Water Heaters

Need a New Water Heater?  Selecting a water heater may seem like a simple task. But there are many factors to consider when choosing a water heater, especially for commercial use.

Start with the Basics

If you’re in an industry that demands hot water, you’ll likely start with these categories:

  • Commercial Grade

    Commercial water heaters are built to be stronger than residential units – they are specifically designed to withstand heavy & consistent use. And there are a variety of sizes, types, and setups available, because each commercial application has unique hot water needs.

  • Tank Type (aka Storage)

    Tank-type water heaters are great because they both heat and store the water, keeping it hot and ready to use. That’s why these familiar water heaters are typically the best option for commercial settings.  And there are various storage capacities available in both Standard and High-Efficiency models.

  • Natural Gas

    Natural gas is the most popular fuel source because it’s still the most efficient method of heating water in the Midwest. Gas water heaters can heat the water to set temperature about twice as fast as electric water heaters do – and they cost about half as much to run as electric units.

Water Heaters by Type

Click the tabs below to learn more about each type of water heater. 

Standard Tank Type Water Heaters

Standard storage water heaters are still the most common choice because they are easy to install with limited restrictions, and they are available in a wide range of gallon & BTU size combinations, providing options for accurate sizing in nearly any commercial application.

  • Simple, Time Tested Design

    The classic and dependable workhorse, standard water heaters – also known as atmospheric vent water heaters – still feature an open flame and burner to heat the bottom of the tank, and simple venting via natural convection. These heaters draw air for combustion from their surrounding atmosphere, while the hot exhaust gasses also heat the water as they naturally flow up the flue to a vent or chimney to the outside.

  • Tank Size (Storage Capacity)

    Storage capacities can range anywhere from 30 gallons to 130 gallons, but the most common sizes are typically 75 or 80 gallon models. Specific tank size options will vary slightly by manufacturer.

  • Input (Recovery Rate)

    The input amount determines how quickly your water heater will replenish the hot water supply. The higher the BTU input of the burner, the faster the recovery rate.
    Gas inputs on commercial atmospheric vent water heaters range anywhere from 75,000 BTUs to 725,000 BTUs, but the most commonly selected options are the 199,000-250,000 BTUs models.

how to choose a hot water heater

Pros of Standard Water Heaters

  • Easy to Install

    Simple venting with limited restrictions.

  • Budget Friendly

    Lower price point makes them easier on your budget

  • Moderately Efficient

    Average efficiency ratings between 80-86%

Possible Drawbacks

  • Requires Fire Rated Room

    Per code, an open flame pilot light requires installation within a fire rated room for safety.

  • Needs Hazard-free Zone

    Corrosive chemicals and flammable materials can’t be stored near these types of heaters.

  • Needs Fresh Air

    Requires adequate fresh air flow into room for proper combustion and safe venting.

High Efficiency Tank Type Water Heaters

High Efficiency (HE) water heaters are the “greener” choice. Gaining popularity in the last few years, HE units are now available in a wider range of gallon & BTU size combinations that weren’t offered when the technology was new, making them viable options for more situations.

  • Advanced Design for Increased Efficiency

    While similar in size and shape to standard models, High-efficiency water heaters feature a very different internal design that allows them to use nearly all the energy generated by the fuel they burn. These heaters achieve their higher efficiencies by heating the water from the inside out (known as sealed combustion), as well as essentially extending the path the hot exhaust gasses travel out, using their heat for as long as possible to heat the water.

  • Tank Size (Storage Capacity)

    Storage capacities can range anywhere from 50 gallons to 120 gallons

    • For primary water heater use, the 80 and 100 gallon models are the most common sizes used.
    • The smaller 55 and 60 gallon tank models are frequently used as sanitizing booster heaters, thanks to their low profile and ability to reach 180 degrees.

    Specific tank size options will vary slightly by manufacturer.

