A Water Heater is a Water Heater...NOT!
Customers have asked why water heaters have increased in price so much in recent years.
Well "what hasn’t?" might be an answer, however there’s more to the story.
The Federal Government adopted the FVIR (flammable vapor ignition resistant) technology almost ten years ago now. This added a considerable amount to the price of a gas heater. Different manufacturers have developed their own version but as long as it met the standard it was approved. In several heaters it made the heater taller to incorporate the FVIR technology. Then we have the rise in steel, copper and brass prices. Added to all of that we have increased efficiency standards. This has led us to look at the different types of models that have become available on the market. Several of the different types have been available before but have been re-engineered to be more efficient. Basic gas water heaters are available in Natural and Propane gas. There is also an oil fired water heater type available. Most of these heaters are available with a 6 year warranty and several can be upgraded to a 10 year warranty for an extra fee. Yes there are minimum performance efficiency standards from the government but there are higher efficiency models available to choose from. Many of the models you will see at the big box stores for a low price are of the lower efficiency numbers. We’ve only begun!
Gas water heaters can be the standard vent type (up a chimney) or power vent type (out the side of your home). The power vent cannot be vented out the old chimney pipe. We can get a lot more technical here but in the interest of simplicity we’ll leave it there.
Staying with the tank type heaters, there is of course the standard electric heater and the electric heat pump water heater. The heat pump heater can give off cool dry air as a by product while heating the water very efficiently. Let’s not forget the solar powered heaters with the electric backup elements for those cold or overcast days. These heaters still have a pretty decent government rebate on them. Now we get into the hybrid models that are gas fired but the internal venting allows them to develop some great efficiency numbers as well as higher output of hot water. Along with that of course come higher price tags. Stick with me here we haven’t run out of options yet.
Other Water Heater Options
How about a tankless heater? The gas water heater models are the most used for whole house use due to the fact that an electric model often requires extensive revamping of the electrical system. Gas tankless heaters can be very efficient during operation while delivering a non stop supply of hot water. It is necessary to properly size the heater to ensure an adequate flow of water. Some water heater installations require more than one heater. Sizing and installation are important for a proper result. Tankless water heaters can be serviced and virtually all of the parts can be replaced without the need to replace the complete unit. The unit hangs on a wall freeing up valuable floor space. These water heaters are generally vented out the side of the building as well.
How about a combination of a tankless and a hybrid with a small tank type heater? These water heaters attempt to accomplish a steady supply of hot water while at the same time eliminating the need for additional re-circulation of water to eliminate the sandwich effect of cold and hot water. There is also a water heater that runs off of your boiler and heats the domestic water through a heat exchanger.
Now that I’ve totally confused you it’s easier to see why water heaters have risen in price as well as in efficiency. It’s up to you to choose but when you are trying to decide I’d recommend a licensed plumber who has the knowledge to help you with the right decision for your needs and a legal installation.
Jeff Kuhn, Master Plumber, S&K Pump & Plumbing Inc