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A Complete Guide to Water Heaters

The water heater is a vital part of your home’s infrastructure. It’s responsible for more than just hot showers; your dishwasher, washing machine, and kitchen faucet all require hot water as well.

The water heater can also be a significant contributor to your energy bill, so it’s important to make sure your home has an energy-efficient setup. You should also make sure you have the right water heater size for your home so you have as much hot water as you need but aren’t using more energy than necessary. In many cases, it’s worth the cost to upgrade to a newer model before your old water heater breaks down.

There are several different types of water heaters, and each one offers unique benefits and disadvantages. Use this guide to figure out which option is best for your home.

Conventional Water Heaters

Most people are familiar with a conventional water heater. This type of water heater has a large tank that stores hot water so it’s ready to use quickly. It’s the most common type of water heater in older homes, and there are many brands, models, and sizes available.


  • The most affordable type of water heater
  • Straightforward installation
  • Provides fast hot water delivery


  • Once the tank is empty, hot water is unavailable for a while
  • Not as energy efficient as other types
  • Requires regular maintenance, including draining and cleaning the tank

Bottom Line

Conventional water heaters are generally affordable and easy to install, but they tend to use a lot of energy and are slow to refill once emptied.

Tankless Water Heaters

After conventional water heaters, tankless models are the most popular option for homeowners. Instead of maintaining a large tank full of hot water, a tankless model heats water “on demand” whenever it’s needed. This means hot water takes slightly longer to get to the tap, but it doesn’t usually run out.


  • Uses much less energy than a conventional water heater
  • Provides unlimited hot water on demand
  • Fits easily into small spaces


  • Can be difficult to install
  • Higher initial cost than a conventional model
  • May require retrofitting in older homes to provide adequate electricity or gas power

Bottom Line

A tankless water heater is an energy-efficient option that can cut utility bills and provide endless hot water on demand. However, the initial investment can be high, especially in older homes.

Heat Pump Water Heaters

Also called a hybrid water heater, this style uses an electric pump to move heat from the air or ground, rather than heating the water directly. Because this style uses existing heat from the environment to warm the water, it’s extremely efficient.


  • Minimal maintenance requirements
  • High savings on utility bills
  • Excellent energy efficiency


  • Requires a lot of physical space, making it unrealistic for some homes
  • High initial cost
  • Not practical for climates with extremely high or low temperatures

Bottom Line

If you live in an area with a moderate year-round climate and have the space in your home to install the large components, a heat pump water heater can be an extremely cost-efficient and eco-conscious choice.

Condensing Water Heaters

Condensing water heaters heat the water by capturing and redirecting hot exhaust gases, rather than directly using electricity or natural gas. There are traditional styles with a hot water tank and also tankless models. While there are some residential options, this type of water heater is typically used in commercial applications in the U.S. In the U.K. however, approximately 70% of homes have condensing water heaters (also called combination boilers).


  • Better energy efficiency than most other styles
  • Eco-friendly with little wasted energy
  • Fast recovery rate eliminates the risk of running out of hot water


  • High initial price tag (up to three times as much as a conventional water heater)
  • Installation can be complicated and expensive, especially if gas lines need to be moved
  • Only practical for homes that run on natural gas

Bottom Line

Condensing water heaters are extremely efficient, making them an excellent choice for homes that use natural gas and homeowners who don’t mind the high initial cost.

Solar-Powered Water Heaters

As the name implies, a solar water heater uses the sun’s energy to heat water. This type of water heater requires enough roof space to hold the necessary solar panels and other equipment. There are both active and passive options. Active water heaters use a pump to distribute the water throughout the home, whereas passive models rely on natural processes (e.g., gravity, thermodynamics) to move the water.


  • Uses eco-friendly renewable energy
  • Lower utility bills
  • May qualify for tax credits in some areas


  • Requires consistent sunshine, which is not available in all climates
  • High initial equipment and installation costs
  • Solar panels may need professional maintenance

Bottom Line

If you live in an area with lots of sunshine and have enough roof space, a solar water heater is an excellent, eco-friendly option. Tax credits and savings on your utility bills may offset the high initial expense.

Contact Johns Plumbing for Expert Advice

Your home’s water heater is vital to your family’s health, comfort, and well-being. If your water heater is old or unreliable, upgrading it is an excellent choice that will save you money and hassle. There are many different styles to consider, and an expert plumber can help you determine which choice will work best for your home’s existing infrastructure. Whether you need emergency service for a broken water heater or want to discuss replacement options, Johns Plumbing is here to help. We serve clients throughout the Triad, providing repair, maintenance, and installation services. We’ll help you find the best water heater option for your home and budget. To schedule a service appointment, contact us online or give us a call at 336-294-2301.