  • Input (Recovery Rate)

    The higher the BTU input, the faster the recovery rate. HE water heaters use the same amount of fuel standard water heaters, but they use that fuel more efficiently and get the water hot faster, so they aren’t firing for as long.
    Gas inputs on commercial water heaters range from 75,000 BTUs to 499,000 BTUs, but the most popular models are 120,000 BTUs, 199,000 BTUs, and 250,000 BTUs.

Pros of High Efficiency Water Heaters

  • Quicker Recovery

    HE heaters use fuel to heat water in multiple ways, starting from the inside out. This replenishes the hot water supply faster than standard heaters.

  • Saves $ on Energy Bills

    Most HE heaters have efficiency ratings around 95-98%, so very little energy is wasted. Doing more with the fuel burned in less time equals less energy consumption overall.

  • Safer Operation

    Enclosed combustion chamber means no exposed flame, so there’s no need for a fire-rated room. And cooler exhaust gasses mean PVC can be used for venting material.

Possible Drawbacks

  • Installation Restrictions

    HE heaters need to be installed relatively close to an outside wall or roof, with perfectly balanced venting for proper combustion. This limits where these units can be installed and may increase the cost of installation.

  • Higher Equipment Cost

    The same advanced internal design and high-tech controls that make HE units highly efficient also make them more expensive to produce, leading to a higher price tag when buying one.

  • More Tech, More Problems

    HE units have sophisticated controls and sensitive calibration requirements so specialized training is needed to accurately service them when something goes wrong, which can increase repair costs.

Booster Heaters

Booster heaters are used in commercial kitchens & other similar applications that require 180°F rinse water to sanitize dishes & utensils without harsh chemicals. If you have a high-temp dishwasher, you’re going to need one of these.

  • Dirty Dishes Don't Clean Themselves

    Restaurants and other commercial kitchen applications typically have rack or conveyor type dishwashers in place to clean and sanitize dishes and flatware after use. Low-temp dishwashers use chemicals to kill the bacteria and sanitize the dishes. High-temp dishwashers use extremely hot water (180°F) to kill bacteria, eliminating the need for chemical sanitizers.

    But you can’t just turn your regular water heater up to 180°F, because that WILL cause instant 3rd degree burns. That’s what booster heaters are for.

  • Actual Hot Water Heaters

    More than a water heater, a booster heater is literally a hot water heater – in that it “boosts” the temperature of already hot water (between 120-140°F) to 180° F to provide sanitizing rinse water when using a high-temp dishwasher. (180°F is the water temperature required for compliance with UL Sanitation (NSF5) and all Federal, State, County and Local Health Department Sanitation Codes.)

    Booster heaters are available in both gas and electric models, but we tend to favor gas boosters if you have the extra space.

kitchen-1310290_1920
Dishes
cleanglsses
  • Gas Booster Heaters (Our Preferred Choice)

    Gas booster heaters do cost a little more upfront, and require a bigger building footprint and separate venting. That’s because they are usually small high-efficiency tank-type water heaters, with storage capacities between 45-60 gallons. But that extra storage space means they can easily handle your dishwasher’s dumpload. And with BTU inputs between 160,000 BTUs to 200,000 BTUs, they replenish the supply much faster than electric units, so they aren’t running as often or as long. Combine that with gas being cheaper than electricity and your energy bill will be about a third of what it would be with an electric booster, which offsets the upfront price difference over time.

  • Electric Booster Heaters

    Electric boosters take up less space because their storage capacities are usually only between 5 to 20 gallons. They don’t require separate venting and are available in a wide range of sizes, usually between 6kW to 54kW inputs to fit various dishwashers and those models can be ordered with the applicable volts and phases to fit the location’s electrical setup. Electric boosters cost less upfront, but are far more expensive to operate and typically have a shorter lifespan than their gas counterparts.

