An Overview of Water Heater Types for a Home. Benefits and Drawbacks

There are many water heater types and models available today, catering to different needs and applications.

From heating water at home to camping, RV-ing, and marine applications, there is a device suitable for every situation.

Choosing the right type is crucial as water heaters consume about 20% of a home’s energy and operating costs can be high.

Tankless water heater
Tankless water heater (photo:

In this comprehensive review, we will try to find the answer to which water heater types are the best for homes, covering gas, electric, solar-powered, tankless, tank-type, hybrids, boilers, and others.

We will compare and contrast the features, benefits, and drawbacks of each type to help you make an informed decision when purchasing a new or replacing an old water heater.

Additionally, we will provide a list of the top-selling brands to consider when shopping for a water heater. Whether you are looking for a reliable water heating solution for your home or an efficient model for your outdoor adventures, this review has got you covered.

A Review of Water Heater Types Based on the Fuel Source

Gas Water Heater Type


Gas heaters can use both natural gas and propane gas, or LP. Gas appliances are an excellent choice where this energy is available because these are among the most energy-efficient systems – particularly those with condensing technology.

You can choose between the tank and tankless water heater types – and they are both covered in our tankless vs tank-type review. Another important thing is to select the proper venting system; power vent, direct vent, power direct vent, or atmospheric.


  • Fast Heating: Gas water heaters can heat water quickly and have a high recovery rate.
  • Cost-Efficient: Natural gas is often more affordable than electricity, leading to lower operating costs.
  • Reliability: They tend to have a longer lifespan and can consistently provide hot water.


  • Ventilation Requirements: Gas water heaters require proper ventilation, which can complicate the installation process.
  • Environmental Impact: Burning natural gas releases carbon emissions, contributing to air pollution and environmental issues.
  • Ignition Dependency: They rely on electricity for ignition, so they may not function during power outages unless equipped with a backup power source.

Related: Hybrid water heaters vs. gas

Electric Water Heater Type


Electric water heaters are recommended if electricity is the only option, or you just need a unit for one fixture.

Although electric models have higher energy factors than gas-burning units, the cost of using an electric unit in the long run is typically higher due to higher fuel rates, making them more suitable for small jobs or as point-of-use heaters.

For those in need of a water heater for demanding applications, a heat pump or hybrid model is highly recommended. These units have a high energy factor, making them very efficient and able to offset higher fuel costs. Additionally, they are eco-friendly as they produce no direct pollution, providing a greener solution for your water heating needs.


  • Energy Efficiency: Electric water heaters are usually highly efficient, converting almost 99% of the energy into heat for heating water.
  • Installation Flexibility: They are simple and easy to install, making them suitable for various settings as they do not require venting or gas pipes.
  • Reliability: Due to their simplicity, electric water heaters typically have a longer lifespan and require less maintenance.


  • Operating Costs: Electricity costs more than other energy sources, resulting in higher operating expenses.
  • Slower Heating: They may have a slower recovery time compared to some gas-powered models.
  • Environmental Impact: Depending on the electricity source, they can contribute to carbon emissions and environmental concerns.

Solar Water Heater Type


Solar water heaters utilize the energy from the sun to heat water, making them an eco-friendly and cost-effective option for homeowners. With a simple design that can even be made at home, solar water heaters make use of renewable energy that is free, making them an excellent long-term investment.


  • Energy Savings: They harness free, renewable solar energy, leading to significant energy savings for homeowners.
  • Environmentally Friendly: Solar-powered water heaters contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Low Operating Costs: With proper installation, their ongoing operational costs remain low.


  • High Initial Costs: The purchase and installation expenses are relatively high.
  • Weather Dependent: Energy efficiency can decrease on cloudy or rainy days.
  • Space Requirement: They require a substantial amount of space for solar panel installation.

Oil-Fired Water Heaters

The popularity of oil-fired water heaters has decreased with the availability of eco-friendly technology systems, but they were once widely used in residential homes without access to natural gas.

Compared to gas units, oil-fired water heater type have higher upfront costs, require more maintenance, and their emissions can be harmful to the environment.

However, in certain situations such as areas without access to natural gas or older homes with outdated infrastructure, oil-fired water heaters may still be the best option.


  • Energy Efficiency: Oil-fired water heaters can efficiently and quickly heat water.
  • Reliability: Over their long lifespan, they can provide a consistent hot water supply.
  • Independence: They can operate even during power outages since they don’t rely on electricity for ignition.


