Shopping for an electric water heater? Read about types, features, and other must-know topics in our best electric hot water heater guide. Find the best hot water tank based on our professional electric tankless water heater reviews. Read more about which tankless gas water heater for home use that is the best for your specific needs.
Best Electric Water Heater 2017
Surely, these electric water boiler are not for everyone as some of them carry a hefty price-tag.
With that said, one thing can be said for sure, these electric hot water tanks are good enough to make it to our list of the top best electric water heater 2017.
About Electric Water Heater
Water heating is a heat transfer process that uses an energy source to heat water above its initial temperature. Typical domestic uses of hot water include cooking, cleaning, bathing, and space heating. In industry, hot water and water heated to steam have many uses.
Domestically, water is traditionally heated in vessels known as water heaters, kettles, cauldrons, pots, or coppers. These metal vessels that heat a batch of water do not produce a continual supply of heated water at a preset temperature. Rarely, hot water occurs naturally, usually from natural hot springs. The temperature varies with the consumption rate, becoming cooler as flow increases.
Appliances that provide a continual supply of hot water are called water heaters, hot water heaters, hot water tanks, boilers, heat exchangers, geysers, or calorifiers. These names depend on region, and whether they heat potable or non-potable water, are in domestic or industrial use, and their energy source. In domestic installations, potable water heated for uses other than space heating is also called domestic hot water (DHW).
Fossil fuels (natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, oil), or solid fuels are commonly used for heating water. These may be consumed directly or may produce electricity that, in turn, heats water. Electricity to heat water may also come from any other electrical source, such as nuclear power or renewable energy. Alternative energy such as solar energy, heat pumps, hot water heat recycling, and geothermal heating can also heat water, often in combination with backup systems powered by fossil fuels or electricity.
Densely populated urban areas of some countries provide district heating of hot water. This is especially the case in Scandinavia, Finland and Poland. District heating systems supply energy for water heating and space heating from combined heat and power (CHP) plants, waste heat from industries, incinerators, geothermal heating, and central solar heating. Actual heating of tap water is performed in heat exchangers at the consumers’ premises. Generally the consumer has no in-building backup system, due to the expected high availability of district heating systems.
Types of water heating appliances
Hot water used for space heating may be heated by fossil fuels in a boiler, while potable water may be heated in a separate appliance. This is common practice in the US, especially when warm-air space heating is usually employed.
In household and commercial usage, most North American and Southern Asian water heaters are the tank type, also called storage water heaters, these consist of a cylindrical vessel or container that keeps water continuously hot and ready to use. Typical sizes for household use range from 75 to 400 liters (20 to 100 US gallons). These may use electricity, natural gas, propane, heating oil, solar, or other energy sources. Natural gas heaters are most popular in the US and most European countries, since the gas is often conveniently piped throughout cities and towns and currently is the cheapest to use. In the United States, typical natural gas water heaters for households without unusual needs are 40 or 50 US gallons with a burner rated at 34,000 to 40,000 BTU/hour. Some models offer “High Efficiency and Ultra Low NOx” emissions.
This is a popular arrangement where higher flow rates are required for limited periods, water is heated in a pressure vessel that can withstand a hydrostatic pressure close to that of the incoming mains supply. In North America, these vessels are called hot water tanks, and may incorporate an electrical resistance heater, a heat pump, or a gas or oil burner that heats water directly.
Where hot-water space heating boilers are installed, domestic hot water cylinders are usually heated indirectly by primary water from the boiler, or by an electric immersion heater (often as backup to the boiler). In the UK these vessels are called indirect cylinders, or direct cylinders, respectively. Additionally, if these cylinders form part of a sealed system, providing mains-pressure hot water, they are known as unvented cylinders. In the US, when connected to a boiler they are called indirect-fired water heaters.
Compared to tankless heaters, storage water heaters have the advantage of using energy (gas or electricity) at a relatively slow rate, storing the heat for later use. The disadvantage is that over time, heat escapes through the tank wall and the water cools down, activating the heating system to heat the water back up, so investing in a tank with better insulation improves this standby efficiency. Additionally, when heavy use exhausts the hot water, there is a significant delay before hot water is available again. Larger tanks tend to provide hot water with less temperature fluctuation at moderate flow rates.
Volume storage water heaters in the United States and New Zealand are typically vertical, cylindrical tanks, usually standing on the floor or on a platform raised a short distance above the floor. Volume storage water heaters in Spain are typically horizontal. In India, they are mainly vertical. In apartments they can be mounted in the ceiling space over laundry-utility rooms. In Australia, gas and electric outdoor tank heaters have mainly been used (with high temperatures to increase effective capacity), but solar roof tanks are becoming fashionable.