    Still can’t decide between gas and electric?
    This may help: Booster Heaters: Electric vs. Gas

Pros of High Temp Dishwashing

  • More Eco-Friendly

    Much better for our planet than rinsing harsh chemicals down the drain every day. And high-temp washers use less water than low-temp units.

  • Safer than Expensive Chemicals

    Sanitizing chemicals require separate storage & special training for employees to meet safety standards

  • Consistently Cleaner Dishes

    Water at 180°F not only sanitizes but also melts away grease and food bits on the first wash. Low-temp washers may require a second run.

Possible Drawbacks

  • Takes Up More Space

    Booster heaters do use more space – especially gas boosters with venting. This can limit where these units can be installed and may increase the cost of installation.

  • Softener Recommended

    Without the presence of a water softener, the minerals in the water begin to separate out when water is heated.  The hotter water will leave behind a spotty residue on the dishes and more sediment everywhere.

  • Higher Equipment Cost

    High-temp washers + the required booster heaters both come with a higher price tag upfront. But in the end they last longer & don’t use additional consumables.

Additional Info About Booster Heaters

Check out the articles below for a more in depth look at high-temp sanitizing options.

Other Water Heaters

Most water heater manufacturers have a selection of different products available, including alternative options for limited space and other situations that require something beyond the traditional tank type unit.

Indirect Water Heaters

  • What is it?

    Indirect water heaters are named quite literally – they don’t directly heat the water like standard water heaters, so they don’t have their own controls – but they are also more than just storage tanks. Known as a combination system, an indirect water heater is connected to a building’s heating boiler in place of a typical tank-type water heater, where the boiler is the main source of the heat, and necessary controls, for the indirect water heater that feeds the domestic hot water to the building.

  • How it Works

    Hot water from the boiler is piped into the indirect water heater, not directly, but into a coiled metal heat exchanger (usually stainless steel or copper) submerged in the center of the tank. As that hot boiler water spirals down through the coil, heat is transferred from the hot metal to the surrounding cold domestic water inside the tank, while the cooled water inside the coil recirculates back into boiler for reuse.

Image courtesy of energy.gov
  • Pros of Indirect Heaters

    As with anything there’s plusses and minuses to this type of system. These heaters are fairly easy to retrofit to an existing boiler setup, or to install when upgrading to a new high-efficiency boiler system, allowing you to double down on the boiler’s efficiency. And because they don’t have any of their own controls, they are fairly easy on the budget and usually have a longer lifespan than tank-type water heaters.

  • The Downsides

    However, from a commercial standpoint, there are some pretty hefty drawbacks as well. Indirect water heaters are entirely reliant on their connected boilers which means if the boiler goes out, then you’ll be out of everything – heat and hot water are down until that boiler is back up. This connection also means you’ve got to keep that boiler running year-round for the hot water, so there’s no summer break on the energy bills. A traditional tank-type water heater may actually be more efficient than an indirect setup, because you can turn your boiler off in the summer months to save money, without losing hot water.

Want a more in-depth look at how it works? Let’s Talk Boilers: Indirect Water Heating Systems
tankless water heater
Image courtesy of the Creative Commons.

Tankless Water Heaters

  • Hot Water On Demand

    Also known as instant or “on-demand” water heaters, these units are small (about the size of a large suitcase), typically wall-mounted, and have little to no storage capacity. They only heat water as it’s called for, making them quite efficient for residential and light commercial use, where the demand is low and sporadic (such as a salon that only has a few shampoo sinks).

  • On Demand Not Great for High Demand

    Tankless units are much less efficient when demand is high and constant. Their hot water output is measured in GPM (gallons per minute), and while commercial grade tankless models can produce about 3 GPM, that’s usually not enough to keep up with the demand of hot water dependent businesses. When a tankless water heater needs to heat 50 degree ground water up to 120 degrees, it can only do so as fast as that water can flow through the unit. Hot water dependent commercial applications tend to require multiple units installed in parallel to accomplish what a single tank-type unit can. Here’s why.