  • Operating Costs: Oil prices can fluctuate, leading to unexpectedly high operating costs.
  • Environmental Impact: Burning oil releases various pollutants, contributing to air pollution.
  • Fuel Storage: You need to have a dedicated oil tank and secure a steady supply of oil for continuous operation.

Wood-Burning Water Heaters

Wood-fired heaters and furnaces are heating appliances that use wood or wood pellets as an energy source. These appliances can be used for space heating and even cooking, in addition to water heating and preparation.

Wood is a renewable resource, making these water heater types an eco-friendly option for those looking to reduce their carbon footprint.

However, it is important to note that wood-fired heaters require a significant amount of work and maintenance, including regular cleaning and refueling.


  • Fuel Efficiency: These water heaters use wood, a renewable and sometimes freely available energy source.
  • Independent Operation: They can function without electricity, making them suitable for remote or off-grid locations.
  • Cozy Atmosphere: A wood-burning heater can create a warm, cozy ambiance in a home.


  • Required Effort: They demand manual labor, such as sourcing, chopping, and loading the wood.
  • Environmental Impact: Burning wood releases particles and gases that can contribute to air pollution.
  • Maintenance: They require regular cleaning and maintenance to prevent creosote build-up in the chimney and firebox, as well as potential fire hazards.

Selecting Water Heater Types Based on the Size and Technology

Tankless Water Heaters


Tankless water heaters, also known as on-demand water heaters, are a type of water heating system that do not use traditional water storage tanks. Instead, they heat water as needed, providing hot water on demand while reducing energy consumption and heating costs. In addition, they have a longer lifespan and are more environmentally friendly due to reduced gas emissions.

Tankless water heater types are compact yet powerful and are recommended for larger families with a high demand for hot water, or in situations where space is limited.

Most tankless models come equipped with digital displays, diagnostic systems, modulating gas valves, and a variety of safety features.


  • Energy Efficiency: Tankless water heaters only heat water as it’s needed, or on demand, reducing energy consumption and lowering utility bills.
  • Longevity: They typically have a longer lifespan than water tank heaters, with an expected lifespan of around 20 years and a warranty of approximately 15 years.
  • Space-saving: Tankless heaters are compact and can be mounted on a wall, freeing up floor space for other uses.
  • Unlimited Hot Water: As they heat water on demand, you’ll have a continuous supply of hot water for unlimited showers.
  • Prevents Water Damage: Since there is no tank to burst or leak, you’re less likely to experience significant water damage.


  • High Initial Cost: The upfront cost of purchasing and installing a tankless unit is usually higher than that of traditional tank heaters.
  • Limited Flow Rate: While you’ll have an unlimited supply of hot water, the amount of hot water that can be produced at one time is limited. If multiple appliances are demanding hot water simultaneously, it may not meet all the demands. This can be solved by using several units connected together.
  • Complex Installation: Installation can be complex and costly, often requiring a new electric panel, venting, or gas lines.
  • Inconsistent Temperatures: There can be fluctuations in water temperature, known as a “cold-water sandwich,” when there are repeated on-and-off uses. Note that tankless units often require a minimum flow rate to initiate the heating process.
  • Maintenance: Due to their delicate construction, tankless water heaters require regular maintenance, such as yearly descaling, to keep them running efficiently.

The most popular tankless brands are Rinnai and Takagi.

Storage Water Tanks


Water tank heaters are the most popular home heating systems. They store hot water inside metal tanks, ensuring it is always readily available for use, even when you’re away. Popular heaters come in sizes ranging from 30 to 100 gallons, making them suitable for whole-house water heating. They are also an excellent budget-friendly option due to their lower purchase and installation costs.

For homeowners looking for high efficiency and better performance, condensing models are an ideal choice. They operate by using the exhaust gases to heat the water, resulting in increased energy efficiency.


  • Lower Initial Cost: The upfront cost of a tank-type water heater is typically lower than that of tankless and other types, making it an affordable option for budget-oriented families.
  • Reliable: Traditional tank-type water heaters have been providing reliable water heating for decades.
  • Easy to Replace: If a tank-type water heater breaks down, replacing it with a similar model is relatively easy in terms of installation, space, and cost.
  • Works in Power Outages: If you have a natural gas or propane-powered water heater, you’ll still have hot water during a power outage.
  • Allows Simultaneous Usage: The water heater can easily handle multiple appliances without sacrificing comfort.


