Saving Energy and Space When Choosing a Hot Water Heater

Getting the most out of your hot water heater while using the least amount of space and energy possible.

Design Challenge: Hot Water Heaters
Getting the most out of your hot water heater while using the least amount of space and energy possible

by: Rachel Machacek

Follow this chart for a general idea of how big your water heater should be, but also remember to take into account factors that might bump up your hot water use. For instance:

    • Do you take baths instead of showers?

    • Does your home have an automatic dishwasher or washing machine?
    • Is a whirlpool or spa part of your relaxation routine?

If you answered yes to any of these questions—or if you have teenagers— you’ll need to up your hot-water ante. Work with you builder or the manufacturer to determine the right size for your home.

Water Heater Size Chart:

People Gallons
2 30-40
3 40
4 50
5 50-80

The Low Down on Low Boys:

Installing a water heater in a confined space—or upgrading to a larger heater in your old space—doesn’t have to be a tight squeeze (or an impossible fit). Manufacturers are catching on that not all spaces are created equal and have devised low-boy water heaters (a.k.a. shortys) to save room without sacrificing water volume. These shorter and wider heaters fit in areas with limited headroom, but hold just as much water as their taller counterparts.
Whirlpool Hot Water Heater
The Softer Side of Water:

Efficiency is key when it comes to heating your home—and the water in it. For regions with hard water, consider installing a softener on the main water line. It’ll remove calcium and magnesium ions, which, over time, form a “scale” on the inside of your water heater and pipes. This layer lowers the water heater’s ability to conduct heat and can clog pipes. A water softener replaces these trouble maker ions with sodium, which increases your household’s energy efficiency, makes your soaps and detergents lathery, lengthens the lifespan of pipes and appliances, and ultimately lowers your water bill.
Water softener