When buying a new water heater, ALWAYS compare the various types of water heaters around to ensure you find the most energy-efficient models.

There are a few different types of heaters to choose from, including:

Solar Power — If you want energy-efficient, it doesn’t get better than a solar water heater. Not only does it use the heat of the sun to heat up your water, but you are able to receive federal tax rebates for your purchase.

There are a few downsides to solar water heaters (backup system needed for cloudy days, high price tag, etc.), but solar water heaters are by far the most energy-efficient systems on the market.

Heat Pump — These electric-powered water heaters work like reverse refrigerators. Instead of pushing heat outward to chill food, the water heater pulls heat from the surrounding air inward to heat up the water. They tend to be VERY energy-efficient and can save your home hundreds of dollars every year in heating costs, but they’re fairly pricey as well. If you find the right Energy Star heater, you can save yourself a fortune over the course of your lifetime.

Electric — The classic electric water heater uses electricity to heat up your water, and are some of the simplest appliances to make. This is why they tend to be the most affordable! You can usually find a good electric water heater for a few hundred dollars, including some very energy-efficient models. They may increase your electric bill, but they don’t produce greenhouse gases like the gas-powered water heaters do.

Gas — Gas water heaters are a bit pricier than your average electric water heater, but your monthly energy usage is far lower. That means you can save a lot of money every month on hot water! With the right energy-efficient design, a good natural gas water heater can save you about $100 per year in energy costs–far lower than most of the other appliances, but still good choice.

What Style of Water Heater is Best?

You shouldn’t only consider the type of fuel that is used to heat the water, but you should consider the style of the heater itself. Some styles include:

Storage Tank — Most of the water heaters used in modern homes have a tank where the hot water is stored. This allows the water heater to produce A LOT of hot water at the same time, and there is always hot water accessible. However, a good deal of heat is lost as the water is waiting to be used (known as standby heat loss), so the water heater is continually turning on and off in order to keep the water hot. It’s not the most energy-efficient method of heating water, but it does ensure that you never run out of hot water.

Tankless -­– A tankless water heater only heats up water when you need it, so it is much more energy-efficient than your average storage tank heater. One of the drawbacks of this type of system is that you can ONLY use the tankless water heater with a few appliances, and it takes time for the water to heat up–meaning a bit more water waste. However, you’ll find that a tankless water heater is still more energy-efficient than a storage tank heater.

Solar Tank — A solar tank is usually made with a material that collects the heat of the sun and uses it to heat up the water, and the water sitting in the tank is kept hot by the solar-powered heating elements. It’s not as energy-efficient as a tankless system, but the fact that it uses the power from the sun means that it uses far less energy than a storage tank system.

Understanding Your Water Heater Ratings

The ratings on your water heater will help you to know just how energy-efficient the appliance is, so it’s important that you understand what the ratings mean.

Energy Factor

The Energy Factor ratings are very important, as they tell you the energy-efficiency of the appliance. The higher the Energy Factor (EF) rating, the better the appliance!

For example, an appliance with an EF rating of 0.57 is far less efficient than an appliance with a 0.67 EF rating.

Read the EF rating of all the water heaters in the store to see which will offer you the most energy savings.

Note: For an appliance to be given an Energy Star label (read below to find out what this means), it must have an EF of 0.67 or higher.

First-Hour Recovery

The First Hour Recovery rating tells you how much hot water you will get for the first 60 minutes after turning on the hot water. If you were to leave the faucet running for an hour, the First-Hour Recovery rate number would be the number of gallons of hot water you’d receive.

With this number, higher is also better! A higher First Hour Recovery rate means more gallons of water in that first hour of running water.

Flow Rate (Only for Tankless)

If you are shopping for a tankless water heater, you will see “Flow Rate” on the energy label. This tells you how much hot water will run through the water heater at any given time. A higher flow rate is usually better, as it means the heater is running at good speeds to heat up your water.

Keep in mind that it takes longer to heat cold water, so low groundwater temperatures may reduce your flow rate. Your flow rate will be reduced during the winter months, as it takes the hot water heater longer to turn the water hot.

What is Energy Star?

ENERGY STAR is a government-backed symbol that indicates that an appliance is highly energy-efficient. When an appliance has the ENERGY STAR label on it, it means that the appliance has been tested and found to use less energy, produce less emissions, and waste less water than the average appliance.

Any appliance with the ENERGY STAR label meets the government’s high standards of excellence for energy efficiency, and thus will be the best choice for anyone who wants to cut costs and energy waste at home. The ENERGY STAR appliances may be a bit pricier than non-ENERGY STAR models, but they will save you a lot of money in the long run.

Recommended Energy Efficient Water Heaters

Here are a few of the best energy efficient water heaters for you to consider:

ge efficient water heaterOur #1 Pick: GE GeoSpring GEH50DEEDSR, 50 Gallon

This bad boy holds up to 50 gallons of water, but it’s one of the most energy-efficient models on the market thanks to its hybrid electric-gas water heater.

The GE GeoSpring uses less energy thanks to its multiple modes of operation, and even gives users a way to set the water heater to reduced energy use when on vacation.

It’s a bit pricey at over $1,000, but definitely a great option if you want excellent energy savings.

Top Pick: Whirlpool N40S61-403, 40-Gallon

While a bit smaller than the GE model above, the N40S61-403 Whirlpool water heater gets the job done with as little energy wasted as possible. It runs on natural gas (much cheaper than electricity), and though it’s not ENERGY STAR-rated, it still has an excellent Energy Factor rating. You’ll find that it’s compact and runs beautifully quiet!

ecosmart water heaterTop Pick: Ecosmart ECO 27

The Ecosmart ECO 27 tankless water heater is ideal for those who want to drastically cut energy costs and who can handle a heftier price tag.

It’s a bit pricier than your average storage tank water heater, but it will help you to use less energy thanks to its tankless design.

It’s made to heat water for the whole house, and comes with 99.8% energy efficiency.

It’s meant ONLY for climates where the heat stays above 37 F, but it’s a space-friendly appliance worth considering.

Top Pick: Stiebel Eltron Accelera SBB 300 Plus

If you want to go solar, this is the water heater for you! The Stiebel Eltron Accelera is very pricey at $2,400, but the energy savings you’ll earn in the long run will be MASSIVE. Plus, the government offers excellent tax rebates, and you’ll save thousands of dollars over the course of a few years. It even works as a dehumidifier!

Consider these appliances if you are looking for the most energy-efficient models to use in your home. They will help you to reduce energy waste and will ensure that you are as eco-friendly as possible!

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