Tiny point-of-use (POU) electric storage water heaters with capacities ranging from 8 to 32 liters (2 to 6 gallons) are made for installation in kitchen and bath cabinets or on the wall above a sink. They typically use low power heating elements, about 1 kW to 1.5 kW, and can provide hot water long enough for hand washing, or, if plumbed into an existing hot water line, until hot water arrives from a remote high capacity water heater. They may be used when retrofitting a building with hot water plumbing is too costly or impractical. Since they maintain water temperature thermostatically, they can only supply a continuous flow of hot water at extremely low flow rates, unlike high-capacity tankless heaters.
In tropical countries, like Singapore and India, a storage water heater may vary from 10 L to 35 L. Smaller water heaters are sufficient, as ambient weather temperatures and incoming water temperature are moderate.
Point-of-use (POU) vs. Centralized hot water
A locational design decision may be made between point-of-use and centralized water heaters. Centralized water heaters are more traditional, and are still a good choice for small buildings. For larger buildings with intermittent or occasional hot water use, multiple POU water heaters may be a better choice, since they can reduce long waits for hot water to arrive from a remote heater. The decision where to locate the water heater(s) is only partially independent of the decision of a tanked vs. tankless water heater, or the choice of energy source for the heat.
Tankless water heaters—also called instantaneous, continuous flow, inline, flash, on-demand, or instant-on water heaters—are gaining in popularity. These high-power water heaters instantly heat water as it flows through the device, and do not retain any water internally except for what is in the heat exchanger coil. Copper heat exchangers are preferred in these units because of their high thermal conductivity and ease of fabrication.
Tankless heaters may be installed throughout a household at more than one point-of-use (POU), far from a central water heater, or larger centralized models may still be used to provide all the hot water requirements for an entire house. The main advantages of tankless water heaters are a plentiful continuous flow of hot water (as compared to a limited flow of continuously heated hot water from conventional tank water heaters), and potential energy savings under some conditions. The main disadvantage is their much higher initial costs, a US study in Minnesota study reported a 20- to 40-year payback for the tankless water heaters. In a comparison to a less efficient natural gas fired hot water tank, on-demand natural gas will cost 30% more over its useful life.
Stand-alone appliances for quickly heating water for domestic usage are known in North America as tankless or on demand water heaters. In some places, they are called multipoint heaters, geysers or ascots. In Australia and New Zealand they are called instantaneous hot water units. In Argentina they are called calefones. In that country calefones use gas instead of electricity. A similar wood-fired appliance was known as the chip heater.
A common arrangement where hot-water space heating is employed, is for a boiler to also heat potable water, providing a continuous supply of hot water without extra equipment. Appliances that can supply both space-heating and domestic hot water are called combination (or combi) boilers. Though on-demand heaters provide a continuous supply of domestic hot water, the rate at which they can produce it is limited by the thermodynamics of heating water from the available fuel supplies.
Electric shower heads
As the name implies, an electric heating element is incorporated into such shower heads to instantly heat the water as it flows through. These self-heating shower heads are specialized point-of-use (POU) tankless water heaters, and are widely used in some countries.
Invented in Brazil in the 1930s and used frequently since the 1940s, the electric shower is a home appliance often seen in South American countries due to the higher costs of gas distribution. Earlier models were made of chromed copper or brass, which were expensive, but since 1970, units made of injected plastics are popular due to low prices similar to that of a hair dryer. Electric showers have a simple electric system, working like a coffee maker, but with a larger water flow. A flow switch turns on the device when water flows through it. Once the water is stopped, the device turns off automatically. An ordinary electric shower often has three heat settings: low (2.5 kW), high (5.5 kW) or cold (0 W) to use when a central heater system is available or in hot seasons.
The power consumption of electric showers in the maximum heating setting is about 5.5 kW for 120 V and 7.5 kW for 220 V. The lower costs with electric showers compared to the higher costs with boilers is due to the time of use: an electric shower uses energy only while the water flows, while a boiler works many times a day to keep a quantity of standing water hot for use throughout the day and night. Moreover, the transfer of electric energy to the water in an electric shower head is very efficient, approaching 100%. Electric showers may save energy compared to electric tank heaters, which lose some standby heat.
There is a wide range of electric showers, with various types of heating controls. The heating element of an electric shower is immersed in the water stream, using a nichrome resistance element which is sheathed and electrically isolated, like the ones used in oil heaters, radiators or clothes irons, providing safety. Due to electrical safety standards, modern electric showers are made of plastic instead of using metallic casings like in the past. As an electrical appliance that uses more electric current than a washer or a dryer, an electric shower installation requires careful planning, and generally is intended to be wired directly from the electrical distribution box with a dedicated circuit breaker and ground system. A poorly installed system with old aluminum wires or bad connections may be dangerous, as the wires can overheat or electric current may leak via the water stream through the body of the user to earth.