Water Heaters come in several shapes and designs to
accommodate a wide variety of situations. Generally, they can be
broken down into 2 main categories: Tank or Tankless and they can be run on
either Gas or Electric.
Gas Tank Water Heaters: Tank models have
been the mainstay ever since their invention back in 1889 by Edwin Ruud
(yep, the same Norwegian guy that created Ruud furnaces, etc…). Basically,
these operate on a standing pilot that drives a valve which fires up the
burner as hot water is used from the tank. Tank heaters are made in B and
Direct Vent, depending on the application. Gas is usually the cheapest way
to heat anything and the really nice thing about them is you can still take
a hot shower during a power outage – even if it is by candlelight.
Electric Tank Water Heaters: These models
require no venting, and work by supplying current to one or two heating
elements located inside the tank (think like a really big aquarium heater).
These are only recommended if gas is not available (electricity can cost
about 4-5X more to operate), or the heater closet was originally located in
the middle of the house (and designed for electric use only). This would
make retrofitting it to burn gas and running a vent not very feasible.
Tankless: These have been in use
throughout Europe for a long time and it seems like the US is starting to
latch onto this idea. Tankless water heaters may take some getting
used to, but if they are sized correctly for the application, they seem to
work well. If you're installing one of these in Tahoe (or other cold
climate areas), be sure to get one that is freeze-protected! Also,
look for one that supplies a minimum of 3
GPM flow at a 70 degree rise at this altitude, or you may not get the flow
you need. A few other things to consider when deciding what's
best for your home are listed in the table below.