The water heater in your Baltimore, MD home accounts for about 18% of your total energy use. If it lacks the right capacity or if it’s getting along in age, it might not produce enough hot water to meet everyone’s needs. Whether you’re tired of standing under lukewarm showers or interested in lowering your carbon footprint, saving money, and increasing the value of your property, having a new electric water heater installed is an excellent choice. The following is an in-depth guide to electric water heaters, including how they work, their benefits and drawbacks, and how to find the right model for your needs.

Electric Water Heaters and Their Role in Residential Electrification

Many homes throughout the nation have gas-fired, storage-based water heaters with tanks that hold between 50 and 80 gallons of water. Gas-fired water heater tanks have gas-fired burners at their base. These burners heat water at tank bottoms. When hot water rises to the top, it’s siphoned off by a discharge tube and distributed to fixtures and appliances that need it.

Comparatively, storage-based electric water heaters have electric rods at their center. These high-voltage rods are vertical, and they heat stored water from the inside out, across a tank’s entire length. They take a bit longer to warm water stores up, but the method they use is markedly more efficient in many environments.

There are also tankless electric water heaters that serve entire households and electric point-of-use water heaters that serve individual fixtures and appliances. Irrespective of which fuel type your water heater uses, opting for a tankless model could save you cash. While standard, tank-based options heat and reheat water multiple times until it’s dispersed. Tankless heaters use energy to heat water just once.

As homeowners increasingly move away from gas-powered appliances, electric water heater installation is becoming a popular home improvement. As a first step in electrifying your home, this upgrade has a reasonable up-front cost and provides impressive returns.

Electric Water Heater Types and Their Attributes

One of the greatest benefits of electric water heating is having cleaner, safer indoor air. By gradually eliminating fuel-combusting appliances in your home, you can minimize and eventually eliminate the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) exposure. Whether tankless, tank-based, or point-of-use, electric water heaters do not produce harmful exhaust gases that must be routed outside.

Standard, tank-based electric water heaters often have lower installation costs than their alternatives. If you’re switching from a traditional gas-fired unit to an electric model, your installer will have to make fewer refinements to your water heater storage area than if switching to a tankless design. However, tankless heaters take up a lot less space. These units have slim profiles and could leave you with additional indoor area for other forms of storage. Their main drawbacks are that they cost a bit more initially and they aren’t always capable of meeting an entire household’s hot water needs. For instance, if your family uses 80 to 85 gallons of hot water each day, you’ll likely need two tankless hot water heaters or the largest tankless model available. For households that use just 40 gallons of hot water each day or less, having just a single unit installed often suffices.

Point-of-use water heaters are available in three different styles. There are over-fixture, under-fixture, and mini-tank water heaters. If you choose point-of-use heating as your sole water heating method, you’ll need one of these units near every tap and water-reliant appliance in the building. Although costly, these water heaters eliminate the heat losses that occur with tank-based heating. They also eliminate the heat losses that occur during hot water distribution.

Factors to Consider When Choosing an Electric Water Heater

There are several key considerations to make when choosing an electric water heater, and here they are:

  • Maximum hot water temperatures
  • Efficiency ratings
  • Maximum flow rates
  • Special features

To limit the risk of contact burns, you should never set your electric water heater higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it’s still a good idea to choose water heating equipment that’s capable of heating water to temperatures as high as 140 degrees.

Water heater flow rates are measured in gallons per minute (GPM). Depending upon the needs of your household, your water heater’s ideal flow rate should fall between 1.5 and 7.5 GPM. Water heaters with flow rates of 3.5 GPM are best for households that generally run just one to two fixtures or appliances simultaneously. If you routinely use two to three fixtures at once, look for a water heater with a flow rate of at least 5 GPM. For households of five or larger and in environments in which four or more fixtures or appliances are used simultaneously, water heater flow rates between 6 GPM and 7.5 GPM are essential.

Among some of the top features to look for in a new electric water heater are durable, all-metal components, digital thermostats, and self-modulating technologies. Smart electric water heaters are self-modulating in that they can adjust their settings and performance to suit changing needs and conditions. However, they’re also Wi-Fi enabled so that homeowners can access and control them from any device with an active Internet connection. You can even seamlessly integrate many of these appliances with all of your other smart home features.

What Is a Good Water Heater Recovery Rate?

The recovery rate of a water heater denotes how many gallons of hot water it can produce each hour. For gas water heaters, the average recovery rate is between 30 and 40 gallons per hour (GPH). Most electric water heaters have recovery rates of just 20 to 22 gallons per hour. However, with two tankless electric water heaters serving your household, you’ll have access to the same amount of hot water that you had before along with greater overall efficiency. There are also high-end electric water heaters with recovery rates as high as 60 GPH for homes that require them.

How to Know If an Electric Water Heater Is Efficient

The efficiency rates of electric water heaters can be as high as 99%. High-efficiency models convert nearly all of the electricity they use into heat energy. However, how efficient an electric water heater truly is depends upon its environment, design, and installation. If you’ve heard mixed messages about how much money switching to an electric model can help you save, differences in these and other factors are the most likely reasons why. Gas-fired water heaters tend to provide the highest levels of efficiency in cold, northern climates while tank-based, electric water heaters offer the best performance in warmer and more moderate climes.

In Baltimore, where daytime temperatures in the winter months often hold steady in the mid-40s, you can get reliable and efficient performance from all electric water heater types. However, tank-based models must be duly insulated to mitigate storage and distribution-related heat losses. Moreover, when the outside temperature is at its lowest, both tankless and point-of-use models will have the lowest operating costs.

All water heaters come with uniform energy factor (UEF) ratings that measure their efficiency. The UEF calculation measures the amount of electricity that’s used for general operations and for actual water heating. This is then compared to a water heater’s output. To earn an ENERGY STAR rating, electric water heaters must have UEF ratings between 0.65 and 0.95.

How to Choose the Right Electric Water Heater for Your Home

As with heating and cooling equipment and other major systems and appliances throughout your home, proper sizing is critical when choosing and installing a new water heater. The best way to find the most efficient and needs-specific electric water heater for your budget is by working with a licensed plumber.

Since 2013, we’ve been proudly serving Baltimore, MD and the surrounding communities. We provide top-notch heating, cooling, plumbing, and duct sealing services. We also offer indoor air quality services and an expansive selection of tankless and storage-based water heaters. If you’re interested in electrifying your water heating system or need an electric water heater replacement, we can help. To schedule an appointment, contact us at At Your Service Heating & Cooling LLC today.

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