Specific Factors to Keep in Mind

Most major water heater manufacturers have a large selection of products available, so they break their product lines down into groups and subgroups by certain defining factors like these.

Commercial vs. Residential Grade

We think all water heaters are great, because hot water is great. But if you haven’t noticed, commercial water heaters are really our specialty. What’s the difference?

  • Residential Water Heaters

    Residential water heaters are built for light-duty use a few times a day, by average households – so the size and type options are pretty basic. A family can easily work around peak usage times and simply not run hot water appliances while people are showering.

  • Commercial Water Heaters

    Commercial applications operate under very different circumstances than homes. Apartment complexes, assisted living facilities, and hotels all have numerous households under one roof, sharing hot water. Those people can’t work around peak times, so commercial water heaters must be sized to accommodate all. That’s why commercial water heaters come in a wide variety of sizes and setups – and they are built differently to withstand heavy & consistent use. 

    See our Commercial Water Heater Sizing Guide for more on that.

Venting Specifications

Any combustion process requires fresh air to get started and ends with exhaust gasses. That’s why venting requirements and restrictions play a critical role in selecting a water heater. Where and how the fresh air for combustion is sourced, as well as where and how the waste gasses are removed, will define the venting setup.

  • Atmospheric Vent

    Atmospherically vented water heaters acquire oxygen for combustion from their surrounding atmosphere, specifically the room in which they are installed. Because heat rises, the exhaust gasses are then vented out naturally through the roof via a separate flue or the chimney. Since standard tank-type water heaters are atmospherically vented, this a common setup, but adequate fresh air flow into the room is crucial. Here’s why.

  • null

    Direct Vent

    Direct Vent water heaters can be used when there’s not enough fresh air available in the room for combustion, usually due to tight quarters. These heaters are vented through an outside wall or roof and feature a concentric vent pipe setup, where the smaller exhaust vent pipe is located inside the larger intake pipe. The intake and exhaust processes both still occur naturally, but fresh air is taken in directly from outside through the outer vent, and the exhaust is directly vented outside through the inner vent pipe.

  • Power Vent

    Power venting is needed when natural venting of the exhaust gasses isn’t safely feasible without assistance, usually because there’s too much distance between the heater and the outside. Power vent water heaters are equipped with a powered fan that actually blows the waste gasses out the exhaust vent to ensure they are all safely removed from the building. There are also separate power vent units that can be retrofit to standard water heaters to accomplish the same task. (We handle those too!)

  • Power Direct Vent

    Power Direct Vent water heaters are vented directly through an outside wall or roof, but usually with separate intake and exhaust vents. They also feature a powered blower fan that pulls combustion air in directly from outside, while also blowing the exhaust gasses directly back outside through a separate exhaust vent. Because of the dual-function of the motor, the intake and exhaust vents need to be perfectly balanced in length and diameter, leading to higher install costs for systems with this setup. By design, all high-efficiency tank-type water heaters fall into this venting category.

Other Energy Sources

While natural gas still tends to be the preferred energy source for commercial water heaters, there are also some alternative power source options on the market.

  • Electric Water Heaters

    Sometimes electric is the only option. If so, here’s what matters. Fill info here….

  • Propane (LP)

    Most gas water heaters are designed for natural gas by default, but can easily be ordered in propane (LP) models for areas where natural gas isn’t available, which is still more cost effective than going electric.

  • Solar Water Heaters

    Solar water heaters have gained popularity in recent years, but are far more efficient in regions with consistent sunlight and higher ground water temps. Areas that experience seasonal fluctuations in temperature and daylight hours may require a backup heater, so we don’t recommend them in northern regions.

+
Standard Tank Type

Standard Tank Type Water Heaters

Standard storage water heaters are still the most common choice because they are easy to install with limited restrictions, and they are available in a wide range of gallon & BTU size combinations, providing options for accurate sizing in nearly any commercial application.

