Water heating is typically the second-largest energy expense in a home; it can cost the average household approximately $400–$600 each year. Properly maintaining your water heater and choosing high-efficiency equipment can help you save energy, improve the comfort of your home, and contribute to a cleaner environment.

Water Heater Options

Below are the five primary types of water heaters sold today. If you are buying or replacing your water heater, look for ENERGY STAR® certified water heatersLink opens in new window - close new window to return to this page., which have a higher Uniform Energy Factor (UEF) than standard water heaters. The higher the UEF, the more efficient the water heater will be.

Performance and life expectancy are dependent upon installation, location, fuel, maintenance, and occupant behavior

Solar Water Heaters Heat Pump Water Heaters Tankless Water Heaters (On-Demand) Indirect Water Heaters Storage Water Heaters
Overview Solar water heaters rely on solar energy to generate heat. This type of heater requires two parts: a solar collector and an insulated storage tank. These heaters typically have a backup source of energy for days with minimal sun. Heat pump water heaters use electricity to pull heat from the surrounding air. They transfer the heat to water enclosed in a tank. Tankless water heaters provide hot water only as needed without a storage tank. They use intense flashes of heat against water-filled coils. Conventional indirect water heaters use the home’s boiler to heat water. They require a storage tank and use the main boiler to heat a fluid that is circulated through a heat exchanger. Conventional storage water heaters consist of an insulated tank in which water is heated and stored until needed.
Life Expectancy ~ 20 years ~ 10–15 years ~ 20+ years ~ 10–15 years ~ 10–15 years
Most Common Fuel Source Options
  • Solar Energy
  • Electricity
  • Electricity
  • Natural Gas
  • Propane
  • Fuel Oil
  • Natural Gas
  • Propane
  • Electricity
  • Electricity
  • Fuel Oil
  • Natural Gas
  • Propane
Benefits
  • Can meet almost 100 percent of a home’s hot water needs during warmer months, depending on the weather and exposure to the sun
  • Significantly more energy efficient than gas or electric conventional water heaters, resulting in lower utility bills
  • Require infrequent maintenance and service (60 percent less than other water heater options)
  • Use renewable energy, contributing to a cleaner environment
  • More energy efficient than conventional water heaters, resulting in lower utility bills
  • Lower operating costs than conventional water heaters
  • Produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to a cleaner environment
  • Can use less energy than a storage water heater, depending on occupant behavior
  • Provide a constant supply of hot water
  • Can be placed on a wall or under a counter to free up floor space
  • Require less space than conventional water heaters
  • Low energy costs if used with a high-efficiency boiler and well-insulated tank
  • Energy stored by the water tank allows the boiler to turn on and off less often, saving energy/li>
  • Low installation and maintenance costs /li>
  • Low price point
  • Always in stock
  • Available in many sizes
Considerations
  • Can have a higher price point than conventional water heaters and heat pump water heaters
  • May require a backup system for cloudy days, cold winters, and times of high demand
  • Solar collectors must be kept clean and free from debris/snow to ensure peak operational efficiency
  • Though infrequent, professional maintenance must be performed by a qualified solar contractor
  • Can have a higher price point and installation cost than conventional water heaters
  • Exhaust cold air, which can increase the load on space heating appliances during colder months
  • Require drainage considerations, as they produce condensate that must be pumped outside or passively drained
  • Are noisier than conventional water heaters
  • Have additional height considerations and can take up more space than conventional water heaters
  • Require regular maintenance (cleaning and replacing air filters)
  • Can have a higher price point than storage water heaters
  • Limited flow rate of hot water means simultaneous, multiple uses of hot water can stretch a tankless water heater to its limit
  • May require installing more than one tankless water heater to ensure continuous hot water
  • Performance is dependent on the efficiency of the boiler
  • Require on-site storage
  • Any issues with boiler heating system can impact access to hot water
  • Use more energy than other water heaters, as energy can be wasted to keep water in the tank heated to the set temperature
  • Can have higher operating and maintenance costs than other water heaters
Operations and Maintenance
  • Inspect your heater at least once a year to make sure the solar collectors remain unshaded, dust and dirt are absent from unit, etc.
  • Have the water heater serviced and inspected every three years by a qualified solar contractor
  • Clean air filters periodically
  • Have a qualified contractor service the heat pump water heater at least once a year
  • Have a qualified contractor service and flush the heater at least once a year
  • Have a qualified contractor service the heater and boiler at least once a year
  • Have a qualified contractor service the heater at least once a year

For more information and guidance on what option is best for your home, view the Department of Energy Water Heater InfographicLink opens in new window - close new window to return to this page..

Explore NYSERDA’s list of qualified heating and cooling contractors to install or service a water heater for your home or property.