When trying to come up with ideas on how to reduce your monthly utility bills, one of the best ways to go is a simple upgrade of your current water heater. Often overlooked, water heaters are one of the most important and widely used household appliances. Between providing hot water for bathing, washing dishes, and doing the laundry, water heaters can cause your energy bill to add up significantly. As a result, they make up a huge chunk of our energy bill ranging from 14%-18%. So, switching to an energy efficient water heater can help you save money.
When trying to determine the actual cost of using a water heater, don’t just look at the initial installation expenses. It’s also vital to factor in the lifetime operating cost of the chosen system.
Generally, switching to a natural gas water heater can bring down your energy consumption bill by half when compared to operating an electric unit. However, most people are turned off when it comes to buying gas powered water heating systems because they cost a lot more to buy and setup than electric models. The good news is gas water heaters come in a wide range of sizes and features at varying price points. Therefore, you can easily select one that meets your family’s needs.
The following guide is designed to help you find a natural gas water heater that is right for your home and budget.
Types of Natural Gas Water Heaters
When shopping for a natural gas water heater, here are the options you’ll have:
These are the most popular types of natural gas water heaters. Sometimes they may be referred to as standard, traditional, or conventional gas storage-water heaters. Just as the name implies, these types of water heating systems store hot water in a storage tank until it’s required for use. A thermostat monitors the preset temperature then turns the burner on and off to keep water in the storage tank at a constant temperature.
Natural gas heaters that don’t operate with a tank raise the temperature of water when there is demand. In other words, when water starts to flow through the system, a spark ignition mechanism sets the burner on to heat water as it flows through a heat exchanger. This allows users to get hot water instantly.
Since a tankless gas water heater only uses fuel when there’s a demand for water, these systems tend to much more efficient at conserving energy than their tanked-style counterparts.
Combination water heaters warm up homes and water for domestic use at the same time. Water is first pumped to a coil of pipe that sits just above the gas burner. Fans then blow over the heated coil then ducts carry warm air throughout the home. From the coil, hot water flows through a separate piping system to the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, or any other point of use.
Boiler water heaters work in a similar fashion as combo systems but instead of warming up the living space with heat air, these units circulate hot water through the home to provide heat. If you live in areas that experience harsh winters or cold seasons, both boiler and combo gas powered water heaters may be a worthwhile investment. That said, however, these systems tend to be very inefficient in the summer months when used only for water heating.
Installation and Venting
Natural gas water heaters produce byproduct of combustion that can be toxic when inhaled. For this reason, these water heaters must have a venting system. There are many venting options from which to choose. The most common type of venting involves installing a vent or pipe that directs combustion byproducts into the atmosphere through the roof. Heated flue gases naturally rise though the vent and hence an atmospherically vented gas water heater does not need help from fans or any other mechanical booster.
Fan assisted gas water heaters use an electric blower to push combustion gases to the outdoors. These units can be installed as far as 40-feet away from the outside wall and don’t necessary need ductwork that goes through the roof.
Direct or horizontal vented gas water heaters have vents that go through an outside wall and sometimes bring in combustion air to the gas burner. Such venting is ideal in situations where it would be more expensive to install a gas water heater with vertical chimneys or flues.
Pros and Cons of Natural Gas Water Heaters
A natural gas water heater provides many benefits and a few unique advantages over other units that use the same type of fuel or alternative energy sources. It also has a few drawbacks which should be factored before making your final decision. Here’s a quick rundown of the pros and cons to expect from a natural gas water heater.
- Natural gas heats up water much faster than electricity. It’s also more economical than electricity as a fuel source for water heaters.
- Operating a natural gas water heater is much cheaper compared to similar units that run on propane.
- These units can easily meet the water heating needs of an entire house.
- Unlike propane, natural gas is lighter so it tends to rise quickly and dissipate into the air. Hence, this source of fuel poses a lower fuel risk.
- Water heaters that use natural gas or propane require more maintenance that electric units.
- Installing a venting system is a necessary requirement if you decide to go for a natural gas hot water heater. As a result, the setup costs for installing gas-fired heaters tends to be higher than what you would spend on an electric unit.