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Electric, Gas or Propane: How to Choose the Right Water Heater

Find the right water heater for your household's hot water demand, the installation location, and the model that best suits your needs and priorities.

Choosing the right size tank

Here are the average flow rates (at a pressure of 60 psi) per fixture type:

  • Shower : 1.5 to 2.0 gpm
  • Bath tub : 2.0 to 3.0 gpm
  • Bathroom sink : 0.5 to 1.5 gpm
  • Kitchen sink : 1.0 to 2.2 gpm
  • Dishwasher : 1.0 to 2.5 gpm
  • Clothes washer : 1.5 to 3.0 gpm

Recovery rate
The recovery rate is listed in terms of numbers of gallons of water heated per hour. It is recommended to select a higher recovery rate for systems that have higher hot water demands.

Unit dimensions and installation location
It is likely that a new hot water heater will be larger than an older, replaced model because there is now more insulation built into the storage tank walls. You will have to make sure that you have enough space to install it.

To select the right size tank, you need to plan the amount of water needed for the number of bathrooms, bedrooms, and occupants in the home. Refer to our chart below to make an informed choice.

Pro tip

If the water heater you choose is too small, you may run out of hot water when you need it. On the other hand, a water heater that is too big will result in higher bills due to heat loss. Therefore, the size of your water heater should be chosen according to your needs.
Hot Water Use
Family Size
Capacity/Electric Model
Capacity/Gas Model
Apartment:
  • 1 bathtub/shower
2 people
135 liters (30 gallons)
90 liters (20 gallons)
Apartment:
  • 2 bathtubs/showers
2-3 people
180 liters (40 gallons)
135 liters (30 gallons)
Family home:
  • 3 bathtubs/showers
3-4 people
225 liters (50 gallons)
180 liters (40 gallons)
Family home:
  • 2 bathtubs/showers
  • Dishwasher
  • Washer
4-5 people
290 liters (65 gallons)
180 liters (40 gallons)
Family home:
  • 2+ bathtubs/showers
  • Large capacity washer
  • Large capacity dishwasher
5-6 people
360 liters (80 gallons)
225 liters (50 gallons)
Family home:
  • 2+ bathtubs/showers
  • Large capacity washer
  • Large capacity dishwasher
  • Whirlpool bathtub
6 people and more
540 liters (120 gallons)
340 liters (75 gallons)
Hot Water Use
Family Size
Capacity/Electric Model
Capacity/Gas Model
Apartment:
  • 1 bathtub/shower
2 people
135 liters (30 gallons)
90 liters (20 gallons)
Apartment:
  • 2 bathtubs/showers
2-3 people
180 liters (40 gallons)
135 liters (30 gallons)
Family home:
  • 3 bathtubs/showers
3-4 people
225 liters (50 gallons)
180 liters (40 gallons)
Family home:
  • 2 bathtubs/showers
  • Dishwasher
  • Washer
4-5 people
290 liters (65 gallons)
180 liters (40 gallons)
Family home:
  • 2+ bathtubs/showers
  • Large capacity washer
  • Large capacity dishwasher
5-6 people
360 liters (80 gallons)
225 liters (50 gallons)
Family home:
  • 2+ bathtubs/showers
  • Large capacity washer
  • Large capacity dishwasher
  • Whirlpool bathtub
6 people and more
540 liters (120 gallons)
340 liters (75 gallons)

Energy efficiency

Solar water heaters are the most energy-efficient model. However, they are not recommended for northern climates where there are fewer sunny days. Energy-efficient gas-fuelled, and electric-fuelled tankless water heaters are available for homeowners who wish to save on energy and fuel costs.

When shopping for a new water heater, note the Energy Factor rating (EF). If the EF is high, the model is energy efficient. The model may have an Energy Guide label that will include the yearly operating cost. Look for a water heater that has a rating as close to 1 as possible for optimal savings. While the initial cost of purchasing an energy-efficient model is higher than a standard, traditional model, the costs are offset by utility savings over a period of time. You'll find ENERGY STAR-certified water heaters among RONA's ECO-approved products – all of which consume less energy than the standard models in their category.

Keep in mind that gas-fuelled tank heaters use approximately half as much energy than electric water heaters.

Pro tip

Although the inside of all water heaters is lined with insulating foam, the tank's body can let heat escape. To insulate your hot water tank, purchase an insulating blanket for water heaters. These inexpensive items will limit heat losses and help you save approximately 10% in energy. You could also cover the pipes connected to the water tank with pipe insulation.

Safety, Maintenance and Warranty

When it comes to repairing a hot water heater, consider whether an element such as the thermostat may be replaced economically. If the hot water heater is close to 10 years old, however, repair is not recommended.
  • Safety
  • To protect against burns caused by hot water from faucets, install an anti-burn device.
  • If installing a fuel-fired water heater, set up a carbon-monoxide alarm nearby.
  • Maintenance
  • Professionals disagree as to whether or not it is best to flush the hot water heater. If the homeowner chooses to flush the hot water heater, care should be taken such that it is flushed once yearly. Only one bucket of flushed water is necessary to remove sediment. Warning: Turn off the hot water heater breaker before flushing. If the existing hot water heater has not been flushed regularly, do not start flushing the unit.
  • Every hot water tank model has an anode rod that is accessed from the top of the unit and runs down inside the middle of the tank. The anode rod prevents the entire tank from rusting because it attracts the rust and deters it from attacking the sides of the tank. The anode rod should be replaced every 5-7 years. If the home's water is softened, the anode rod will need to be replaced more frequently. Turn off the water heater's breaker before replacing the anode rod.
  • Warranty
  • Most models, regardless of the type have 3-12 year warranties available.
  • Tank models with longer warranties generally have larger elements, larger burners, thicker insulation on the tank walls, and sometimes a better recovery rate.
  • When shopping, keep in mind that the length of the warranty is a good predictor of how long the hot water heater will last.
Are you having problems with your water heater? Consult our helpful guide: Common hot water heater problems and solutions.

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