Types of Propane Water Heaters – Best Guide & Reviews


Many homeowners choose gas water heaters in preference to electric models, because of their lower operating costs, because they heat water much faster than electric units, and because they are more eco friendly. Natural gas is generally the cheapest fuel for gas-fired water heaters, but if natural gas is not available in your area, there are many propane water heaters that will equally serve your needs.

Propane water heaters have the same burners as natural gas models, and they are very similar in their operational efficiency. They do, however, require a higher gas pressure and more air for combustion. For this reason you cannot use these two fuel types interchangeably on the same water heater. Manufacturers of most brands of gas water heaters offer both natural gas and propane versions of each of their models. When purchasing a gas water heater make sure that you specify which fuel type you will be using.

The most highly recommended manufacturers of propane tank water heaters are Bradford White and Rheem. Both of these manufacturers make the cheaper traditional tank models, as well as high efficiency tank units. Rheem’s “Imperial Gas Series” and Bradford White’s “Defender Safety Series” are high efficiency models with an energy factor of 0.62 or higher (about 63% efficient). This qualifies them for a 30% Energy Star  tax credit. Besides their higher efficiency, these models have a longer life expectancy than the standard models, and have much longer warranties. The AO Smith “Promax” and “Conservationist” water heaters have environmentally friendly low NOx burners and other features that increase their efficiency and durability.

With the increasing awareness of global warming and the need for greater energy efficiency, more and more people are purchasing tankless water heaters. The most efficient propane tankless water heaters have an efficiency rating of about 82% to 84%. There are many companies that make propane tankless water heater models, but you are more likely to receive satisfaction from manufacturers like Rheem, Noritz, Rinnai, Takagi, Paloma and Bosch. All of these companies make both indoor and outdoor units.

The weatherproof outdoor tankless models mount on an exterior wall of your house and serve the fixtures inside. They have no venting requirements, and are therefore, cheaper to install. They can operate in cold climates down to minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Indoor propane tankless water heaters come in both direct vent and power vent models to suit the needs of you specific installation.

Propane Tankless Water Heater models will provide an endless amount of hot water if their flow rate capacity is not exceeded. They usually have a 20 year life expectancy and they have longer warranties than tank-style water heaters. They are more expensive to purchase and install than tank units, but with your savings in operating expenses, and your 30% Energy Star tankless water heater tax credit, you should be able to pay for your tankless unit in less than 10 years.

The most efficient propane tankless water heater models are the condensing water heaters manufactured by Navien. These tankless units have an efficiency of 98%, which exceeds that of most electric water heaters. Noritz, Bosch and Takagi also make condensing tankless water heaters with efficiencies of over 90%. All of these technologically advanced water heaters are also very eco friendly, and have a life expectancy of over 20 years.

In addition to powering water heaters in residential applications, propane in its bottled form serves a unique role in fuelling mobile and portable water heaters.  Most RV hot water heater models are propane water heaters. The most popular propane RV hot water heater brands are Atwood and Suburban. Both of these companies make rugged, small capacity, tank-type water heaters that mount in the sidewall of RV coaches, fifth wheels and trailers. Atwood also makes a range of propane marine water heater models.

PrecisionTemp’s RV-500 is a specialized propane tankless water heater for use in RV’s. It is 50% more efficient than the RV tank water heaters made by companies like Atwood and Suburban and has a much longer warranty. The TwinTemp models, made by PrecisionTemp, are propane tankless water heaters that provide both water heating and hydronic space heating to upper end RV’s.

There are several portable propane water heaters on the market. The Coleman hot water on demand portable water heater, is a table top propane water heater that provides hot water for campsites , and can serve as a portable camping shower. It can even produce 160 degree hot water for hot beverages and instant soups. The Eccotemp L5 is a portable tankless propane water heater that is very useful in situations where pressurized water is available. It is ideal for an outdoor shower enclosure or an outdoor kitchen, and can be used for washing your car or washing the dog.


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