Whether you are considering purchasing a new water heater, are dealing with an old water heater that’s no longer up to snuff, or you’re just the curious type in general, you may well wonder how long does it take for a water heater to heat up a full tank of water.
How Long Does it Take for a Water Heater to Heat Water?
The answer to the question of how long for a water heater to work depends on what type of water heater we’re dealing with.
Standard “Tank Storage” Water Heater – Natural Gas Powered
How long does it take for a gas powered water heater to heat up water? It’s usually around 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of the tank and how cold the water is initially.
Standard “Tank Storage” Water Heater – Electric Powered
How long does it take for an electric powered water heater to heat up water? It’s usually around twice as long as a gas heater – 60-90 minutes, again depending on the size of the tank and how cold the water is initially.
Tankless Water Heaters – Gas or Electric
How long does it take for a tankless water heater to heat up water? Regardless of whether it is gas or electric powered, a tankless water heater is “on demand,” meaning it will heat up the water immediately and keep a flow of hot water coming as long as you need.
Since a tankless water heater only heats the water you need, and does not have to maintain heat in a large storage tank, they can not only be faster but much more energy efficient and cheaper to run – around 25-35 percent cheaper with average use!
I should mention that if you have a conventional tank storage system, either gas or electric, the above times are for heating the entire tank of water – that is, the first time you use it, or if you’ve used all of the hot water in the tank and it needs to recover and reheat.
If you are just turning on the tap, though, and the tank is already full of hot water, it too is essentially “on demand,” and if your pipes are reasonably well insulated and the tank is not too far away you will have hot water pretty much instantly.
Why Is My Water Heater Taking So Long to Heat Up?
If you’ve found my article, chances are that you are probably wondering not just how long it takes for a hot water heater to work, but why yours is taking so long to heat.
There are many different reasons a water heater is not working as well as it might – not just taking too long, but also maybe not reaching satisfying temperatures even after a long time.
Of course, if your water heater is not working at all, you should:
- Check the pilot light and have a professional check the gas supply (for gas powered water heaters)
- Check the electric supply, or call an electrician, (for electric heaters), making sure it is connected and the circuit breaker has not tripped
- Also for electric heaters, you may need to reset the thermostat
- To be as clear as possible, you should not check or work on gas lines or electricity yourself – it can be extremely dangerous, even deadly, and it can also violate building codes and compromise the value of your home. Always use a qualified and licensed professional for any gas line or electrical work!
If these things don’t work, or if your heater is working but just very slowly, or not getting hot enough, the problem might be:
- Your tank is too small for your home and family and your daily use
- Your heater is too far away from your usage points
- Your pipes are not adequately insulated
- The tank may need flushed
These are common issues, but the most common issue seems to be that your water heater is simply on its way out – either it has reached the end of its lifespan, or it has problems that may not make it worth fixing. If so, you might need to have it serviced or even just replace it.
If your water heater is too old – that is, 8-12 years or so [see my companion article – How Long Do Water Heaters Last: Here’s Your Guide] – or has problems that need repair, you may not want to spend, or even waste, your time and money in maintenance, repair, plumbing work and other pursuits, when you can get a new, high efficiency water heater for less than you might imagine, and have not just more satisfyingly warm water much more quickly, but much lower running costs.
This is not a buyer’s guide, but it might be helpful if I list out here my favorite hot water heaters – if you do need to replace your old unit, you might as well get one that will work not just quickly, but efficiently, affordably, reliably and for as long as possible – and provide the most satisfying experience each and every time.
So I will include my personal recommendations for the best hot water heater you can get, including a pick for gas powered and electric powered in the conventional tank storage category and both gas and electric picks for tankless water heaters as well.
Best Electric Water Heater Overall
Bosch Thermotechnology Tronic 5000 T 40-Gallon Standard Electric Storage Water Heater
- APPLICATION: Dimensions : 20.25" W x 49.14" H...
- DURABILITY: Two magnesium anode rods for...
- WARRANTY: 10-year tank and parts limited...
- EFFICIENCY: HFO foam insulated, reducing fuel...
- CONVENIENCE: Factory-installed electric hot...
What I Like:
- Very well built and long lasting
- Super efficient
- Corrosion-free design
- Pre-installed water connectors
- Great Warranty
- A bit expensive – though IMO well worth it!
Best Tankless Electric Water Heater
Stiebel Eltron Tempra 24 Plus Tankless Electric Water Heater
- CONTINUOUS FLOW – Advanced Flow Control...
- SPACE & ENERGY SAVER – Its small, sleek...
- EASY OPERATION – Electronic switch...
- TEMPRA 24 PLUS – This specific model is...
- WARRANTIES INCLUDED – Stiebel Eltron’s...
What I Like:
- Lowest running costs
- Great for the environment
- Easy installation
- Low maintenance
- Very high material and build quality
- High volume continuous hot water flow
- None – highly recommended!
The Best Gas Water Heaters
Gas water heaters are still in more than half the homes in the United States and around the world, and they do have lower operating costs thanks to the currently relatively low cost of natural gas. They heat and reheat more quickly, will work even during power failures and are a good choice especially if you already have the gas lines in place.
Best Natural Gas Water Heater Overall
Rheem Pro Classic Natural Gas 50 Gallon Tank Storage Water Heater
- Eco-friendly burner, low NOx design
- Meets 50 ng/J NOx requirements
- Recovery: 30.3 to 40.4 GPH at a 90 F rise,...
- 50 Gallon Rheem Professional Classic Tall...
- Comes with Pressure relief valve and brass...
What I Like:
- Very reliable
- Safe construction and running
- Fast heating
- Low heating costs
- Great Company
- Warranty a bit short – though a very well made and dependable unit
Best Tankless Natural Gas Water Heater
Rinnai V53DeN Natural Gas Tankless Hot Water Heater
- Endless Hot Water: Enjoy unlimited hot water...
- Energy and Space Efficient: Space-saving...
- Optimal Water Pressure: High-performance up...
- Enhanced scale detection lessens possibility...
- Guaranteed to Last: 10-, 5-, and 1-year...
What I Like:
- Strong hot water flow
- Full home supply from one unit
- Easy outdoor installation
- Low maintenance
- Extremely well made and reliable
- Great company
- Not enough volume for larger homes – see Rinnai RU130eN Tankless Natural Gas Water Heater
Conclusion: How Long Does It Take a Hot Water Heater to Heat Water?
To recap, a gas water heater should take around 30-45 minutes to heat up a full tank of water, depending on the water’s original temperature, the size of the tank and other factors.
An electric water heater should take around 60-90 minutes to heat up a full tank of water, depending on the water’s original temperature, the size of the tank and other factors.
A tankless water heater should provide hot water immediately, since it has no storage tank to heat, but only heats the flow of water as needed and on demand.
If your water heater is taking longer than the average time, there are some things you can check, as outlined above, but it might need repair.
If so, many people find that – especially with cheaper or older water heaters – it makes a lot more sense to replace it instead, and get a new, energy efficient water heater that works perfectly and should provide many years of service.