  • Simple, Time Tested Design

    The classic and dependable workhorse, standard water heaters – also known as atmospheric vent water heaters – still feature an open flame and burner to heat the bottom of the tank, and simple venting via natural convection. These heaters draw air for combustion from their surrounding atmosphere, while the hot exhaust gasses also heat the water as they naturally flow up the flue to a vent or chimney to the outside.

  • Tank Size (Storage Capacity)

    Storage capacities can range anywhere from 30 gallons to 130 gallons, but the most common sizes are typically 75 or 80 gallon models. Specific tank size options will vary slightly by manufacturer.

  • Input (Recovery Rate)

    The input amount determines how quickly your water heater will replenish the hot water supply. The higher the BTU input of the burner, the faster the recovery rate.
    Gas inputs on commercial atmospheric vent water heaters range anywhere from 75,000 BTUs to 725,000 BTUs, but the most commonly selected options are the 199,000-250,000 BTUs models.

how to choose a hot water heater

Pros of Standard Water Heaters

  • Easy to Install

    Simple venting with limited restrictions.

  • Budget Friendly

    Lower price point makes them easier on your budget

  • Moderately Efficient

    Average efficiency ratings between 80-86%

Possible Drawbacks

  • Requires Fire Rated Room

    Per code, an open flame pilot light requires installation within a fire rated room for safety.

  • Needs Hazard-free Zone

    Corrosive chemicals and flammable materials can’t be stored near these types of heaters.

  • Needs Fresh Air

    Requires adequate fresh air flow into room for proper combustion and safe venting.

+
High Efficiency Tank Type

High Efficiency Tank Type Water Heaters

High Efficiency (HE) water heaters are the “greener” choice. Gaining popularity in the last few years, HE units are now available in a wider range of gallon & BTU size combinations that weren’t offered when the technology was new, making them viable options for more situations.

  • Advanced Design for Increased Efficiency

    While similar in size and shape to standard models, High-efficiency water heaters feature a very different internal design that allows them to use nearly all the energy generated by the fuel they burn. These heaters achieve their higher efficiencies by heating the water from the inside out (known as sealed combustion), as well as essentially extending the path the hot exhaust gasses travel out, using their heat for as long as possible to heat the water.

  • Tank Size (Storage Capacity)

    Storage capacities can range anywhere from 50 gallons to 120 gallons

    • For primary water heater use, the 80 and 100 gallon models are the most common sizes used.
    • The smaller 55 and 60 gallon tank models are frequently used as sanitizing booster heaters, thanks to their low profile and ability to reach 180 degrees.

    Specific tank size options will vary slightly by manufacturer.

  • Input (Recovery Rate)

    The higher the BTU input, the faster the recovery rate. HE water heaters use the same amount of fuel standard water heaters, but they use that fuel more efficiently and get the water hot faster, so they aren’t firing for as long.
    Gas inputs on commercial water heaters range from 75,000 BTUs to 499,000 BTUs, but the most popular models are 120,000 BTUs, 199,000 BTUs, and 250,000 BTUs.

Pros of High Efficiency Water Heaters

  • Quicker Recovery

    HE heaters use fuel to heat water in multiple ways, starting from the inside out. This replenishes the hot water supply faster than standard heaters.

  • Saves $ on Energy Bills

    Most HE heaters have efficiency ratings around 95-98%, so very little energy is wasted. Doing more with the fuel burned in less time equals less energy consumption overall.

  • Safer Operation

    Enclosed combustion chamber means no exposed flame, so there’s no need for a fire-rated room. And cooler exhaust gasses mean PVC can be used for venting material.

Possible Drawbacks

  • Installation Restrictions

    HE heaters need to be installed relatively close to an outside wall or roof, with perfectly balanced venting for proper combustion. This limits where these units can be installed and may increase the cost of installation.