Top Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Plumbing

With budding plants and warmer temperatures, we’re starting to see the signs of spring here in North Carolina. This is a great time to take care of some annual home cleaning and maintenance tasks.

When you’re making your spring cleaning plan, don’t forget about your plumbing! We’ve compiled a list of the most important tasks that can help you keep your home’s pipes and appliances in top shape for the year to come.

1. Inspect Pipes and Water Lines

Small cracks and leaks in your plumbing can quickly turn into serious issues if they’re not addressed immediately. Take some time this spring to check your home’s pipes for any cracks, leaks, or weak spots. The sooner you can find and fix them, the better.

It’s also important to check water supply lines. Along with the water main, most homes have other supply lines:

  • Faucets
  • Toilets
  • Washing machine
  • Refrigerator ice maker
  • Dishwasher
  • Water heater

Look for leaks, tears, bulges, or sharp curves in the water supply lines for fixtures and appliances. If you aren’t comfortable inspecting or making water line repairs yourself, a Johns Plumbing expert can help.

Finally, don’t forget about your home’s rain gutters and downspouts. These places tend to become clogged with leaves, twigs, and other debris. Clearing them out will help prevent backups that can lead to leaks in your roof or water damage to your home’s foundation.

2. Check Your Appliances

It’s important to check your home’s large appliances at least once a year, and spring is a great time to look for problems and make proactive changes to improve performance:

  • Water heater: Verify the temperature (should be less than 120 degrees F), and drain several gallons from the tank to remove sediment and check for rust.
  • Washing machine: Clean the lint trap.
  • Refrigerator: Check for leaks in the automatic ice maker.
  • Sump pump: Test to make sure it’s working properly. You can do this by pouring some water into the container and making sure the pump turns on to remove the water and then turns off.
  • Dishwasher: Check for and remove built-up debris and food waste.
  • Garbage disposal: Test for proper operation, and clean it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

A little bit of proactive maintenance can go a long way toward preventing expensive repairs or emergency replacements.

3. Look for Leaks

You’ve already checked for leaks in your home’s pipes and water supply lines, but don’t forget to check your faucets, toilets, and traps. Make sure there are no slow leaks or drips from any of the faucets in your sinks or tubs.

Look in your under-sink cabinets to check for drips from the traps. It’s also a good idea to clean out those traps to prevent clogged drains.

Finally, check your toilets for leaks. It’s easy to do this with some food coloring. Simply add a few drops of food coloring to the tank and wait about 20 minutes. If the dye colors the water in the toilet bowl, it means there’s a leak.

4. Clean Your Faucets and Shower Heads

Minerals can build up inside your faucets and shower heads, especially if you live in an area with hard water. You can use vinegar or a descaling product to remove the minerals. You might also want to check for mineral build-up in your coffeemaker.

5. Clear Slow Drains

Check on all the drains in your home, especially those that don’t get used often. Run some water to see how fast each sink’s main drain works, and don’t forget to check the overflow drain as well.

If you notice any slow drains, fix the problem as soon as possible to prevent a serious clog and backup. It’s also a good idea to pour a gallon of water into those infrequently used drains to prevent unpleasant odors.

6. Consider Upgrading to Energy-Efficient Appliances

It’s never fun to have to replace a big appliance because it breaks down. Proactively upgrading outdated equipment can prevent costly emergency replacement services. Plus, you get the chance to research available models to decide exactly what you want for your home.

If your water heater is over 15 years old, it’s a good idea to consider replacing it. Newer models are far more energy efficient. Replacing an old air conditioner with a newer model is another way to lower your utility bills.

Contact the Experts at Johns Plumbing

Taking some time every spring to inspect your plumbing makes it easy to find and repair minor issues before they become big problems. Spring is also a great time to consider upgrading an outdated water heater or air conditioning system to reduce energy consumption.

Whether you need an expert eye to check your drains or want to learn more about the latest energy-efficient appliances, Johns Plumbing can help. We’ll help you get your home’s water lines, drains, pipes, and appliances in top shape. You can also call us 24/7 for emergency service.

We serve clients in Greensboro, Winston-Salem, High Point and throughout the Triad area. You can use our convenient online form to schedule a service appointment. For after-hours emergency service, call us directly at 336-294-2301.