A tankless water heater is preferable to solar water heaters for gas-fired tanks. To prevent cold water sandwiches, tankless water heaters now feature a 20-gallon reserve tank and still heater the water only when needed. Tankless heaters use a sealed combustion venting type that prevents carbon monoxide from backdrafting into the home or garage.
A hybrid water heater is ideal for Phoenix residents and preferable to solar water heaters if you have an existing electric water heater. The hybrid water heater uses a heat pump, which sits on top of a traditional electric water heater to heat the water. The heat pump works just like your refrigerator or AC condenser, but in reverse. That is it takes the ambient heat out of the surrounding air and uses that to heat the water and expels a small amount of cool air (perfect for a garage application). Your refrigerator will extract the surrounding cold air and circulate it to provide chilled food while giving off a small amount of heat on the bottom of the unit. Hybrid water heaters are more than 50% efficient compared to solar water heaters for half the cost.
Solar water heaters may be good for a large family who like to take long showers (most of the energy used to heater water goes to showers). An 80 gallon tank or two 50 gallon tanks will be installed with solar water heaters, so there will never be a shortage of hot water but can be overkill for most homes.
Bottom line if you are considering solar hot water:
- Homeowners with gas water heaters and families with children should go with a tankless water heater with a 20 gallon reserve
- Homeowners with electric water heaters should go with a hybrid water heater
- Homeowners should consider solar hot water if they are planning on living in the same house for more than 13 years