Water Heaters – How to Choose the Right Water Heater for Your Needs

Denver Water Heaters account for up to 18% of your household energy use. Choosing the best type of water heater for your needs is an important consideration.

Water Heaters

Most homes use a tank-type heater that uses electricity or natural gas to heat the water. Natural gas is usually the most economical choice.

Water heaters consume a lot of energy, and the fossil fuels they use release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Fortunately, these days there are many alternatives to traditional fossil fuel-based water heating systems that offer greater performance, efficiency and longevity.

Energy-efficient models use a heat pump or direct solar system to heat the water, instead of relying on electric resistance heating elements. This technology reduces energy consumption by about half, saving you money and lowering emissions. In addition, new models have smart thermostats that automatically initiate heating during off-peak hours when electricity costs are lower.

Aside from the type of water heater used, your home’s insulation will make a big difference in energy savings. If your pipes are not well insulated, heat can get sucked out of them, forcing your water heater to spend even more energy reheating the same hot water. Having insulation installed throughout your home will help cut energy costs as well as improve comfort.

The Department of Energy has proposed higher efficiency standards for residential water heaters that will save homeowners a significant amount of money on their energy bills. If the rules go through, most electric water heaters will see efficiency gains thanks to condensing technology, and most gas-fired tank and instantaneous (tankless) water heaters will achieve efficiency gains using a heat pump.

In addition to lowering your energy and water consumption, these new standards will also decrease carbon dioxide emissions by a substantial amount. The rules would raise efficiency standards for new electric water heaters to 95%, and gas-fired tanks and instantaneous or tankless water heaters would be required to use a condensing technology to achieve 90% efficiency.

The green building experts at Meadowlark can help you design and build the sustainable custom home of your dreams. Call today to schedule a free consultation. We are an approved energy provider for Major Energy and can connect you with natural gas and electricity plans that will suit your needs. You can find out which plan is right for your home by entering your zip code at our energy calculator.


Water heaters are a crucial component of our modern lives, heating incoming cold water to supply sink faucets and appliances with hot water. The system also stores hot water for use at a later time. Whether you’re installing a new water heater or replacing your old one, the project requires a professional to ensure that the work meets all local building codes and standards for safety and efficiency.

A qualified plumber should be able to provide you with an accurate estimate for materials and labor for the project, though some material costs will vary. For example, the average installation for a gas or electric tank-style water heater will involve piping for the hot and cold water, as well as piping for the fuel source (if applicable). Other materials that may be required for unique installations include discharge pipes, pipe thread compound, pressure valves, solder, venting pipes and connectors, and a GFCI electrical outlet.

The installation process typically involves locating the water heater in an appropriate space. Most tanks are housed in a garage, basement or other suitable room that can be easily accessed. Then, a copper, iron or steel pipe is used to divert any effluent from the tank away from the floor. This pipe should extend within 6 inches of the floor, and in some locations, it might need to be extended outside the house to prevent flooding or damage.

If your home has an old water heater that needs replacement, it’s important to drain the existing unit before beginning the installation. To do this, attach a garden hose to the drain valve on the bottom of the tank and route the hose to a floor drain or run it outdoors. A plumber should then disconnect the hot and cold water pipes from the water heater, using a pipe wrench for compression or union fittings and a pipe cutter for straight metal tubing. It’s a good idea to use dielectric unions when connecting water lines, which will allow the connections to be disconnected without cutting or soldering in the future.

If your water heater is a natural gas model, it will likely require a special double-chambered vent pipe to carry exhaust gases outside the home. In some areas, building codes might also require a power fan to aid the flow of gases in this venting system.


A water heater is a large appliance that requires regular maintenance to prevent premature breakdowns and extend its lifespan. Some warning signs that your water heater may be in need of service include: clinking noises from the hot water tank, minor leaks around connections only, higher electric or gas bills than usual, not enough hot water to fill tub or shower and the pilot light continuously going out. By providing your customers with preventive maintenance tips, you can help them avoid expensive repair or replacement costs.

Flush the water heater regularly to remove sediments that build up in the tank. This helps prolong the life of your water heater and increases its efficiency. Most manufacturers recommend flushing a water heater at least once per year, and twice per year is even better.

Inspect the sacrificial anode rod for corrosion and determine if it needs to be replaced. Shut off the incoming water supply and the fuel source (if applicable) to the heater. Using the drain valve located near the bottom of the tank, close it and connect a garden hose to it. Open the drain valve and allow a few gallons of water to drain from the tank. Dispose of the draining water in a safe place, such as a nearby drainage pit or down an outside spigot. Remove the anode rod from its securing clamp and use a socket wrench to loosen the hex head if needed to pull the rod out for inspection. If the rod is corroded or has several inches of exposed core wire, it should be replaced.

Inspect and test the pressure relief valve (TPR) once per month. This is a safety device that opens automatically if the pressure inside the tank gets too high, protecting you and your home from potential damage. This valve has a toggle and an open piece of pipe that extends from it toward the floor. With the power off, open the valve and carefully lift the lever to release a little water. Observe the water color and temperature for any unusual changes. Once the pressure is back to normal, close the valve and check that the pilot light is lit if applicable.


Hot running water is one of the most basic and essential utilities in the modern home. We use it for everything from showering and cooking to cleaning dishes and laundry. When a water heater fails, it’s inconvenient and often quite costly. Water heaters have a lifespan of about 10 years, so if yours is approaching that point it’s time to consider replacing it.

The most popular water heaters in North America are tank type units. These have a large insulated tank that keeps a reserve of hot water ready for use. They can be powered by electricity, natural gas, propane, heating oil, or solar energy. If you’re considering a new water heater, make sure it’s energy efficient. Energy utilities may offer rebates for certain models.

In addition to examining your current unit, check the first-hour rating (FHR) on its EnergyGuide label. This rating indicates how many gallons of hot water the unit can supply in an hour with a full tank. A higher FHR number is better for efficiency.

If you’re upgrading to a new water heater, be prepared to pay for additional materials and installation costs. These can include discharge pipes, fittings, pipe thread compound, pressure release valves, solder, venting piping, and water and gas piping. You may also need to frame and insulate a wall if you’re moving your water heater.

When you’re replacing a water heater, opt for the same model if possible to reduce the upfront cost of the installation. This can save you money on fuel and electricity, as long as the hookups are compatible.

If you’re installing a gas-powered unit, consider a high-efficiency condensing water heater. These funnel heated exhaust gases from your home’s furnace into a coil, where they heat the water in the storage tank. They operate more efficiently than standard gas water heaters, using about 60 percent less energy. These are best for homes that use primarily natural gas.