  • Higher Equipment Cost

    The same advanced internal design and high-tech controls that make HE units highly efficient also make them more expensive to produce, leading to a higher price tag when buying one.

  • More Tech, More Problems

    HE units have sophisticated controls and sensitive calibration requirements so specialized training is needed to accurately service them when something goes wrong, which can increase repair costs.

+
Booster Heaters

Booster Heaters

Booster heaters are used in commercial kitchens & other similar applications that require 180°F rinse water to sanitize dishes & utensils without harsh chemicals. If you have a high-temp dishwasher, you’re going to need one of these.

  • Dirty Dishes Don't Clean Themselves

    Restaurants and other commercial kitchen applications typically have rack or conveyor type dishwashers in place to clean and sanitize dishes and flatware after use. Low-temp dishwashers use chemicals to kill the bacteria and sanitize the dishes. High-temp dishwashers use extremely hot water (180°F) to kill bacteria, eliminating the need for chemical sanitizers.

    But you can’t just turn your regular water heater up to 180°F, because that WILL cause instant 3rd degree burns. That’s what booster heaters are for.

  • Actual Hot Water Heaters

    More than a water heater, a booster heater is literally a hot water heater – in that it “boosts” the temperature of already hot water (between 120-140°F) to 180° F to provide sanitizing rinse water when using a high-temp dishwasher. (180°F is the water temperature required for compliance with UL Sanitation (NSF5) and all Federal, State, County and Local Health Department Sanitation Codes.)

    Booster heaters are available in both gas and electric models, but we tend to favor gas boosters if you have the extra space.

kitchen-1310290_1920
Dishes
cleanglsses
  • Gas Booster Heaters (Our Preferred Choice)

    Gas booster heaters do cost a little more upfront, and require a bigger building footprint and separate venting. That’s because they are usually small high-efficiency tank-type water heaters, with storage capacities between 45-60 gallons. But that extra storage space means they can easily handle your dishwasher’s dumpload. And with BTU inputs between 160,000 BTUs to 200,000 BTUs, they replenish the supply much faster than electric units, so they aren’t running as often or as long. Combine that with gas being cheaper than electricity and your energy bill will be about a third of what it would be with an electric booster, which offsets the upfront price difference over time.

  • Electric Booster Heaters

    Electric boosters take up less space because their storage capacities are usually only between 5 to 20 gallons. They don’t require separate venting and are available in a wide range of sizes, usually between 6kW to 54kW inputs to fit various dishwashers and those models can be ordered with the applicable volts and phases to fit the location’s electrical setup. Electric boosters cost less upfront, but are far more expensive to operate and typically have a shorter lifespan than their gas counterparts.

    Still can’t decide between gas and electric?
    This may help: Booster Heaters: Electric vs. Gas

Pros of High Temp Dishwashing

  • More Eco-Friendly

    Much better for our planet than rinsing harsh chemicals down the drain every day. And high-temp washers use less water than low-temp units.

  • Safer than Expensive Chemicals

    Sanitizing chemicals require separate storage & special training for employees to meet safety standards

  • Consistently Cleaner Dishes

    Water at 180°F not only sanitizes but also melts away grease and food bits on the first wash. Low-temp washers may require a second run.

Possible Drawbacks

  • Takes Up More Space

    Booster heaters do use more space – especially gas boosters with venting. This can limit where these units can be installed and may increase the cost of installation.

  • Softener Recommended

    Without the presence of a water softener, the minerals in the water begin to separate out when water is heated.  The hotter water will leave behind a spotty residue on the dishes and more sediment everywhere.

  • Higher Equipment Cost

    High-temp washers + the required booster heaters both come with a higher price tag upfront. But in the end they last longer & don’t use additional consumables.

Additional Info About Booster Heaters

Check out the articles below for a more in depth look at high-temp sanitizing options.

