Hot Water Heater Basics For Durham Region Home Owners

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Hot Water Heater Basics For Durham Region Home Owners

If you own a residential property in Durham Region, Ontario, you need to know about these water heater basics.

You might not give it much thought, but your hot water heater is one of the most important features in your home. It is a large tank designed to hold and heat water. Homeowners rely on it for comfort and convenience.

Advances in technology have resulted in more options than ever when it comes to choosing the right water heater. Budget, energy source, and household size are the main factors that drive a purchasing decision.

Lets review everything you need to know before deciding which option is right for you. We will break it down into the following sections:

  • About water heaters
  • Purchasing considerations
  • Maintenance and repair
  • Installation and removal

About water heaters

There are several types of water heaters in the market. We will touch only briefly on tankless water heaters, as they will be covered in depth in a separate article.

Tankless Water Heater

Tankless hot water heaters are compact. They are more energy efficient, as they do not keep a tank of hot water ready and waiting. They heat water as it passes through a series of coils in the unit. They come in both electric and gas models.


  • Compact in size, taking up less space than conventional water heaters
  • They virtually eliminate standby losses, which is energy wasted when hot water cools down a long pipe or sitting in the storage tank
  • Less water wastage as it provides hot water immediately when it is used, tankless water heaters waste less water
  • Water does not need to run to achieve hot temperatures
  • Can provide unlimited hot water as long as it is operating within its capacity
  • Reduces energy consumption by as much as 30%
  • Expected life of tankless water heaters is 20 years, compared to 10 to 15 years for tank type water heaters


  • Tankless water heaters usually cannot supply sufficient hot water for simultaneous uses, such as showers and laundry
  • Unless the system is equipped with a modulating temperature control, it may not heat water to a constant temperature at different flow rates
  • Water temperatures can fluctuate, particularly if the water pressure varies in different parts of the house
  • Electric tankless water heaters require a relatively high electric power draw because water must be heated quickly to the desired temperature
  • In some cases, the home's electric service may need to be upgraded
  • Tankless gas water heaters must be vented to the outdoors, either with a direct vent or conventional exhaust flue
  • If a gas-powered unit has a pilot light, it can waste energy (with a conventional water heater, the pilot heats the water in the tank so it is not really wasted)

Gas  Water Heater

A gas water heater tank works by heating water and storing it until needed. Hot water is drawn from the top of the tank and replaced with cold water at the bottom.

These have a higher up-front cost and must be vented outside. They are, however, more affordable to operate long-term. Gas water heaters also have a higher recovery rate, which is the time it takes to reheat the water after it is depleted.


  • More energy-efficient than electric water heaters
  • Typically easy to install
  • Approximately 1/3 the cost to operate versus electric
  • Recovers much more quickly than electric
  • Gas supply is not affected during a power outage


  • Home must have access to natural gas or rely on the delivery of propane
  • More expensive than electric water heaters
  • Requires additional piping and a new ventilation system to vent the exhaust coming from the combustion process
  • Relies on a pilot light

Electric  Water Heater

Electric water heaters might be a better option for homes that do not use gas for other appliances. While they are fairly easy to maintain and install, they do cost more to run and have a slower recovery rate than gas.

Storage tank water heaters are the most common type. These units have an insulated tank where water is heated and stored until it is needed.


  • In general, most of the energy loss from gas water heaters occurs during the venting process, which is nonexistent in an electric water heater
  • Unlike gas water heaters that run on propane or natural gas, electric heaters are not susceptible to gas leaks
  • Most homes are tied to the electric grid, which means they have a readily available source for electricity (unless there is a power outage)
  • Variety of high efficiency options available


  • Heating time and recovery rates   are longer versus gas water heaters
  • May be adequate for smaller households (ie. two people), however, larger households with more hot water needs may require a gas water heater
  • Access to hot water will not be available if the power grid goes down due to a storm or other event
  • Natural gas is one of the cheapest sources of energy, and in most cases, the cost of electricity is much higher

Hybrid Water Heater

Even though hybrid water heaters are significantly more efficient than their counterparts, they require a substantial amount of space and have a high up-front cost. With more moving parts, maintenance can be more complicated. The filter requires regular cleaning, and a drain is required to handle condensation. Hybrid water heaters are ideal for warmer climates or climate-controlled rooms, as they are sensitive to extreme temperatures.

Energy efficiency

The best way to compare efficiencies of water heaters is by their respective energy factors (EF). This number evaluates how effective a water heater is at producing hot water. It measures how much fuel or electricity is required to heat water. Higher efficiency heaters will have higher EF numbers.

Electric water heaters win from an efficiency perspective. Conventional gas water heaters typically have EF numbers ranging from 0.5 to 0.7, while electric water heaters can have EF numbers higher than 0.9. Generally speaking, most of the energy loss from gas water heaters occurs during the venting process, which is nonexistent in an electric water heater.

Lifespan  and warranty

Depending on what model and manufacturer you choose, warranties can vary. On average, water heaters generally come with a warranty period of three to twelve years. This number varies based on the location and design of the unit, the quality of installation, maintenance schedule and water quality.

Purchasing  considerations  

There are many elements to consider when thinking about replacing a tank. Some include gas supply, cold water supply, flue connection to expel combustion byproducts, proper drainage, safe water heater pressure, municipal gas permit and required inspections. Below is a checklist to get you started:

Available energy source

Gas water heaters use propane or natural gas to heat the water. Electric water heaters are plugged into a home’s power supply.  If other appliances in your home already use propane or natural gas, it might make sense to buy a gas water heater.

Otherwise, electric is a better option, as it can be expensive to install gas utilities for a water heater. Researching which utility is the most affordable in your area is helpful, as well.

