What is a hot water heater?
A hot water heater, as the name suggests, is an appliance or system used to rapidly heat water to a precise temperature for faucets, hoses, and other points of access throughout the building. These systems are vital for everything from showering, doing laundry, and washing dishes. Hot water heaters commonly come in two major categories: storage and tankless.
Storage water heaters are the more common and traditional option. They utilize a reserve tank pre-heated to 120-140 degrees Fahrenheit to instantaneously provide hot water. Storage water heaters are commonly powered by electric and gas, though there are also options for natural and solar heating. They benefit from a simple interface, relatively easy repairs, and cheap installation. Additionally, their common usage provides a greater range of product options. Ultimately, they serve as an accessible and low-maintenance heating solution.
Tankless water heating, also known as instantaneous heating, rapidly warms the liquid as it flows throughout the device, either through a centralized location or a point of use system. A tankless water heating system uses several smaller devices that are installed at each place where hot water is required, heating it just before use. On average, these devices utilize 30 to 50 percent less energy than storage systems. Additionally, these systems take up relatively little space, and can even be conveniently mounted on the wall. The primary disadvantage is up-front cost, as this technology is relatively new and multiple tankless heaters are needed to heat the entire house, requiring several installations.
A subsection of tankless devices is the hybrid tankless water heater, commonly referred to as a “combi” water heater. These systems integrate technology traits from storage water heaters, utilizing tanks to maintain consistent pressure and temperature while actually providing heat through flu gasses and heating circuits. Combi systems are relatively new, and once established these systems tend to run more efficiently, saving the user on their long-term energy expenses.
However, hybrid tankless water heaters are more complex, and to achieve optimal performance they must be extensively customized to the layout of each building. Precise controls are needed so that combi heaters can be adjusted to changing conditions. While combi systems aren’t much more expensive than traditional heaters, they require a great deal more planning.
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