Do you know what type of hot water heater that have? Or are you considering a new hot water heater and you want to compare the different types? Either way this article provides valuable information that helps you to identify and compare the various types of hot water heaters that are available on the market.

Do you have a water heater that is not working properly? See the articles 'Troubleshooting Gas Hot Water Heater Problems' or 'Troubleshooting Electric Hot Water Heater Problems' for information on how to solve your problem. Not sure what type of water heater that you have, no problem, review the information below before you proceed.

Electric Hot Water Heaters

Standard Electric Hot Water Heaters

Standard gas hot water heater installed in basement.A standard electric hot water heater has some of the same characteristics that all water heaters have. However, they are simpler than their gas fired cousins, so they have fewer distinctive features. So do identify one, you are looking more for what they don't have instead of what the do have. See the descriptions for Gas Water Heaters below for some of the distinctive gas water heater features. Look for these features to see if your water heater is electric.

Electrical Hook Up - This is generally a conduit, usually flexible that is attached to the top of the water heater. It is not a regular cord that plugs into an outlet. Most water heaters run on a 50 amp 220/240 volt circuit, so the wiring is heavy duty.

Access Panels - Electric water heaters use 'heating elements' to heat the water. These have electrical terminals that attached to the element that extends inside of the tank. Most water heaters will have two elements. On the side of the water heater you will find two access panels that are attached with screws.

No Gas Line or Gas Valve - Unlike a gas water heater, the electrical supply line is all that is needed. So you won't find a gas line attached to the unit.

No Vent Flue - Electric water heaters do not have any exhaust, so there is no need for a vent flue, plastic or metal.

High Efficiency Electric Hot Water Heaters

High efficiency electric hot water heaters use technology that is similar to a heat pump. As a result, the unit will have a heat exchanger on top of the unit that acts much the same way the heat exchanger works for a heat pump. These units are generally called hybrids in that they use both heating elements and the heat exchanger. Look for some of these features:

Tank-less or Inline Electric Hot Water Heaters

Wall Mounted Tankless Water Heater

Tank-less electric water heaters are much smaller than a standard model. They are normally mounted on the wall and have a clean simple look. You will notice a few things when you see one:

Gas Hot Water Heaters

Standard Gas Hot Water Heaters

gas water heater 320x462A standard gas hot water heater is fairly easy to identify. It has a few tell tale features that distinguish it from other type. See the following list for the unique features:

Power Vent Gas Hot Water Heaters

Power Vent gas water heaters are very similar to standard gas water heaters. The main difference is that it has a fan housing on the top of the unit that forces the exhaust out of a non-vertical vent pipe. These units are used when a standard vertical chimney is not available. Look for these features on a power vent water heater:

High Efficiency Gas Hot Water Heaters

'High' efficiency gas water heaters may look quite similar to a 'standard' gas water heater. This is due to the fact that they have all of the same equipment requirements, with the possible exception of the type of flue. Unfortunately, the term 'High' can be applied to any water heater that is felt to be a higher efficiency than a standard version. So, the only difference might be additional insulation around the tank.

A true or optimal 'high efficiency' gas hot water heater will have a secondary heat exchanger that extracts additional btu's from the hot exhaust that a gas water heater normally produces. When this technology is employed, the exhaust is cool and the vent can be plastic pipe that can either go horizontally or vertically.

Look for these features on a High Efficiency gas water heater:

Tank-less or Semi Tank-less Gas Hot Water Heaters

tankless gas water heater 320x427 2Tank-less or semi tank-less gas hot water heaters have a very different look than a standard or even a high efficiency gas water heater. First of all, they are a lot smaller and usually mounted on a wall. The reason for this is that the 'tank' that holds the hot water is the biggest feature of a standard water heater. Even if you have a semi tank-less unit, the tank is only a few gallons compared to 40-100 gallons for a conventional unit.

So a tank-less, or semi tank-less gas hot water heater will have the following features:

There are lots of manufacturers out there with several styles for each type of water heater. So, it is impossible to list every identifying feature of every available unit. We hope that this quick list of descriptions will help you if you are unsure about what type of unit you have.