Tips for selecting a water heater

One of the perks of modern living is hot water from the faucet. Water heaters are responsible for warming the water in your home that you use on a daily basis for bathing, cooking and washing.

Traditional water heaters consist of a large metal tank that heats a reservoir of water using natural gas, electricity or solar power. Tankless heaters do not store water and instead heat the water as it’s needed.

When selecting a water heater for your Chicago home, it’s important to consider its insulation properties, burner efficiency, corrosion resistance and warranty length, as well as the amount of available space in your home.

Traditional water heaters

  • Traditional heaters are able to contain 20 to 80 gallons of water depending on the model. However, once the tank is depleted, the user must wait for water to warm up.
  • Costs for tank water heaters can range from $100 to $600 for electric, and up to $1,000 for a gas model.
  • Some Energy Star models are eligible for state and federal tax credits and/or utility company rebates.

Tankless water heaters

  • Long in use in other parts of the world where space is at a premium, tankless water heaters are becoming increasingly popular in the United States.
  • Tankless heaters, just as their name suggests, do not hold water but instead heat it as it’s used. They can produce a relatively limitless hot water supply, compared to traditional heaters that need time to heat additional water once the tank is emptied.
  • The 98-percent efficiency rate of tankless units can save up to 25 percent on the homeowner’s water heating costs, compared to a tank heater.
  • Because of their relative rarity and the specialized knowledge needed by the contractor, upfront costs for tankless units — $800 to $1,200 — and their installation can be considerably higher than for traditional water heaters. However, tankless heaters and their installation may be eligible for state and federal tax credits and utility company rebates.

In Chicago, a building permit issued by the City of Chicago Department of Buildings is required to install a hot water heater. Visit Angie’s List for consumer reviews on highly rated water heater installers in the Chicago area.


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Standard storage tank water heaters typically need to be replaced after about a decade, but they can last years longer with some homeowner maintenance. When the time comes to buy a new one, there are more options for consumers to consider.

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