How To Size Your Replacement Water Heater

Winter is just around the corner, and when it gets chilly, you likely think that having a large-capacity water heater is the way to go. However, if you're in the market for a new water heater, remember that bigger isn't always better. In fact, you may be better off by installing a smaller, more efficient model.

Here are three questions to ask yourself before you select your new water heater:

  1. What is the first hour rating for my household? The first hour rating (FHR) is the number of gallons a water heater can provide in an hour. The Department of Energy has a worksheet that can help you calculate the FHR during the peak of hot-water demand at your home. Print it out, and then fill it in according to the number of people in your home who need water at any given time of the day. For example, you may have two children getting ready for school, who have to wash their hair and rinse their breakfast dishes. Meanwhile, you may need to shower, and run a load of laundry. Tallying this up can give you your FHR, which helps you determine the correct size water heater for your situation.
  2. Should I go with a traditional model or something new, like a solar or tankless water heater? If you know your FHR, you can determine the capacity that you need in a traditional storage tank. For example, if your rating is 46 gallons, you should look at a 50-gallon tank and definitely rule out an 80-gallon model. Storage tanks suffer from standby heat loss, meaning that the water in the tank loses heat over time, and you have to pay for it to be reheated. Therefore, look for a unit with good insulation (R-12 or higher) and a high rating from Energy Star. Once you know the capacity you need, you can compare prices and specifications on those units to comparable tankless and solar water heaters, just so you know all of your options.
  3. What is the best fuel type for my needs? Conventional units can run off electricity or gas, so make the choice that is most efficient and affordable for you. Remember to factor in things like peak-hour usage rates and the improved efficiency of your new machine. 

For more information on selecting the right water heater for your situation, contact the professionals at Joe Behr Plumbing and Heating, Inc. We have been proudly serving residential customers in the mid-Ohio area since 1965, and we can answer all of your heating, cooling and plumbing questions. 

Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).  For more information about water heaters and other HVAC topics, visit our website.

Joe Behr Plumbing and Heating, Inc. services the Mid-Ohio area.

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