What type of water heater is the best for your building?

For year after year, we turn the knob for hot water and it always comes out. Our hot water heater is one of those things we never think we have to be worried about. However, when the day comes where you turn the knob and all you get is cold or tepid water, confusion sets in, and then the thought finally washes over you – what type of water heater should I replace my broken unit with?

Or, you’re in a situation where the hot water heater works as advertised, but you just need more hot water. Your business has grown and you realize what worked a few years ago is just not keeping up with demand.

Another scenario is that you want to be more eco-friendly and get your utility costs under control. Which water heater is going to work toward those goals?

What’s your capacity?

A family of four can put some pretty good use to a water heater, pulling around 100 gallons a day in some cases. By no means does this require you to buy the biggest hot water heater you can find, because you’re not using that water all at once. However, there are a couple of important numbers you need to consider.
Look at the heater’s first-hour rating, or FHR, as this is more important than how big the tank is, to a large degree. A tank with a high FHR will recover fast, which means the water that is used is quickly replaced.

If you’re looking at a tank-less system, the equivalent is gallons-per-minute, or GPM. This will tell you how much hot water can be delivered over a period of time, which is often rated by the hour.
A large business with multiple plumbing fixtures will require a larger tank and a more efficient FHR or GPM.

Keep in mind that a standard shower uses between 2 and 2.5 gallons of water per minute. So if you have two people who each take a 10 minute shower, separately, your 30 gallon water heater is going to be working hard to keep up, and at some point, the second person could be taking a tepid shower, which means you need to consider a system with a larger tank and a better FHR.

Answer these questions for better results

To get to the bottom of what will work for you, start by answering these questions:

• How many people work in the property?
• Is the water heater in a drafty area of the building?
• How is your existing system powered – electricity, gas, renewable energy or other fuel source?
• Is you water hard or soft?
• Are you looking to improve your bottom line by cutting back on utility bills?
• How long will you operate your business out of this specific property?

The number of people in the business and the amount of processes you undertake that involve using hot water will make the size of your tank, FHR and GPM vital. A drafty property or a water heater in a cold part of the business can drastically reduce its efficiency. If you want to stay consistent with your fuel choice, this will also dictate which water heater will be a good fit for your commercial property.

Your plumber will have options available for you regarding water that’s hard or soft. They will also look at every question posed above to make their determination on what you should install.

Storage tank water heater systems:

In general, smaller properties with few people living in them find that a water heater with a storage tank, most of which will last around 12 years, and are powered by gas, to be the best option. This is the most commonly installed unit.

Most tanks will hold between 30 to 80 gallons of heated water. They can be fueled by propane, fuel oil, natural gas (most common) or electricity. They are economical to buy and install, but they use more energy than other types of systems.


A tank-less water heater is a good choice for businesses that plan on operating out of the property for a long period of time – up to 20 years, because that’s the approximately shelf life of most of these units. However, you have to remember that they’re usually only able to provide hot water at a rate of three gallons per minute.

The perk is that they don’t suffer from standby heat loss, which is an issue with tank systems that have to continuously add fuel to the fire to keep the water hot. Another perk is that by installing multiple heaters, which is what larger commercial properties do, you can get more than three gallons of hot water per minute. Finally, these tank-less systems are perfect for tight spaces, because they take up much less room than a tank system.

Hybrid/heat pump water heater:

Instead of generating heat directly, a heat pump water heater will use electricity to move heat around, which makes it an extremely energy efficient machine. Most heat pumps are associated with heating and cooling commercial properties, but they are also used for heating water.

The limitation on these is that you have to have it installed in a room that doesn’t dip below 40 degree or get above 90, or they won’t be efficient. They have a tendency to cool the rooms they’re in, so that has to be considered as well.

Every hot water heater has a shelf life

It’s not uncommon for a water heater to come with a 12-year warranty. If you’re coming up on that 12-year mark or have surpassed it, you’ve got some decision to make in the near future. And while hard water can be tough on your water lines and fixtures, soft water has been found to be corrosive to various parts of the water heater, including the anode, which means the estimated shelf life of your water heater may be much shorter.

Ask a plumbing contractor

When you talk to the professionals at Valley Fire Protection about your water heater needs, they’ll be able to pinpoint the exact type that will suit your property. We have the experience necessary to take your old unit out and install your new one, fast and effectively. Contact us today and let’s talk about your unique commercial property needs.

Related Topics: Plumbing // Water Heater
By: Tom Hartel
I acquired my expertise by directing day-to-day operations of the business for over 20 years. Continuous hard work helped me become a nationally recognized speaker and expert on fire protection, fire sprinklers, special hazards, and plumbing systems. In this blog, I share my knowledge that will hopefully help you make better decisions for your projects.


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