Water heaters give you the hot water you want efficiently and conveniently. When you wash dishes or take a hot shower, all you have to do is turn the faucet on and wait a few seconds for warm water to flow. But when you need to purchase a new water heater, you may not which water heater to choose and how to operate it properly.

With a little education, you can select a functional water heater for your home and use it safely.

Which Water Heater Should I Choose?

If you want to remodel or build a new home, your list of appliances to buy may include a new water heater. Where do you start? Take a look at the different types of water heaters you can choose from.

Most varieties last anywhere between 10 and 20 years. Each type runs in a slightly different way, and heats water from different sources. Read the specifications for each of the following models to find the best fit for your home.

Storage—Electricity or fuel power heats up a stored tank of water to draw from. These water heaters are less expensive than other options. Limitations to hot water supply include how fast you use hot water and the size of your tank.

Tankless—This option has a longer life expectancy of 20 or more years. Tankless heaters are more energy efficient than storage water heaters.

Tankless Coil or Indirect—These two different heaters have less expensive installation costs than others. But they are not as efficient for homes in warmer climates. These heaters work best for cooler climate homes.

Heat Pump—Heat pump water heaters are two or three times as efficient as storage water heaters. This efficiency may save your bill a few hundred dollars a year.

Solar—Solar water heaters cost more than other models, but their benefits include earth-friendly energy efficiency. If you select this system, you may want a backup system for cloudy or stormy days.

As you compare water heaters, decide what is most important to you. Choose a model that reflects what you value most, whether it’s cost, energy efficiency, or life expectancy.

How Does My Water Heater Operate?

Besides cost and energy efficiency, fuel type also affects which water heater you choose. Water heaters derive their energy from several sources:

  • Electricity
  • Propane
  • Natural Gas
  • Fuel Oil
  • Solar
  • Geothermal Energy

Your home may not have access to every kind of fuel, so keep these variations in mind before you purchase. Ask your local heating company what heaters they offer and which installations they provide.

How Can I Prevent Injuries From My Water Heater?

Some people like their water hot, but high water temperatures increase your risk of burns and scalds. So how hot is too hot?

The recommended temperature to set your water heater at is 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature is less likely to cause burns or scalds quickly. If you go any higher, you increase the danger of serious skin damage.

Water at 130 degrees Fahrenheit can give an adult a second- or third-degree burn in just 30 seconds. 140 degrees produces these burns in less than five seconds. Temperatures above 140  cause severe burns in a second or less.

Keep in mind that children’s sensitive skin burns faster than adults. If you have children, make sure your water heater is set below 130 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. Elderly individuals may sense temperature changes less, and they are also at risk for burns.

Remember that too-low temperatures also pose risks. Water heaters set too low can allow pathogens like Legionella to grow. So stick to the recommended 120–130 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal safety.

How Can I Control the Temperature?

Most water heaters have a control that homeowners can set to their preferred temperature. However, your installer should set your water heater at its recommended setting.

Many water heaters come with a thermostat that records and controls the water temperature in the tank. Thermostats on electric water heaters often have a maximum heat level of 130–140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Other water heaters (like tankless or solar models) can produce very high temperatures. Ask your technician about installing a cold-water mixing valve. This valve limits heat and reduces your risk for burns.

Keep all this information in the forefront of your mind when you shop for a water heater, and consult your HVAC professional if you have any questions.