+
Other Water Heaters

Other Water Heaters

Most water heater manufacturers have a selection of different products available, including alternative options for limited space and other situations that require something beyond the traditional tank type unit.

Indirect Water Heaters

  • What is it?

    Indirect water heaters are named quite literally – they don’t directly heat the water like standard water heaters, so they don’t have their own controls – but they are also more than just storage tanks. Known as a combination system, an indirect water heater is connected to a building’s heating boiler in place of a typical tank-type water heater, where the boiler is the main source of the heat, and necessary controls, for the indirect water heater that feeds the domestic hot water to the building.

  • How it Works

    Hot water from the boiler is piped into the indirect water heater, not directly, but into a coiled metal heat exchanger (usually stainless steel or copper) submerged in the center of the tank. As that hot boiler water spirals down through the coil, heat is transferred from the hot metal to the surrounding cold domestic water inside the tank, while the cooled water inside the coil recirculates back into boiler for reuse.

Image courtesy of energy.gov
  • Pros of Indirect Heaters

    As with anything there’s plusses and minuses to this type of system. These heaters are fairly easy to retrofit to an existing boiler setup, or to install when upgrading to a new high-efficiency boiler system, allowing you to double down on the boiler’s efficiency. And because they don’t have any of their own controls, they are fairly easy on the budget and usually have a longer lifespan than tank-type water heaters.

  • The Downsides

    However, from a commercial standpoint, there are some pretty hefty drawbacks as well. Indirect water heaters are entirely reliant on their connected boilers which means if the boiler goes out, then you’ll be out of everything – heat and hot water are down until that boiler is back up. This connection also means you’ve got to keep that boiler running year-round for the hot water, so there’s no summer break on the energy bills. A traditional tank-type water heater may actually be more efficient than an indirect setup, because you can turn your boiler off in the summer months to save money, without losing hot water.

Want a more in-depth look at how it works? Let’s Talk Boilers: Indirect Water Heating Systems
tankless water heater
Image courtesy of the Creative Commons.

Tankless Water Heaters

  • Hot Water On Demand

    Also known as instant or “on-demand” water heaters, these units are small (about the size of a large suitcase), typically wall-mounted, and have little to no storage capacity. They only heat water as it’s called for, making them quite efficient for residential and light commercial use, where the demand is low and sporadic (such as a salon that only has a few shampoo sinks).

  • On Demand Not Great for High Demand

    Tankless units are much less efficient when demand is high and constant. Their hot water output is measured in GPM (gallons per minute), and while commercial grade tankless models can produce about 3 GPM, that’s usually not enough to keep up with the demand of hot water dependent businesses. When a tankless water heater needs to heat 50 degree ground water up to 120 degrees, it can only do so as fast as that water can flow through the unit. Hot water dependent commercial applications tend to require multiple units installed in parallel to accomplish what a single tank-type unit can. Here’s why.

+
Specs

Specific Factors to Keep in Mind

Most major water heater manufacturers have a large selection of products available, so they break their product lines down into groups and subgroups by certain defining factors like these.

Commercial vs. Residential Grade

We think all water heaters are great, because hot water is great. But if you haven’t noticed, commercial water heaters are really our specialty. What’s the difference?

  • Residential Water Heaters

    Residential water heaters are built for light-duty use a few times a day, by average households – so the size and type options are pretty basic. A family can easily work around peak usage times and simply not run hot water appliances while people are showering.

  • Commercial Water Heaters

    Commercial applications operate under very different circumstances than homes. Apartment complexes, assisted living facilities, and hotels all have numerous households under one roof, sharing hot water. Those people can’t work around peak times, so commercial water heaters must be sized to accommodate all. That’s why commercial water heaters come in a wide variety of sizes and setups – and they are built differently to withstand heavy & consistent use. 

    See our Commercial Water Heater Sizing Guide for more on that.

