Like oxygen, hot water is something you only appreciate when it’s absent. So, it’s not surprising that a water heater is a vital part of the home. Since each home has its own hot water needs, understanding the various types of heaters and what they offer will help you make the right choice for your family.

“The natural-draft-gas-fired water tank is the most common water heater in older houses,” said Jacek Tomkiewicz, an HVAC expert with Fagnan’s Furnace Service in southeast Calgary.

“Newer homes with no chimney often have a power-vented gas water tank. In brand-new homes, they usually go with an electric hot water tank, as it is about half the price of a power-vented tank.”

The electric hot water tank is also a good solution when you must employ a chimney to vent a high-efficiency furnace, since the electric tank is not a gas appliance and is therefore safer to use. Both the electric and gas-fired tanks are also available as a tankless water heater.

“In comparing costs, the tankless model is the most expensive up front, at around $3600 to $4200, but it saves you the most in the long run. Power-vented tanks, which also offer great savings in operating costs, range from about $2000 to $2700 depending on the size,” said Tomkiewicz.

“Tankless heaters are called ‘hot water on demand’ because they only take about 40 seconds to go from cold to hot.” – Jacek Tomkiewicz, Fagnan’s Furnace Service

“Electric hot water tanks – at roughly $1500 to $1700 – and natural-draft-gas-fired tanks, which run $800 to $1000 depending on size, are the lowest cost options up front, but both cost more to operate than other types.”

Only tankless water heaters are considered “high efficiency,” running at about 95 per cent efficiency. Power-vented tanks offer about 80 per cent efficiency, with natural draft gas fired and electric bringing up the rear at around 60-70 per cent efficiency.

Though cost and efficiency are both key considerations, another factor looms large on those cold winter mornings: how long do you have to wait for hot water?

“Tankless heaters are called ‘hot water on demand’ because they only take about 40 seconds to go from cold to hot. Power-vented tanks are the next fastest, followed by natural-draft-gas-fired and electric tanks.”

Consumers should note that due to their lack of efficiency, natural-draft-gas-fired tanks will be phased out over the next couple of years.

For those considering the high-efficiency route, there is a rebate available of up to $1,000 when working with a participating contractor to install a tankless water heater.

For a list of participating contractors in your area and more details on the rebate, visit efficiencyalberta.ca/home-improvement/.