  • Limited Supply: Once the hot water in the tank is used up, it takes time to heat a new batch of water, which might be inconvenient for some.
  • Less Energy Efficient: Tank-type water heaters can experience standby heat loss because the tanks always have to keep the water hot, resulting in energy waste, higher energy usage, and higher energy bills.
  • Larger Space Requirement: Due to their bulky size, tank-type water heaters take up more space, making them less suitable for smaller houses and apartments.
  • Decreased Longevity: Traditional water heaters typically don’t last as long as tankless models. You may need to replace them every 10 to 15 years, depending on the element quality and usage. The longest warranty I’ve come across for traditional water heaters is 12 years.
  • Potential for Water Damage: Because they store large volumes of water, there’s a risk of water damage from leaks, especially if the tank bursts.

Some of the most popular water heater types come from the manufacturers RheemAO Smith, and Bradford White.

Electric Heat Pumps – Hybrids


The electric heat pump water heaters, also known as hybrids, are highly efficient and cost-effective heating devices that combine two technologies. They typically resemble electric water heaters and are equipped with two heating elements. The heat pump and advanced electronics are located on top of the unit, which extracts heat from the air and transfers it to the water, resulting in ultra-high energy efficiency. This unique technology does not generate heat but moves it from one place to another, making them the only electric units that are Energy Star approved.

Hybrid is a type of water heater that is the most energy-efficient, making it a great investment for homeowners looking to save on energy costs in the long run. In addition to their higher efficiency, they also have a lower impact on the environment compared to traditional electric water heaters.


  • Energy Efficiency: Hybrid water heaters are highly efficient, using warm surrounding air to heat the water. This results in significant energy savings.
  • Environmentally Friendly: They produce fewer pollutants since they use less electricity, making them an eco-friendly choice.
  • Cost Savings: Although the upfront cost is higher, their superior energy efficiency leads to significantly lower energy bills.
  • High Recovery Rate: Hybrid water heaters can heat a larger amount of water more quickly than standard electric models, ensuring a high rate of hot water delivery.
  • Programmable: Many hybrid water heaters come with advanced technology and programmable settings or modes that adapt to your usage patterns, helping homeowners save energy when there is no demand for hot water.


  • High Initial Costs: Purchasing and installing a hybrid water heater typically costs more than traditional tank or tankless models.
  • Installation Requirements: Hybrid water heaters have specific installation requirements, including adequate air and room space for the unit and the need for a condensate drain.
  • Noise: While not excessively loud, a hybrid water heater generates more noise than a traditional tank water heater, primarily due to an electric blower.
  • Potential Need for Auxiliary Heat: In colder climates with significant drops in outside air temperature, the efficiency of these heaters can decrease, potentially necessitating an auxiliary source of heating, such as electric resistance heaters.
  • Maintenance: Hybrid water heaters might require more maintenance compared to other types. Regular tasks may include cleaning the air filter, checking the fan, and occasionally defrosting the system.

The most popular hybrid brands in the market today include Rheem, AO Smith, and Stiebel Eltron.

Related: Hybrid water heaters vs. tankless

Exploring Additional Water Heater Varieties

High Efficiency Water Heaters

In recent years, there has been a surge in popularity for high-efficiency water heaters, thanks to their ability to optimize energy savings, provide superior performance, and reduce emissions.

These products often bear the Energy Star certification, indicated by the blue tag logo, which is recognized worldwide as a symbol for energy efficiency.

Condensing Water Heaters


The article on water heater type also covers state-of-the-art appliances, such as ultra-efficient condensing models.

Condensing appliances are energy-efficient systems designed to operate with over 90% efficiency while minimizing energy loss. Due to their advanced condensing technology, professional installation, and regular servicing requirements, these units are more expensive than non-condensing units.

They are particularly popular in Europe, with brands such as Vaillant, Buderus, and Junkers, and are gaining popularity in North America, with brands such as Rinnai, Noritz, Navien, Bosch, and Weil-Mclain.

RV Water Heaters


RV water heaters are a crucial component of any RV or camper, providing hot water for cooking, cleaning, and bathing while on the road. Whether you’re camping in the great outdoors or traveling across the country, having access to hot water is essential for a comfortable and convenient experience.

In this guide, we’ll explore the different types of RV water heaters available, their features and benefits, and what factors to consider when choosing the right one for your needs.

