Is your hot water heater getting old? Most water heaters last 8-12 years, then they should be replaced. No one wants to experience a sudden cold shower or be without hot water for any length of time. We depend on our water heaters for our kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. Having ample hot water on demand is more than a convenience, it’s a matter of cleanliness and comfort.

When it’s time to get a new hot water heater, how do you decide what to get? You might not be able to rely on the same specifications of your current unit to meet your needs. Some considerations include:

  • What kind of fuel is required – gas or electric?
  • What is the size tank you need?
  • How efficient is it?
  • How much space do you have?

This handy guide will help you to understand what to look for in a new hot water heater for your home.

Water Heater Type

One of the first considerations is what kind of fuel you have to use: gas or electric. Gas or propane heaters require a natural gas or propane line to be plumbed to the unit. They also require air to be able to circulate around it. While they are more expensive than electric heaters, they are more efficient. These units also require venting through the chimney to remove toxic emissions safely. Be careful not to have combustible materials such as paper, solvents, chemicals or other flammable items near the heater.

Electric tanks use heating elements to raise the temperature of the water instead of gas burners. They require a nearby electrical GFCI electrical outlet.

Water Heater Size

How many gallons should you have? With cooking, cleaning, showering, etc., a family of four may use as many as 100 gallons of water per day. However, you may not need a 100-gallon tank. Today’s high efficiency units can rapidly replenish used hot water throughout the day. Many gas-powered heating units are between 30-100 gallons, and electric units can between 28-100+ gallons.

The number of people in the household can help to determine the size of your water tank. 1-2 people may be able to use tanks up to 36 gallons, 2-4 people may have 36-46 gallons, and households with 5 or more people may choose 46-60-gallon tanks. Some of the most popular sizes found in homes today are 40-, 50-, or 60-gallon units.


According to Consumer Reports, the cost of heating water can be as much as 20% of your home’s energy budget. This can equate to as much as $600 or more per year. Newer hot water heaters run more efficiently than their older counterparts, so changing your hot water heater proactively may save you some money in the long run. Gas and propane hot water heaters are more efficient than electric units.

Space Considerations

A final consideration in selecting the perfect hot water heater for your dwelling is the size available to install your unit. Smaller homes, mobile homes, and apartments have very little space and may require electric heaters to be placed in closets, cabinets, or other confined spaces. In this case, smaller electric units are often the right choice.

Gas-powered water heaters require ample air space around them, appropriate venting, and an area around them clear of flammable hazards. Therefore, their space requirement is much larger.

Get Some Help

Removing your old water heater and replacing it with a new, efficient, and properly-sized unit is not a simple task. To get the job done correctly so that you enjoy warm water with the least amount of problems and downtime, contact your local plumbing professional today! We here at DRC Plumbing and Sewer install and replace hot water heaters all over Chicago’s West and Southwest Suburban area. Give us a call at (708) 203-7057 or drop us a line to schedule an appointment by clicking the button below.

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