Hot water is essential in your home. It’s also something that we can take for granted until there’s a problem such as a cold shower or leaky water heater tank.

The average water heater needs to be replaced every 10-15 years, so if you’re nearing that mark with your unit or already experiencing issues, then it may be time for an upgrade.

When researching or shopping for a new water heater for your home, you may be surprised to find there are multiple styles and options available. We’re breaking down the three most popular types of water heaters so you can choose the right one for your comfort, water usage, and budget.

Tank vs. tankless water heater

For most homeowners, the biggest decision is choosing between a tank or tankless water heater system.

Tank water heaters are the traditional style and still a viable option. As the name suggests, this type of water heater uses a large tank to store hot water so it’s ready for when you turn on the faucet or start the dishwasher.

On the other hand, tankless water heaters are a new technology and have quickly gained popularity. The main benefit of a tankless system is that it creates hot water on demand, which is much more energy efficient than heating and storing 30-80 gallons of water at all times.

Pros and cons of tankless water heaters

While tankless water heaters offer many advantages, they aren’t perfect for every home. When deciding on your next water heater, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of this technology.


  • Higher energy efficiency and can reduce your home’s energy costs
  • Doesn’t run out of hot water
  • Smaller unit saves space in your home
  • Typically has a longer service life (20 years or more) than a tank water heater


  • Higher upfront costs for unit and installation
  • Limited water to serve multiple outlets at one time
  • Can have a slight delay in hot water delivery

Choosing the right size

Once you decide on the type of water heater you want to install, you need to select the right unit size to make sure you have enough hot water at all times.

If you go with a tank water heater, sizing is usually based on the number of people in your home, which determines the recommended storage capacity. Here are some general guidelines.

  • 1-2 people: 30-40 gallons
  • 2-3 people: 40-50 gallons
  • 3-4 people: 50-60 gallons
  •  5+ people: 60-80 gallons

Sizing a tankless water heater uses more factors, including the number of devices in your home, total flow rate, required temperature rise (the difference between the temperature of the water coming into your home and desired output). Because of these factors, it’s typically a better idea to consult with a plumbing professional.

Solar-powered water heaters

Depending on where you live, another option for your home may be a solar-powered water heater. This type of system uses solar panels to draw in energy that heats water in a tank. In most cases, you’ll also want a backup energy source to ensure you don’t run out of power (and hot water) during a cloudy day.

If you’re looking for the most energy-efficient water heater option and your home gets with plenty of sunshine, a solar-powered water heater may be the perfect solution.

Making the smart choice

Thankfully, a hot water heater isn’t an appliance that you should have to buy for your home very often. So, when you do, it’s important that you select the one that meets your hot water needs and fits your budget. When in doubt, you can always contact a professional plumber who can help you pick out the right solution for your home.