Choosing the Best Commercial Water Heater for Your Facility

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Whether your building's water heater is nearing the end of its lifespan or you’re in charge of choosing one for a new facility, finding the right type is integral to your day-to-day operations. Considering the average lifespan of a commercial water heater is around 12 years, facility managers need to find a water heater that will fit their facility’s needs for years to come. 

With all the options available, choosing between a gas or electric water heater and deciding if you want a tank or tankless option can be challenging. 

Factors to Consider

As you research commercial water heater options for your facility, important criteria you should consider include:

  • Space: Do you have room for a large tank, or is your facility’s space limited?
  • Fuel type: Are you able to supply enough gas or electricity, and do you have a preference?
  • Benefits: What features will help your facility operate smoothly?
  • Cost: Will you need a lower upfront cost, or do you prefer lower ongoing costs?
  • Service/Maintenance: How often and how many resources are you able to dedicate toward regular maintenance?
A plumbing technician performing service on a commercial hot water heater.
  • Current equipment: 
    • If you’re replacing an existing electric water heater, ensure the new model matches the voltage and wattage of the old model.
    • If you’re replacing an existing gas water heater, match the diameter of the exhaust vent and the fuel type with the new model.

Below, you’ll find information about different types of water heaters — gas vs electric and storage tank vs tankless water heater options.

Gas Water Heaters

How it Works:Best For:Benefits:Considerations:
Natural gas or propane is used to heat waterFacilities that need a reliable hot water source at a lower monthly cost
  • Cost-efficient
  • Quick recovery
  • Stays running during power outages
  • Needs more ventilation
  • Has pipes that need access to the outdoors
  • Gas line and flue vents need to be checked regularly to remove any buildup

Electric Water Heaters

How it Works:Best For:Benefits:Considerations:
Electricity from your building is used to heat waterFacilities that don’t rely on a constant hot water supply and don’t have the time to keep up with regular maintenance
  • Few maintenance needs
  • Low upfront costs
  • More environmentally friendly
  • Takes longer to heat water
  • If you lose power, you lose hot water
  • Slightly higher monthly costs
  • Electrical elements can potentially impact water quality
A plumbing technician servicing a commercial hot water heater tank.

Storage Tank Water Heaters

How it Works:Best For:Benefits:Considerations:
A large physical tank continuously heats the water being storedFacilities with a large usage of hot water that need it immediately and have space for equipment
  • Less maintenance is required
  • Fewer costs to purchase and install
  • Hot water is always ready
  • Energy may be wasted by heating the same water
  • Once the stored water is used, you have to wait for the water to be heated again
  • Used in conjunction with traditional gas or electric water heaters

Tankless Water Heaters

How it Works:Best For:Benefits:Considerations:
A small unit heats water on demand without storing the waterFacilities with space limitations that need a lot of hot water, but don’t need it the second it’s requested
  • Water is heated on demand
  • Creates an endless supply of hot water
  • Takes up less space than a water heater with a tank
  • Energy efficient
  • The upfront cost can be higher
  • More preventative maintenance
  • Short requests may not be enough to pull hot water
  • Water quality may be impacted
  • Used in conjunction with gas or electric water heaters

Meeting the Hot Water Needs of Your Facility

Finding the right water heater ensures your facility’s water needs are met in a way that works for you. Considering the fuel type, features, costs, resources, and your building’s space and current equipment are all important when choosing a commercial water heater.

A gas water heater is suitable for a facility that needs frequent, reliable hot water, although its pipes will need access to outdoors. On the other hand, electric water heaters are great for facilities that don’t rely on a constant hot water supply but are looking for fewer maintenance needs. 

Deciding on a storage tank water heater is a good choice for facilities with ample space that need a lot of hot water at a moment’s notice, but can offset the small costs of reheating the same water that isn’t used before it cools down. Tankless water heaters fit the needs of facilities with space limitations that require much hot water but don’t need it immediately and have the resources for more preventative maintenance.

Knowledge on the Go

To view the full comparison between gas or electric and tank or tankless water heaters, download our:

Our Water Heater Services

RBI is a premier full-service plumbing, mechanical, service, controls, and design-build company. We provide custom services tailored to meet your needs and requirements at each stage of your building’s journey.  From helping you choose the best commercial water heater for your facility to providing service and preventative maintenance for years to come, we’ve got your back.