5 Crucial Differences Between Tall & Short Water Heaters

When it’s time to replace your old, faulty water heater, one of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make is whether to go with a tall or short model. The height difference affects much more than just appearance – it can impact your home’s hot water capacity, energy efficiency, and installation requirements.

Tall and short water heaters work in generally the same way to provide hot water to your home. But they have some key variations that make each better suited to particular spaces and lifestyles. Understanding those differences is crucial to ensure you select the right water heater for your specific needs.

Storage Capacity

The most noticeable difference between tall and short water heaters is the amount of water they can store and heat at one time. Tall water heaters have storage tanks that can hold 50-100 gallons, while short water heater tanks max out around 50 gallons.

That extra capacity makes tall water heaters a smart choice for larger families with high hot water usage. The ample supply means you’ll never run out, even if multiple showers, dishwashers, and washing machines are running simultaneously.

For smaller households, a short water heater’s lower capacity may suffice. Just be aware that excessive use at once may deplete the smaller tank faster.

tall vs short water heater

Water Heater Storage Capacity

Water Heater TypeAverage Storage Capacity
Tall50-100 gallons
Short50 gallons

Physical Size

Height is in the name, after all. Tall water heaters are vertically taller, often over 50 inches high. Short water heaters, as you may have guessed, have a much lower profile at around 35 inches in height.

That compact size gives short water heaters a key advantage – they can squeeze into tight spaces where a tall model simply wouldn’t fit. Closets, alcoves, and under counters and stairs are all ideal spots for a short water heater that would be off limits to a taller unit.

Of course, a smaller footprint also means you can install a short water heater without extensive modifications to make room for its height. That translates into lower installation costs.

Average Dimensions

Water Heater TypeHeightWidth
Tall50+ inches20-25 inches
Short35 inches15-20 inches

Energy Efficiency

When it comes to energy efficiency, sizing plays an interesting role. Short water heaters tend to be more efficient as they have much less water to heat in a smaller tank. That means the heater burns less fuel to raise the temperature.

On the flip side, the larger tank capacity of tall heaters allows them to heat water less frequently. The better insulation also helps minimize standby heat loss over time. So while each heating cycle consumes more energy, the overall efficiency differences are fairly minor between tall and short models.

Efficiency Comparison

Water Heater TypeAvg. Energy Factor

Water Flow Rate

Due to their compact size, short water heaters can deliver hot water at a faster flow rate – usually around 7-9 gallons per minute. The shorter distance between the tank and faucet results in hot water reaching your tap without delay.

Tall heaters sacrifice some speed for their high capacity. Expect around a 4-6 GPM flow rate. This slower pace can lead to short waits for hot water, especially for sinks and showers far from the heater.

Flow Rate Comparison

Water Heater TypeAvg. Flow Rate
Tall4-6 GPM
Short7-9 GPM

Cost Differences

Price is often another significant factor when choosing between tall and short models. In general, tall water heaters have a higher purchase price. Their larger size, thicker insulation, and increased storage capacity cost more to manufacture.

Short water heaters provide smaller capacity water heating at a lower upfront cost. But they may end up costing more in the long run through higher energy bills or the need for a supplemental point-of-use heater.

Average Price Ranges

Water Heater TypeAverage Cost

Installation Considerations

Installing a tall water heater often requires modifications to allow sufficient clearance for its height. That might mean changes to ductwork, shelving, ceiling panels and more. All those adjustments boost installation time and labor costs.

With their lower height, short water heaters don’t need as much room to fit. In many cases, no alterations are required during installation. That keeps time and costs down.

Typical Installation Needs

Water Heater TypeInstallation Needs
TallMore space needed. Ceiling, shelving, etc. may need adjusting.
ShortFits in smaller spaces. Usually needs minimal installation modifications.

Lifespan and Maintenance

On average, most residential water heaters last 10-15 years before needing replacement. Tall and short models have roughly the same lifespan under normal use and with proper maintenance.

To maximize the working life of any water heater, annual inspections and draining sediment from the tank are recommended. Replacing anode rods every 5 years will also guard against corrosion and leaks.

Routine Maintenance Tips

  • Drain 1-2 gallons from tank annually to remove sediment
  • Check anode rod every 2-3 years, replace if worn
  • Inspect T&P valve, pipes, and fittings for leaks
  • Make sure air vents and exhaust ducting are clear

Safety Tips

Proper installation is critical to ensure tall and short water heaters function safely. Vents and exhaust piping must direct combustion gases outside. The tank should have adequate insulation wrap. Pressure relief valves prevent dangerous buildups.

Locate water heaters in an appropriate area, like a garage or utility room where leaks cause minimal damage. Place drip pans underneath to catch minor drips and condensation.

For maximum safety, choose units certified by ANSI and other standards organizations. Seek out energy efficient models that consume less fuel while delivering plenty of hot water for your needs.

When deciding between a tall or short water heater, carefully assess your family’s hot water requirements. Tall heaters work best for larger homes and constant use. Go short to save space and money for smaller households.

Weigh all the factors – capacity, efficiency, flow rate, price, installation – to select the ideal water heater for your home’s hot water needs. Proper sizing and maintenance will ensure you enjoy endless hot showers and faucets for years to come.

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