Amount of hot water needed

Hot water heaters come in different sizes and are rated to supply a certain amount of gallons per hour (GPH). Most manufacturers provide guidelines for their units. A family of four typically requires a 50-gallon unit or larger.

Also look at the first-hour rating (FHR), which tells you how much water the unit will heat in a set amount of time. Natural Resources Canada offers a water heater size guide as a reference tool.

Residential Water Heater Tank Sizing Chart

Look at the capacity and space of your hot water tank

Hot water tank size chart

This chart is for determining the appropriate water heater capacity in response to individual family requirements. Individual use may vary. Sizing is based on 3 gallons per minute (GPM) shower head and standard bathtub. Accommodations for larger capacity and higher recovery water heaters should be made for high demand conditions.

Available space

Traditional and hybrid hot water heaters take much more space versus tankless styles. Determine the height and width your preferred water heater will require, to ensure adequate space is available for installation.

Renting versus buying

If you have ever purchased a new home, you have likely entered into a hot water tank rental agreement through the builder. Many people wonder if it makes sense to buy the contract out versus paying a monthly fee. Below are some things to think about before making a decision.


  • Equipment is owned
  • Monthly payments will not increase or be higher than renting
  • Full warranty - typically five to ten years, and 15 for tankless
  • Vendors might include extra maintenance assistance or protection plans as an incentive
  • Retailers tend to offer flexible monthly payments and allow the balance to be paid in full at anytime, without penalty
  • Zero contract to transfer if you sell your home


  • Repair time is typically 24 hours or less and the cost is covered by the rental company
  • Guarantee that the rental rate increases will not exceed inflation
  • The new contract applies to older water heaters ranging from seven or eight years old to more than 15 years old
  • The water heater rental contract is transferred to the new owner with the sale of your home, unless they want to pay a cancellation penalty

Top manufacturers

John Wood (AO Smith) - John Wood makes residential and commercial water heaters, boilers, and storage tanks that are sold exclusively by plumbing wholesalers and plumbing contractors. It manufactures tankless, hybrid, solar, and high-efficiency tank water heaters.

Kenmore - owned by Sears and available on Amazon, offers gas and electric water tank heaters. They feature their patented RotoSwirl technology, which protects their tank water heaters against lime build-up and helps the products have a longer service life.

Kenmore products are affordable, but lower efficiency models are often reflective of the price. The money saved upfront can cost you more in the long run.

Rheem and Ruud   - Rheem manufactures and markets gas and electric water heaters. Rheem makes residential water heaters in tank, tankless, and point-of-use configurations and units that work with solar water-heater systems. Rheem water heaters are available in multiple sizes and with multiple warranties. Energy-efficiency claims vary by size. Rheem tankless water heaters are available at Home Depot. Its tank water heaters are available online and through a network of dealers.

Whirlpool - Whirlpool manufactures and markets gas and electric water heaters. Whirlpool tank water heaters are available in multiple sizes, and standard and power vent configurations. Whirlpool water heaters are available at Lowe’s.

Ecotemp - Recognized as the #1 seller of portable tankless water heaters in the world, Eccotemp can be found at over 2,000 major and independent retailers throughout North America, Europe, and Australia. Most notable retailers are Amazon, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Camping World, and more.

Maintenance and repair

While you might not ever run into an issue with your hot water heater, if you do notice any of the following, it could indicate a problem:

  • Zero or very little hot water
  • Temperature is not hot enough
  • Water aerators (small screens at the end of faucets) are clogging
  • Pressure drops when hot water is turned on
  • Water is leaking or dripping from the tank
  • Hissing or boiling noise coming from the tank

Culprits that can cause these issues might include:

  • Pilot light has gone out
  • Dip tube is damaged or disconnected
  • The water tank is too small
  • Corrosion or cracking of tank liner or heating mechanism
  • Overheating or pressure accumulation
  • Faulty water supply connections
  • Drips from the temperature and pressure (T&P) relief valve discharge pipe usually mean a thermal expansion tank is needed


Follow these simple maintenance procedures every six months to a year, to keep your water heater operating safely and efficiently for years:

  • Flush the tank annually to remove built-up sediment
  • Check or replace the sacrificial anode every 1 to 3 years to help prevent harm to the tank caused by corrosive minerals
  • Relieve the pressure - hot water tanks have a temperature and pressure release valve that can be checked periodically to make sure it’s functioning correctly

Installation and removal

It is advisable to call a licensed plumber if you are experiencing any issues, or need to remove or install a hot water tank. Without proper experience or knowledge, tampering with a DIY hot water heater project could result in injury, flood, fire or explosion.

Licensed plumbers offer:

  1. Professional Advice: With all of the water heater options in the market and the above points to consider, a professional plumber can guide you to the model that will work best for your needs and budget.
  2. Correct Installation: Incorrect installation can not only lead to fire, explosions, water leaks, and the use of excess energy, but it could also result in violations of the local building code requirements. Incorrect DIY installation can also void the manufacturer warranty.
  3. Safety Standards: Every type of water heater has its safety standards with which to comply. Standards vary depending if the unit runs on gas or electricity and whether it has a tank or not. The Ontario Building Code must be adhered to, as well.
  4. Peace of Mind: There is little comfort in wondering if your DIY installation was done correctly. With so many steps to follow and codes to abide by, one misstep could present a high risk of leaks, mold, excess energy, and more importantly, fire and/or explosion.  

Having a professional install your water heater gives you and your family peace of mind.


By now you should have a general sense of types of water heaters, pros and cons, buying considerations, and issues to look out for. You should also have a better understanding of the importance of hiring a licensed professional to remove or install your hot water tank.

If you are in the market for a new hot water tank and would like the guidance of an experienced and licensed plumber, contact  at  or visit  today.