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Electric, Gas, Or Solar Water Heater?

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If you've received the unpleasant surprise of an icy early-morning shower, you probably don't feel you have the time to delve into brand research or price checking before purchasing a new heater -- time is of the essence in restoring tranquility and hot water to your daily life. However, there are a few considerations you may wish to take into account when making your final purchase. Read on to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of gas, electric, and solar heaters to help you make your decision simpler.

What are the primary differences between these types of heaters? 

The type of water heater you choose can have a major impact on both your utility bills and your quality of life. However, there is no generally accepted "best" water heater -- the best heater for your family will depend on your consumption, geographic location, and other needs.

  • Gas water heaters are powered by a small propane or natural gas pilot light. This pilot light keeps a supply of gas at the ready -- allowing the flowing gas to heat the water quickly and keep it at a uniform temperature, even during periods of high demand.
  • Electric water heaters supply heat to water by flowing and circulating the water over a warmed conductor. Although most electric heaters sold today are highly efficient, electric water heater use can represent 14 to 18 percent of your total monthly electric bill.
  • Solar water heaters come in two types -- active and passive. Active solar water heaters use solar panels or other collecting devices to harness the sun's rays, then convert these rays into electricity, which is used to heat your water. Passive solar water heaters collect and place the water in an area where it can be naturally warmed by the sun's rays and outdoor heat.

Which type of water heater should you choose? 

Each water heater holds certain advantages, as well as downsides. Below are some factors you may want to consider.

If you live in an area that receives frequent power outages (such as a heavily wooded area), you may want to choose a gas water heater. Because the pilot light operates independently of any other power source, you'll be ensured a steady supply of hot water, even if your power is out for several days or more.

If you live in an area in which natural gas or propane prices are much higher than the kWh prices charged by your electricity supplier, an electric water heater may be the more cost-effective option.

If you live in an area that receives a lot of sun, such as the Southwest, a solar water heater may be the best option to make use of your natural resources and lower your bill. Usually, both active and passive solar water heaters have a backup power source to ensure that you'll never go without hot water, even on a cloudy day.

If you're interested in reducing your utility bills, you may wish to transition to a gas or electric tankless or on demand heater. These units are smaller than traditional water heaters, and only heat water as it is "requested" elsewhere in the home. Because these tanks avoid heating and holding heated water at all times, they use much less energy than the more traditional tanked units.

Finally, you may want to consider neighborhood trends -- particularly if you're planning on selling your home in the near future. Some areas have only electric or solar units, while other neighborhoods may primarily operate with gas. You may want to keep your choice in line with that of the rest of the neighborhood to avoid the odds that it may turn off a potential buyer.

When you have decided which type of water heater is right for your home, then contact a professional from a company like Rapids Plumbing & Heating Inc to install it.