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Water Heater Buying Guide: Sizes, Types, & More


It’s a typical Tuesday morning, or at least you thought it would be. You woke up late, scrambled to make the kids breakfast while packing lunches and doing last night's homework, all the while trying to get ready for your 9-5. As soon as you get the eggs and bacon on the kiddos’ plates, you step away to take a quick shower, only to find your hot water isn’t working. You throw your hands up and admit defeat after staring at the shower head, willing hot water to appear—to no avail.

We’ve all been there—or at least can imagine the unwanted, early-morning frustration. But you don’t have to experience faulty hot water again with a new, fully functional water heater! In this blog, the Prime Plumbing & Heating team discusses everything you need to know about choosing a new hot water heater so when cold water disaster strikes—you’re ready. 

Size of Water Heater

First and foremost, you’ll want to consider the size of your new water heater. While it may seem counterintuitive, bigger isn’t always better when it comes to hot water heaters. If your heater is too big, it’ll zap all your home’s energy, leading to higher energy bills and inefficiency. On the other hand, if your heater is too small, you may experience a frustrating lack of hot water when you need it most. 

Gallons Per Person

Luckily, we have a few recommendations based on the number of people in your household. We typically recommend the following:

  • 23-36 gallon water heater for one to two people
  • 36-46 gallon water heater for two to four people
  • 46-56 gallon water heater for three to five people
  • 56+ gallon water heater for five or more people

First Hour Rating

Additionally, consider the water heater’s first-hour rating (FHR), which represents the amount of hot water it can produce in one hour when it’s completely heated. An ideal FHR may look different from household to household, but on average, it takes about 20 gallons per person to shower, 14 gallons to run the dishwasher, and 30 to run the washing machine. 

With these numbers and an evaluation of how much water is needed, you can calculate the right FHR for your home. For example, you may consider how often members of your household need to shower at once, how often you wash clothes while running the dishwasher, and more. 

Type of Water Heater

You may not realize the variety of hot water heaters available for homeowners in Colorado and beyond. Tank, tankless, heat pump, solar, and condensing water heaters are just some of the possibilities. At Prime Plumbing & Heating, we most often recommend tank and tankless water heaters, so that’s what we’ll focus on today. 

Storage Tank Water Heater

As its name suggests, storage tank hot water heaters store water, and when needed, a gas flame heats the water as it flows into your shower, sink, dishwasher, and other appliances. Since tank water heaters have great capacity, they’re ideal for large households. However, depending on the capacity of your water heater, you may run out of hot water quicker than expected.  

Tank water heaters are affordable, easy to install, easy to operate, and offer on-demand hot water. It’s important to note that tank water heaters are always on, actively heating water for the next usage, so your energy bill may be higher than other water heater types.  

Tankless Water Heater

Tankless water heaters have truly changed the water-heating game! As the latest, most energy-efficient option, tankless water heaters heat the water as you need it instead of storing it. Tankless water heaters either use gas or electric elements to heat the water, but either way, a tankless water heater consumes zero energy when not in use, which can make a real difference on your next energy bill. 

Tankless water heaters take up far less space than their traditional counterparts, have a longer lifespan, and are extremely efficient. However, these innovative heaters may be more expensive to install and may cause a lag in hot water, depending on the capacity of your heater. 

Features of Water Heater

Beyond capacity and type, we recommend making a list of extra features you’d like in your next hot water heater. In the 21st century, there’s no shortage of tech-friendly water heaters, so the opportunities are endless! 

Some top features of hot water heaters include:

  • Warranties
  • Anti-scale devices
  • Digital displays
  • Smart capabilities

Get Dependable Hot Water for Decades to Come

While we all wish we could live without the unexpected, sometimes life happens. When your hot water heater fails, you can be prepared with our buying guide, so you can spend less time deciding on a heater and more time with the people you love! 

Fortunately, you’re not all on your own when choosing! With years of experience, our team can evaluate your home’s water usage and needs and offer personalized water heater recommendations. Schedule your appointment with Westminster’s water heater experts!

Interested in a New Hot Water Heater? Call the Prime Experts, Today!

Proudly serving Westminster, CO, the plumbers at Prime Plumbing & Heating are your water heater experts. Whether you need a hot water install, repair, or maintenance check, we’re here to help! Call us at (720) 542-8153 or contact us online to schedule an appointment!  

Schedule Service for personalized customer care today!