Home water heaters are of two types: with and without storage tanks. The latter are more expensive and are currently fairly uncommon in the United States, except among the energy conscious.
The capacity of the storage tank is often used as an indication of the size of water heaters with tanks. Capacities of home water heaters range from about 10 to 80 gallons.
More important than capacity is the recovery rate, which is the number of gallons of water the heater can raise in temperature by a certain number of degrees Fahrenheit in one hour. Usually 100°F is used, but sometimes 60°F. Beginning with a full tank of hot water, a heater with a storage tank can deliver in one hour roughly the number of gallons given as its recovery rate plus about 70% of its tank capacity.
Manufacturers sometimes recommend the heater thermostat be set to 140°F. There are two reasons not to do this, and one reason why you should.
The only reason for a 140°F setting is that automatic dishwashers formerly required this temperature for proper operation. Modern dishwashers, however, have their own built-in water heaters. Even though these dishwashers use a very costly way of providing heat (electric resistance), they heat so little water that overall energy (and money) can be saved by using them and turning the water heater thermostat down to 120°F.
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Last revised: 20 December 2002.