water heater buying guide

The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide to Water Heaters

You’ve got your clean clothes on, freshly brushed teeth, and coffee in hand all with the help of your water heater. You may not even realize how big of a part it plays in making your day-to-day life easier, that is until it inevitably breaks down. Water heaters typically last 10 to 15 years, but when they fail, you’ll end up with a big mess, costly replacement, and the worst part— a cold shower. Sure, you could just choose the same one you had as before, but that wouldn’t be the wisest choice. According to the Department of Energy, water heating can account for up to 18% of a homeowner’s utility bill and they’re a pretty hefty investment. We recommend doing your research early to avoid making a rash decision on a replacement, but you’ll need some help! Today, our experts at EJ Plumbing are going over everything you need to know about water heaters, so you can make the right choice for your household. We’ll breakdown the most energy-efficient options, cost, and more additional tips.

When it’s time for a water heater replacement

  • There is a metallic odor.
  • The water is lukewarm or cold.
  • There is excessive noise coming from the unit.
  • The water has become muddy or rust-colored.
  • It is leaking water.
  • It needs frequent repairs.
  • The unit is more than 15 years old.

While a plumber can repair many of these problems, it’s important to be aware of these telltale signs that it’s in need of a replacement.

Storage tank water heater


These are the most common type of water heaters. As the name suggests, they hold several gallons of water in a tank and heats up by either electricity, propane, oil, or natural gas. Generally, storage tanks come in three sizes:

  • Small tank: 50 to 60 gallons that are sufficient for one to three people.

  • Medium tank: 80 gallons that works well for three to four people.

  • Large tanks: Fit well for households with four to six people.


One reason for their popularity is because of their inexpensive installation cost compared to other options, low maintenance and repair costs, and their lifespan, which can last up to 15 years with proper care.


Although this type of water heater has dominated the market for decades, more energy-efficient options have come out recently. They are prone to heat loss since the water continually reheats until it’s used, wasting energy. Another downside that comes with these water heaters is that the tank can deplete if there’s too high of a demand for water, which means it’ll run out until more water heats up.

Tankless water heater


You might hear the words “on-demand” associated with tankless water heaters. When someone turns on the hot faucet or the washing machine, cold water enters pipes, heats up by either gas, electricity, or propane, and then directly goes to the appliance without the need for a storage tank.


Many people are drawn to these water heaters because you’ll never run out of hot water since water comes directly from a pipe. These are also an extremely energy-efficient option that can help reduce your utility bills. While they are more expensive to install, they can last up to 20+ years with proper maintenance.


One of the biggest and only drawbacks to using a tankless water heater is that you can’t run hot water simultaneously to two appliances and expect strong results— such as taking a shower and running the dishwasher.

Heat pump water heater


A heat pump or hybrid water heaters capture the heat from the outdoor air and transfer it to the water using electricity.


According to Energy.gov, heat pump water heaters are 2 to 3 times more energy-efficient than storage tank water heaters, and they have lower operating costs. On top of that, Energy Star heat pumps can save homeowners almost $300 a year on their electric bills. While they don’t last as long as tankless water heaters, their life expectancy typically falls between 10 to 15 years.


They perform better in mild or warmer climates, which is no problem if you’re a California resident. Another disadvantage is that they can be noisy since the system requires a constant airflow.

Solar water heater


These eco-friendly water heaters absorb heat directly from the sun to heat water. In a typical installation, you’ll receive solar panel equipment, which resides on your roof, as well as a storage tank to hold the water. With the right care, these can last several decades, which makes the investment worth it to many.


The most significant benefit is that these use renewable energy, which can save you money in the long run.


The initial setup is steep compared to other models of water heaters, so be aware of how long you’ll be at your current residence. Additionally, these water heaters may require a backup system on cloudy days, which can set your costs back even more.

What to consider

Coming to a decision on the right water heater for your household is no easy feat. Now that you have a detailed breakdown of the most common types, here is additional information to consider:

  • Efficiency- Maximize your operating cost savings by choosing an energy-efficient system.

  • Cost- When buying a new water heater, the purchase cost will be one of the biggest factors, but you should also consider the installation, operating, and maintenance costs.

  • Size- You want to make sure that whoever installs your water heater properly fits it to the size of your household and the amount of water you plan to use.

Contact EJ Plumbing

As your expert plumbers, we know that your water heater is essential for keeping your shower warm, enabling a hot cycle of your washing machine, providing heated water from your faucet, as well as being a big contributor to the comfort of your home. When your water heater has run its course, EJ Plumbing is the expert to call. Fill out our contact form online or call us at (650) 513-8852, and we’ll make sure to get you the right water heater for your needs.