The phrase "hot water heaters" used to mean big tanks with fires underneath powered by oil or gas. Now, hot water heaters may be gas- or electric-powered, may make use of new technologies, and are so varied in design and implementation that the homeowner often finds himself overwhelmed with options galore. In this blog article, I will try to put these numerous options into perspective.
The traditional tank hot water heaters are still what I as a home inspector most commonly see. But with the trend towards green buildings and energy conservation, I expect to see high efficiency implementations more often. These might be stand-alone hot water heaters with elongated heat exchangers and/or direct venting, or they might use heat pump technology (either wholly separate or in conjunction with a conventional tank). High-efficiency hot water heaters introduce new requirements, such as the need to drain condensate, but the savings is usually worth it.