Venting Specifications

Any combustion process requires fresh air to get started and ends with exhaust gasses. That’s why venting requirements and restrictions play a critical role in selecting a water heater. Where and how the fresh air for combustion is sourced, as well as where and how the waste gasses are removed, will define the venting setup.

  • Atmospheric Vent

    Atmospherically vented water heaters acquire oxygen for combustion from their surrounding atmosphere, specifically the room in which they are installed. Because heat rises, the exhaust gasses are then vented out naturally through the roof via a separate flue or the chimney. Since standard tank-type water heaters are atmospherically vented, this a common setup, but adequate fresh air flow into the room is crucial. Here’s why.

  • null

    Direct Vent

    Direct Vent water heaters can be used when there’s not enough fresh air available in the room for combustion, usually due to tight quarters. These heaters are vented through an outside wall or roof and feature a concentric vent pipe setup, where the smaller exhaust vent pipe is located inside the larger intake pipe. The intake and exhaust processes both still occur naturally, but fresh air is taken in directly from outside through the outer vent, and the exhaust is directly vented outside through the inner vent pipe.

  • Power Vent

    Power venting is needed when natural venting of the exhaust gasses isn’t safely feasible without assistance, usually because there’s too much distance between the heater and the outside. Power vent water heaters are equipped with a powered fan that actually blows the waste gasses out the exhaust vent to ensure they are all safely removed from the building. There are also separate power vent units that can be retrofit to standard water heaters to accomplish the same task. (We handle those too!)

  • Power Direct Vent

    Power Direct Vent water heaters are vented directly through an outside wall or roof, but usually with separate intake and exhaust vents. They also feature a powered blower fan that pulls combustion air in directly from outside, while also blowing the exhaust gasses directly back outside through a separate exhaust vent. Because of the dual-function of the motor, the intake and exhaust vents need to be perfectly balanced in length and diameter, leading to higher install costs for systems with this setup. By design, all high-efficiency tank-type water heaters fall into this venting category.

Other Energy Sources

While natural gas still tends to be the preferred energy source for commercial water heaters, there are also some alternative power source options on the market.

  • Electric Water Heaters

    Sometimes electric is the only option. If so, here’s what matters. Fill info here….

  • Propane (LP)

    Most gas water heaters are designed for natural gas by default, but can easily be ordered in propane (LP) models for areas where natural gas isn’t available, which is still more cost effective than going electric.

  • Solar Water Heaters

    Solar water heaters have gained popularity in recent years, but are far more efficient in regions with consistent sunlight and higher ground water temps. Areas that experience seasonal fluctuations in temperature and daylight hours may require a backup heater, so we don’t recommend them in northern regions.

Feeling overwhelmed? Let us help.

Call us today and we’ll walk you through your options. 

1-800-356-1444

We can provide equipment and sizing recommendations to make your life easier.

Or, keep scrolling for additional information and resources.

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“We have over 100 water heaters in our 60+ buildings, and most are on plans with Reliable. It’s 100% hands off. You sign a contract and if there’s ever a problem, all you do is make one phone call. On a scale of 1 to 10, they’re an 11!”

Ed Pietrzkowski

Director of Operations, Shoreline Company

Other Equipment We Cover

We cover a variety of other equipment and accessories to help ensure your system is complete & running at its best at all times. Looking to upgrade your heating boiler? Sick of seeing hard water spots? We can help!

Related Accessories

Whether you need extra storage or a way to protect your system from pressure caused by thermal expansion, we’ve got you covered.

Interested in commercial water equipment that’s not listed here? Email us with what equipment you’re looking for, and we’ll let you know how we can help!

Ready to Rent?

Our 24/7 rental & service plans provide peace of mind to hot water dependent businesses – start protecting your brand today.

  • No upfront capital costs

  • 24/7 emergency water heater repair and replacement

  • Flexible, easy to budget monthly payments

  • Focus on profits, not hot water problems

Related Information

You may find these articles useful – especially if you’re shopping for a new water heater.
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