Portable Models

Portable hot water heaters are a convenient and versatile solution for outdoor enthusiasts, adventurers, and homeowners looking for a quick and reliable source of hot water. These compact and lightweight devices are designed to provide hot water on demand, making them perfect for a range of outdoor activities, such as camping, hiking, boating, fishing, hunting, and surfing.

One of the primary advantages is their ease of use. Most models require nothing more than a propane tank or a rechargeable battery for operation, making them ideal for remote locations or areas without access to electricity or natural gas.

Indirect Water Heaters

If you’re looking for an efficient way to heat your home’s water supply, combining a furnace or boiler with a high-efficient storage tank can be an excellent solution. These systems, known as indirect hot water heaters, can provide reliable and efficient hot water without the need for a separate water heater.

Atmospherically-Vented Water Heaters

Atmospherically vented water heaters are the simplest and cheapest type of all gas heaters. They are equipped with the draft hood and metal vent, usually connected to the chimney, which transfers the exhaust gases from the heater to the outside atmosphere. Since the hot exhaust gas is lighter than the surrounding air, it rises through the vent and out of the house.

Direct-Vent Water Heaters

Direct vent water heaters are a great option for homeowners who want to install a gas unit in a room with inadequate ventilation or no chimney. These units use a sealed combustion system, drawing air from outside the house and expelling fumes outside through a dedicated vent. This eliminates the need for an electric blower, making direct vent water heaters more energy-efficient and cost-effective.

Power-Vent Water Heaters

The power vent units are similar to direct vent models, but they use an electrically operated powered vent (blower) to assist in exhausting the combustion gases to the outside mechanically.

Tankless Coil

tankless coil doesn’t use a storage tank for heating as the water is heated directly inside the boiler. It is commonly used for home space heating, with the option to heat water. These units are most efficient during colder months when used for space heating, but are less efficient during warmer months as the boiler is used less frequently.

Marine Water Heaters

Check out our review of the top marine hot water heaters manufacturers, like Atwood, Isotemp, Webasto, Torrid, and many more. These products are specifically designed for boaters and sailors to enjoy hot showers and other tasks where hot water is required.

Point-of-Use Type (POU) Water Heaters

Point-of-use water heaters are small electric heating devices designed for water heating at the point of service, and they are often installed under the kitchen sink.

They are also known as under-sink water heaters and are very popular in residential applications as they provide instant hot water without taking up a lot of space.

The most popular tankless electric models come from EcoSmart, Eemax, Rheem, Stiebel Eltron, and Titan.

How to Choose a Water Heater: Things to Consider

When buying a new water heater, there are a few important factors you should consider to ensure that you are making the best possible purchase.

Here are some things to look for:

Fuel Type

When purchasing a new water heater, it is important to select the appropriate fuel source and compare the fuel prices.

The most common fuel types are gas and electricity, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

We recommend considering natural gas as it is typically the most cost-effective option. However, if natural gas is not available in your area, propane can be a viable alternative that can be delivered to your home.

While solar energy is a free and renewable source of energy, it is not efficient in all locations and is highly dependent on weather conditions.

For electric-powered models, we suggest considering heat pumps or hybrids as they operate with ultra-efficiency.

Oil-fired water heaters are also available and can be a cost-effective solution for some homeowners due to their energy efficiency and fast heating capabilities. However, they use older technology, are costly, and require more cleaning and maintenance.

Price and Operating Costs

When choosing a water heater, you have the option to purchase an economy model or a more expensive high-efficiency or condensing heater. For example, condensing tankless water heaters are some of the most advanced types available and utilize the latest technology.

A good example is Rinnai RUC98, which comes with innovative features that provide superior efficiency with a rating of 0.96, resulting in significant savings and reduced emissions.

After reviewing many types and models, we recommend focusing on Energy Star products to take advantage of potential savings, government grants, and lower gas emissions. Choosing an Energy Star product can not only help you save money on your energy bills but also benefit the environment by reducing your carbon footprint.

Water Heater Size

Before purchasing a water heater, it’s important to consider the capacity needed to meet your household’s hot water demands.

Tank-type heaters come in various sizes, ranging from 2 to 100 gallons. A typical household with 4-5 family members may require a tank size of 50-65 gallons. It’s also important to consider the First Hour Rating (FHR) and recovery rate when selecting a tank-type heater. For more information on sizing a water tank heater, refer to our guide.

