Choosing a Water Heater

Choosing a water heater

When trying to decide what type of electric water heater is right for you, you’ll need to consider the initial capital cost of a water heater, but also the installation and operational costs as well. If you’d like to lower operational costs by choosing a more efficient water heater system, you’ll also have to consider the cost of the heat pump, electric thermal storage system (ETS), or solar system that’s involved.

You’ll also need to think about the water needs of your home. Typically, for a household with one to four people, a 40 gallon tank works great. Smaller tanks are available, but they often cost the same or more and they may not be insulated as well. For four or more people (or if you’re using your water heater with time-of-day rates) you’ll probably want a larger 60 gallon tank.

To make the right decision, we recommend reaching out to one of our water heater dealers for professional advice on which water heater is right for you.

For the most up-to-date rebates available for residential water heating, visit Efficiency One.

Time of day (TOD) rates

If you meet the requirements, you can spend less on the energy required to heat your water by taking advantage of time-of-day (TOD) rates. With TOD rates, you can program your water heater to heat during off-peak hours, saving you 44% on water heating costs. A 60 gallon tank is standard for TOD applications, as it lessens the amount of charge time during the shoulder period, helping keep costs lower.

Heat pump water heaters

Heat pump water heaters absorb heat from the air and transfer it into your water storage tank. They typically have higher initial costs than conventional storage water heaters, however they have lower operating costs which can offset their higher purchase and installation prices. Heat pump water heaters can provide the same amount of hot water as a standard electric heater while consuming 50%-70% less energy. These are great for homes that are looking to improve their efficiency.

Solar hot water

A solar hot water system harnesses heat from the sun—typically using a network of panels on your home’s roof—to heat your domestic hot water. The cost of your system will depend on how much water you need to heat, which in turn impacts the size of your system, such as the number of solar panels and size of your water tank. The cost of purchasing and installing a typical system can range from $6,000-$10,000. 

Is it right for you? A home energy evaluation is a good first step in determining if a solar hot water system is your best current option to conserve energy in your home. 

Other water heater considerations


One of the benefits of electric water heaters is that there is very little maintenance required—unlike a fossil fuel system. Simple routine checks of your water heater will ensure that there are no leaks around fittings or bottom of tank. Check with your insurance company as they may offer a leak detection program. Maintenance performed by a plumber may consist of a visual check, voltage check of elements, and possibly a flushing of the tank.

If the recovery time (the time it takes for the water to heat up after a heavy use) is significantly reduced, you may have a malfunctioning element in your water heater. This can also cause your power usage to increase. Consult a certified plumber if you think your water heater needs to be repaired.


Efficiency Nova Scotia still offers wrapping for hot water tanks as it reduces standby losses. That said, newer tanks are much better insulated and may not need to be wrapped—but it could still be beneficial. You should check your warranty to ensure that wrapping your water heater does not void the warranty.

Hot water safety

Since most domestic hot water tanks come factory-set at 60 degrees Celsius, there is a risk of scalding. To prevent or minimize this risk follow these tips:

  • Never leave a child alone while filling a bathtub with water, and always check the water temperature before putting your child in the water.
  • Practice turning the cold water on first, then add hot water until the temperature is comfortable and test the water temperature before bathing or showering.
  • If the water coming from your tap is too hot, you can install valves in the plumbing lines that will reduce the temperature of the water delivered at the tap by mixing in cooler water. Alternatively you can install anti-scald devices at individual taps which slow the water to a trickle if it gets too hot.
  • If you’re in a home with small children or elderly occupants, it may be appropriate to turn down the temperature of the hot water tank. If you choose to do this, the Canada Safety Council recommends a temperature no lower than 54 degrees Celsius. Hot water temperatures below 50 degrees Celsius may increase the risk of Legionnaires’ disease, which is a form of pneumonia, caused by bacterial growth in the tank.

Electric tankless (on-demand) water heaters 

Tankless water heaters are also called “instantaneous” water heaters because they heat water only when it’s needed. As soon as the hot water tap is turned on, the tankless heater engages and immediately heats the water being pumped through it. Since there’s no storage tank involved, the tankless heater will provide water for as long as the hot water tap (or washing machine, or dishwasher) is turned on.

One challenge with tankless water heaters is the massive amount of current they draw. For a six gallon per minute (gpm) tankless heater, which is enough to handle a laundry machine and one to two showers simultaneously, 160 amps of current is required, where a normal electric water heater typically draws 15-20 amps. When taking into account the fact that the average household has an electric service of 200 amps, having 80% of the home’s available electric capacity simply on the hot water may necessitate an electrical upgrade.

NSP_Site_Icon_Lightbulb_Grey__85x85_01 NSP_Site_Icon_Lightbulb_GreyYellow__85x85_02


Call us at 1-800-428-6774 outside of HRM, weekdays 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.