water tap is opened, hot water is drawn from the top of the tank while cold water enters the tank from the bottom, triggering the thermostats to start the water heating process again.
  • If there is excessive pressure in the tank, a pressure relief valve opens and releases hot water to reduce the pressure.

The thermostats control the heating elements by sensing changes in water temperature and closing or opening to allow current flow.

The current passes through electrical-resistance heating elements, power is delivered, and it heats the water to the correct pre-set temperature.

The heating elements are very efficient, providing about 99% of the available heat to the surrounding water.

On some tanks, the thermostat has a mark showing a maximum temperature and where to set the temperature that provides energy savings and scald protection.

Money-saving tips:

To save on energy costs, consider placing the tank over a layer of thermal insulation and insulating water pipes with foam sleeves.

It is worth knowing that when you reduce the temperature setting by 10 degrees F, you can save between 2-5% of your electricity costs.


The question is: should you heat your water with gas, electricity, or another fuel source?

Natural gas and electricity are the most common and affordable fuel sources in North America. Electricity has the advantage of being available in almost every home, while getting a natural gas line requires a substantial investment, and propane gas costs more.

If you want a reliable water heater that won’t break often, doesn’t pollute, doesn’t require a high initial investment, is cheaper to install, and requires little maintenance, consider buying an electric water heater.

And if you want to save even more while being energy efficient, consider buying one of the hybrids/heat pumps that are Energy Star compliant.


Are Electric Hot Water Heaters Efficient?

Electric hot water heaters can have different energy efficiency ratings measured by their Uniform Energy Factor (UEF). Highly efficient models with an EF of 0.95 or higher can save about 15% on water heating costs compared to typical heaters with an UEF of around 0.90.
While electric heaters can be more energy-efficient than typical gas water heaters, they cost more to operate.

Can Electric Hot Water Heaters Leak Carbon Monoxide?

Electric hot water heaters do not produce carbon monoxide because they do not burn fossil fuel like natural gas, propane, or oil water heaters.
However, they can still pose other risks such as electrical shock or burns, especially if they are not installed or maintained properly.

Are Electric Hot Water Heaters Vented?

Electric hot water heaters do not require venting because they do not produce combustion gases. Instead, they use heating elements or coils to heat the water directly. This makes them a popular choice for homes without access to natural gas or homes where venting may be difficult or impractical.
However, it’s important to note that if you have a hybrid electric water heater, which combines electric heating elements with a heat pump, it may require venting to remove excess moisture.

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