Advice on the best type of water heater for my situation?

The Tank Advice on the best type of water heater for my situation?

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    I’m working on a remodeling project, and my current hot water heater — a 16 year old 50 gal electric — has started a very slow leak, so it’s time to look for replacements.

    Since the area where the water heater resides is currently all opened up and I have to re-plumb the gas line and move the water heater a bit anyway, my options are pretty open. I’ve done a lot of reading, but none of the comparisons I’ve seen are for a situation like mine, which is as follows:

    1. Fairly small house (the farthest water use from the heater is about 26′ currently; with a direct-vent water heater it may have to increase to 38′).
    2. currently only one shower and no dishwasher, but adding one of each (and a bath for occasional use) is high on my priority list
    3. After my remodel (a garage conversion) is done, there will be no interior unconditioned space. The water heater will end up in the laundry room.
    4. I can get a 75% rebate from the utility company for switching to gas (up to $950), as long as the equipment is energy star. I can’t get a rebate for an electric heat pump WH because the unit will be in a conditioned space (per utility company).

    As I understand it, that makes my options either a plain old electric tank like I’ve already got, or some kind of direct-venting gas WH.

    I don’t think I have an optimal tankless situation (we’ve never run out of hot water despite my long showers), but it’s looking like it might be my most economical-up-front option, oddly enough. I do like the idea of taking up less space in my already-small house.

    The direct vent gas tanks I’ve seen aren’t energy star, so no rebate — they come in around a grand (instead of ~300 for a tankless after the rebate).

    The powered direct vent tanks seem to range from around a grand up to two, depending, but there don’t seem to be many options I could purchase as a consumer.

    Any thoughts, or brand/feature recommendations? I’ve read a bit in the forums, but I hesitate to go by six year old posts when model numbers and companies change.


    Larry Weingarten

    Hello: I’ll ramble a bit. The most frequently used tap in the house is the kitchen sink, so the closer the heater is to that tap, the better. The lower your hot water use is, the less you need really efficient equipment. If you have only one or two people, you may not need a super efficient heater. Really efficient stuff is usually really complex as well, so is more expensive to maintain over time. As you’re doing a big remodel, I’d look at using main and twig plumbing, or central core plumbing if possible. Google “Gary Klein structured plumbing” for lots of ideas and info on efficient plumbing distribution. This can save you more than a super efficient heater can. Tankless heaters have their place, but do take longer to deliver hot water.

    Now, I know that isn’t just what you were looking for, but might help you to have a better framework for all the questions that swirl around hot water. Also, have a look here for some thinking by Gary and others on hot water. 😉

    Yours, Larry

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