There are a few variables that go into water heater pricing which makes it difficult to determine what you should pay for a new water heater. Without some concrete guidelines an apples to apples comparison is just not possible.
So what are these variables? For tank type and tankless water heaters we have to consider size (or capacity), recovery rate, efficiency (both long term and short term), overall quality, overall value, your budget and finally, price. Let’s tackle these one at a time.
Water heaters come in different sizes and different grades. They come in gas or electric models. Gas is more efficient than electric and natural gas creates fewer emissions problems than the power plants that provide the power for the electric heaters. Tank type heaters come in sizes ranging from 2-1/2 gallons to over 500 gallons for commercial grade heaters. Tankless Heaters have no storage capacity and rely on super efficient heat exchangers to produce a large enough volume of water for the user’s specified needs. If your family is large and you have a gang shower for the boys where they all use it at the same time, you are going to use a lot of water and will need a large tank or 1 or more tankless heaters operating in tandem. If it’s just you and the significant other, then a small tankless or 40 gallon standard heater will do. All of these factors combined will establish a staring price point for the heater you need.
Recovery rate is widely understood to define how many gallons a heater can produce in one hour’s time given a certain temperature of water entering through the cold water feed tube. The higher the recovery rate for the same size tanks, the better. Tankless heaters don’t have a “recovery rate” but they do have a “gallons per minute” rating. This is usually provided in a table that shows you how many gallons per minute the heater should produce given different incoming water temperatures. Your plumber will size your tankless heater to provide the amount of water your family needs in the worst-case scenario (i.e. when the incoming water is the coldest).
Like sizes, water heaters come in a wide variety of efficiencies. To be rated “High Efficiency”, the water heater must hit the constantly moving EPA target for that definition in order for the manufacturer to be able to label it as such. With tank type heaters, the difference between your standard efficiency off the shelf water heater and the High Efficiency model may be just a few percentage points or in the double digits. It is safe to say however that when talking about tank type heaters you will definitely pay through the nose for higher efficiency. In general (but not always) higher efficiency purchases are designed to make you feel better about yourself, not the water heater. The reason is that almost all of them will not last long enough for you to recover the extra money you paid to gain that efficiency rating. And tank type heaters will become less efficient every single day that they are in use due to sediment buildup in the hot bottom of the tank where the flame meets the metal. Tankless heaters on the other hand are a different story. For example, our Yes! Plumbing tankless heaters start out at 98% efficiency and will stay at that rating for their entire life due to the lack of sediment buildup. And while a tank type unit has an average life expectancy of 8-10 years, a tankless heater has a life expectancy of about 25 years.
Probably nothing affects the price of your tank type water heater more than the overall quality of the unit. Things like burner construction, tank wall thickness, glass coating thickness, quality of the production processes, welding quality, control quality and integrity, safety switches and valves and even the quality of the jacket and paint affect the price of the unit. The fitting quality of the weldolets (those are where the plumber connects the water pies and safety relief valve) may be the one critical factor that determines the lifespan of that heater. Another important consideration is the place in which the unit is manufactured. Our years of experience have taught us that the absolute best units that will last the longest are made in the USA. Yes! Plumbing has all of our tank type units manufactured for us in the USA.
One last consideration is the quantity of units produced by the manufacturer. Do they produce enough to achieve the manufacturing efficiencies to allow them to sell that unit at the best possible competitive price and still make a reasonable profit? If not, they cannot possibly provide the value you want and that we demand for our clients every day at Yes!. When it comes to tankless heaters, it becomes much more difficult to ascertain the quality of the producer and the unit itself. Some have stainless heat exchangers, some do not. Some require stainless steel venting and others allow less expensive venting materials. Efficiency ratings are all over the board and of course, service history is of utmost importance in determining the quality rating you place on a tankless heater.
Perhaps the overall easiest way to rank quality is to determine what kind of guarantee the plumbing company gives you when they install a heater.
Some companies give you a warranty with a very short labor time (such as 30 days) and a longer period on parts. There are two problems with that. First, it is a warranty, not a guarantee. A warranty like that allows the issuer to avoid any responsibility for the product he installs after 30 days have passed. So a 6 year warranty which covers labor for only 30 days is a telling sign that the company that installed that product has almost zero confidence in it. And if they don’t, you shouldn’t either. On the other hand, if the installing company gives you a guarantee for that same 6 year period (guarantees legally must cover labor and materials for the entire length of the guarantee), you can rest assure that the installed product has probably been thoroughly tested and vetted by the company, and is of the highest quality.
Yes! Plumbing does not give a warranty on any water heaters, we only provide guarantees (6, 8 10 year and lifetime heaters are available). Depending on the model you choose, our tank type heaters are guaranteed for 6 years to forever.
At Yes! Plumbing we have always maintained that the best indicator of value is the warranty on the water heater. If the warranty is 6 years, that is better than four years. Eight years is better than 6 years, etc. An even better indicator is the guarantee vs. warranty as explained above. A guarantee indicates an exponentially better product than a warranty. Think about this: If a company gives you a 6 year warranty that only covers labor for 30 days, parts for a year and the tank for 6 years, how do you think that product compares to the one that gives you a 6 year labor, parts and tank guarantee? How much confidence does that 1st contractor have in that water heater? You think it’s the same quality as the second? Would you be willing to pay more for the second one? Most people would answer “Yes” to that question. The peace of mind of having a higher quality product is worth the extra cost. The old saying “you get what you pay for” is just a fact of life. There is no free lunch.
Of course some people can only budget for a really cheap heater and that’s okay. The point is you need to budget for the best heater you can afford.
We provide a complete selection of tankless and tank type water heaters to fit any budget. Of course, they are all fully guaranteed. Call us any time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for any water heating needs.