Tankless water heaters, on the other hand, heat water on-demand and do not store hot water in a tank. The capacity of a tankless heater is measured in Gallons Per Minute (GPM). Use this article to learn how to size a tankless water heater.

Point-of-use models are small, while tankless heaters are medium in size and storage or tank-type heaters are typically larger.

After reviewing numerous water heater types and models, considering user feedback, features, and specifications, we recommend tankless or on-demand water heaters as an excellent solution for many homeowners.

Tankless units provide a continuous supply of hot water and are ideal for homeowners who want to switch from a large traditional tank-type heater to a small unit with on-demand heating. To learn more about the differences between tankless and tank type water heaters, refer to our comprehensive comparison guide.


Investing in water heaters with high-quality elements and advanced technology can lead to a longer lifespan, improved performance and efficiency, and a more attractive appearance.

However, these options often come at a higher cost and may include longer warranties. For those living in areas with hard water, it’s crucial to consider commercial-grade elements such as heavy-duty anode rods, self-cleaning systems, or plastic storage tanks to prevent mineral buildup and ensure optimal functionality.

What’s Your Favorite Brand?

When choosing a brand for a water heater, it’s important to consider various factors to ensure that you make the best decision.

One of the most important things to consider is the brand’s reputation. You want to choose a brand that has a good reputation and great reviews. You can research online reviews and ask for recommendations from family and friends who have purchased water heaters before.

Additionally, consider the brand’s history and how long they’ve been in the HVAC industry.

Another important factor to consider is the price of the water heater. Determine your budget and compare prices across different brands.

Keep in mind that higher-priced models may offer more advanced features, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best choice for your needs.

Additionally, check the length and terms of the warranty offered by each brand, as well as the specific features offered by each model.

By carefully considering these factors, you can choose a brand and model that meets your needs and provides reliable, efficient performance for years to come.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that popular manufacturers of tank-type water heaters are Rheem, AO Smith, and Bradford White, while for tankless options, consider Rinnai, Takagi, and Noritz.

Repair Costs and Parts Availability

Renowned brands typically have a superior service network and readily available parts compared to lesser-known or foreign manufacturers.

This can be an important factor to consider when purchasing a water heater, as it ensures that you can easily get help and replacement parts in case of any issues with the unit.

Additionally, established brands often have better customer support and are more likely to honor warranties and provide after-sales services. This can give you peace of mind and make the overall ownership experience more pleasant.

Available Features

When selecting a water heater, it’s important to consider the benefits of the heater’s features, as well as how user-friendly, easy to replace, and troubleshoot these components are.

For tank-type water heaters, some of the best features include a power venting system, an intelligent control valve with diagnostics, a heavy-duty or powered anode rod, heat traps, and a self-cleaning system. These features can help to improve the efficiency and lifespan of the water heater, enhance its performance, and make maintenance and troubleshooting easier.

On the other hand, top tankless models are equipped with advanced electronics, a voice control system, Wi-Fi connectivity, a recirculation system, and condensing technology.

These features can help to increase the efficiency and convenience of the heater. However, it’s important to keep in mind that such features may come at a higher cost. Therefore, it’s essential to weigh the benefits and costs of each feature and select a water heater that meets your specific needs and budget.

Buying vs. Renting a Water Heater

When deciding whether to buy or rent a water heater, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of each option to make an informed decision.

Renting a water heater can be an attractive option due to the affordable monthly payments and worry-free service and repairs that come with it. It is great for those on a tight budget but over the long term it can end up being more expensive than buying one outright.

Buying a water heater means a higher initial cost, but at the end of the term, it becomes yours and free to use. Also, if there is a problem, it can cost you a lot to repair it. Ultimately, this can be a more cost-effective option over the long term, especially if you plan to stay in your home for a while.


Here it is. If you’re wondering what type of water heater you should get, this comprehensive guide will provide the information you are looking for. This review covers various water heater types used in residential water heating, for your benefit. We have included various fuel types and features to look for, as well as the best and most sought-after brands.

If you are looking for water heater reviews by brands, types, including specs and features, or comparisons, you can easily find them by clicking on the respective links on the navigation bar or searching for heaters by manufacturers.

Links to the most popular brands, such as Rheem, AO Smith, Bradford White, Takagi, Rinnai, and others, are also located on the navigation bar. However, if you are looking to buy one or see what other users like or dislike, we recommend checking the online stores.

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