Storage tank heaters are affordable and fairly efficient. They continue to be the best-selling water heaters because they are reliable and people have concerns about tankless and other styles.
Most storage tank water heaters are quite basic, using technology that has been employed for decades. But newer generations of tank-style water heaters are producing much higher efficiencies and faster recovery times. In today’s households, there is a demand for a higher volume of hot water as well as more efficient models to reduce energy use and costs.
Types of Storage Tank Water Heaters
The two main types continue to be electric models and gas-fired water heaters using either natural gas or propane. Electric models have one or two heating elements submerged in the water. Gas models use a burner with inputs from less than 50,000 BTU to over 100,000 BTU.
Gas-fired storage tank heaters vent in a number of ways. Most still have atmospheric vents that are not powered. The combustion gases rise out of the flue without assistance. Powered vent models are more efficient because they have components that can use more of the heat before it is vented. Our water heater reviews provide you with details on venting, efficiency, capacity and more. We also include water heater prices in every review, so you’ve got the data you need to make an informed decision.
Pros and Cons of Storage Water Heaters
Pros: The affordability of most models is their primary strength. You can find 50-gallon electric or gas water heaters for less than $500, though most cost $600-$800 and high-end models cost more than that.
Newer models offer very high efficiency – as high as 96% on models like the AO Smith Vertex and others. These models cost more, but cut down on energy use and costs by up to 33%. In households that use a lot of water, that adds up quickly.
To compete with tankless water heaters that can deliver as much as 12 gallons per minute on demand, some high-end storage water heaters offer the heating power to keep hot water flowing continuously. Rates of more than 4 GPM are available, enough to use hot water at 2 locations simultaneously.
Cons: The primary drawback to storage water heaters is the radiant heat loss – also called standby heat loss—that occurs as heated water sits in the tank before use. While most models have 2.0”-3” of foam insulation, with R-factors of 20 or more, the standby heat loss is still a major concern.
Secondly, electric heat is expensive – like heating water with a space heater. Gas is cheaper, but many gas water heaters are only 60% to 65% efficient. Compare that to gas furnaces that are 80%-98% efficient and you see the problem. To get a gas-fired storage water heater that is 90% efficient or more, you’ll spend more than twice as much as you would on a basic 60% unit.
When to Consider a Storage Tank Water Heater
If the cost of the equipment is your primary concern, then a traditional storage tank heater makes the most sense. If you plan to move in the next 5 years, this will be the most cost-effective choice since you might not get your money’s worth out of a more expensive type.
And now, with higher-efficiency gas-fired storage tank heaters on the market, you can go green and still use a tank-style heater. Or get continuous hot water. You’ve got more options than ever before.