5 Main Types of Water Heaters

If you are in the market for a new hot water system for your home, you may not exactly know what you’re looking for due to a number of reasons, including knowledge of the available products and prevailing technology. A hot water system isn’t something you go out and buy every day and some people may only need to purchase one or two in their entire lifetime. As such, it is absolutely okay not knowing anything about hot water systems until, of course, you need one. Worse still there are many different types on the market, such as electric water heaters, solar water heaters, on-demand water heaters, conventional water heaters, storage tank water heaters, gas water heaters, tankless water heating systems, and high-efficiency water heaters.

If you are looking to buy a new hot water system for your home and wondering what your options are, then you have found the right place. Here is a detailed description of 5 types of hot water system including conventional, tankless, solar, heat pump and condensing types.

Conventional Storage Tank Water Heater

This style of water heater features a tank that holds water to be heated. This means that the capacity of the tank determines how much hot water you have available at once. The tank is insulated so that when the water heats up, it remains warm until it is needed. This tank features two valves, the temperature control valve, and the pressure control valve. The temperature control valve opens to release heat and moderate temperature when the water reaches the temperature setpoint. The pressure release valve opens to lower the pressure when it reaches the pressure setpoint. This is the most common type of water heater among family homes, but you are limited to how much hot water you can hold. If your tank is too small or you need an excessive amount of hot water one day, you may run out and have to wait for the next tank to be heated.

Tankless (On-Demand) Water Heater

A tankless water heater has no tank. Instead, there are super-heated coils that fill with water and heat water in a flash as you need it, which is why it is also known as an on-demand water heater. This is great for heating water quickly, even for large families who need a large amount of hot water at once. This style of water heater comes in different sizes, and you do need to ensure that you have the right size for your household, as a smaller tankless water heater will not be able to keep up with your water usage otherwise and it will result in lukewarm or cold water. These models work well in homes that use natural gas to power their water heater, but larger models require a larger gas line and more gas to run correctly. Larger tankless hot water heaters that run on electricity may require you to increase the electricity capacity of your home, which could be costly.

Heat Pump Water Heater (Hybrid Water Heater)

This style of water heater is unique in that is uses heat in the air and in the ground to heat water. This means that electricity is only used to move heat from the ground or air to the water, instead of the alternative where electricity is used to generate heat. Heat pump water heaters can use up to 60 percent less electricity than traditional styles of water heaters. Because the pump is on the top, you may need quite a bit of room for this water heater, sometimes up to 2.5-3 meters of vertical clearance. An example of this is the istore AIR TO ENERGY Hot Water Heater.

Solar Powered Water Heater

This style of water heater may be the most energy-efficient of them all and relies on roof-mounted solar panels as its energy source. The energy is transferred to a closed loop system containing a heat-conductive material, which then heats the water in the tank. This can save lots of money on sunny days and works particularly well for those who live in warm, sunny climates like Australia. However, this system often requires a backup plan, such as natural gas or electricity, so that the water heater can continue to run on cloudy days.

Condensing Water Heater

The condensing water heater may be the absolute best option if your family’s home uses primarily natural gas as its energy source. This type of water heater funnel heated exhaust from the natural gas system and uses it to heat the water, which is held in a tank much like the conventional version of the water heater. The gas fumes funnel through a coil placed at the bottom of the tank to heat the water. Therefore, very little energy is used (aside from gas already burned elsewhere, like by your oven or heater) to heat the water for your home. It is a tank style water heater, so you will need to be sure to purchase one large enough for your family size.

Reasons to Replace Your Water Heater

There are a few things you should look for to help you determine if you need to replace your water heater. If you’re wondering if you should upgrade, consider this:

Your Warranty is Out

One good way to know that it may be time for an upgrade is when way beyond your warranty. Not only do you no longer have coverage for fixing your water heater if any sudden damages occur, but chances are your water heater’s design is pretty outdated and is using way more energy than necessary. This could be costing you way more per month without you noticing. If your water heater has lived long past its life expectancy, it may be time to toss it out and replace it with an upgrade.

Your Water Heater is Leaking

Usually, when your water heater is leaking, you’ll need a plumber to fix the issue. This can be really costly and time-consuming. Sometimes, water heater leaks can be hard to find, and a lot of water damage can occur before the issue is fixed. If you have a leak, you can have a plumber look at it. If it’s bad enough, you’ll probably be better off buying a new water heater instead of paying to fix the leak.

You Run Out of Hot Water When You Need It

If you find that you are frequently taking lukewarm showers or running out of hot water while doing the dishes, you may not have a water heater big enough for the hot water volume your family uses. This means you may need an upgrade to a water heater with a bigger tank.

Your Building Codes Changed

Another reason you may need a new water heater is if it no longer fits your community’s building codes. You should check your local building codes regularly and, if you’ve moved states, you may have different building codes than before. If your building codes have changed, your water heater may need to as well.

What to Consider When Choosing a Water Heater

Here is what to consider when choosing a new Water Heater.


Water heater warranties can vary greatly both in cost and length. Because your water heater is such an integral part of your family’s day to day life, you should always pay close attention to the warranty terms when choosing a new water heater.

Drain Valves - Plastic or Brass

The drain valve is located near the bottom of your water heater and is used to drain the water heater before maintenance or to make it easier to lift while moving it. This valve is typically either made of brass or plastic. In the event that you need to replace your water heater drain valve, or you are purchasing a new water heater, you will need to decide which type to use. Both plastic and brass are particularly cost-efficient options. Plastic may be less reactive, although neither material is corrosive. Brass is much more durable than plastic, and also more malleable, so it will take more damage. Brass is not affected by temperature change like plastic may be. This is not a huge decision, but it is still one you will need to make.

Anti-Scale Devices

Mineral scale can cause damage to your water heater and other water-consuming appliances. Certain manufacturers include anti-scale devices in their water heater. This device moves the water at the bottom of the tank. The constantly moving water is less prone to mineral build-up, which can increase the lifespan of your water heater. This feature may work, but there are other factors besides mineral build up that can damage your water heater. It is not necessary to purchase a water heater with an anti-scale device and, with a lengthy warranty, you probably don’t need one.

Glass-Lined Tanks

You may notice that some water heaters include a glass lining inside them. This lining is actually porcelain enamel, and the coating helps to protect the water heater (which is usually made from steel) from corrosion. The enamel coating can do wonders in extending the life of your water heater but, due to the coating process, areas of steel are most often still left exposed. The ceramic enamel coating is becoming more and more popular and may even be a standard design for some manufacturers today. Again, this is not a necessary inclusion, but it could definitely slow down the corrosion process inside your water heater tank.

Digital Displays

Water heaters with digital displays are convenient because you can easily adjust your water heater settings to fit your personal needs. You can easily adjust the output of your water heater, the water temperature, and some models even have a scheduling feature, which allows you to input the hours your house is occupied in order to increase the energy efficiency of the water heater by shutting off when you’re away. Water heaters without the digital display will often only show basic readings, like overall temperature and water pressure. The digital display is definitely a modern water heater feature you want.


Determining the capacity of your water heater tank depends solely on the number of people using water in your house.


Information provided in the text above is general in nature and does not consider your specific hot water system needs and requirements. The information is not professional advice and should not be treated as such. You must not rely on the information in the text above as an alternative to professional advice. If you have specific questions relating to this subject, we strongly recommend that you seek independent professional  hot water system advice.