Commercial Water Heaters: Installation, Maintenance, and Efficiency

Commercial Water Heaters Installation, Maintenance, and Efficiency - Lee Company

Every time a faucet is turned on, a shower is taken, or dishes are washed in a commercial setting, a water heater is put to work. These hardworking appliances are essential for the day-to-day operations of businesses and commercial buildings, providing hot water for various purposes. And in many states, having a reliable source of hot water isn’t just about convenience — it’s a legal requirement for maintaining hygiene and sanitation, especially in industries like food service and hospitality.

Whether you’re running a restaurant, managing a hotel, overseeing an office building, or operating a manufacturing facility, understanding your water heating system is key to uninterrupted operations and compliance with health standards.

Below, we’ll cover everything facility managers need to know about commercial water heaters, from installation and maintenance to maximizing efficiency. We’ll explore the different types of water heaters, how to choose the right one for your needs, and tips for keeping them running efficiently.

Types of Commercial Water Heaters

When it comes to commercial water heaters, there are two main types: tank-type and tankless.

Tank-Type Water Heaters

Tank-type water heaters, or storage tank water heaters, are the most common type used in commercial settings. They consist of a large tank that holds and heats a certain amount of water for immediate use. When hot water is needed, it’s drawn from the top of the tank, while cold water enters through the bottom to replace it.

Tank-type water heaters are available in various sizes and can be powered by electricity, gas, or oil. They have a relatively low upfront cost but require space for the tank and regular maintenance to avoid issues like rust or sediment buildup.

For commercial buildings, tank-type water heaters can range from 40 to 500+ gallons in size, depending on the hot water demand.

Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless water heaters, also known as on-demand or instantaneous water heaters, heat water only when needed (instead of storing it in a tank). When hot water is requested, cold water flows through a heating element and is quickly heated, providing instant hot water.

Tankless water heaters are typically more energy-efficient than tank-type ones since they don’t use energy to keep the water in a tank constantly heated. They also take up less space and last longer than traditional water heaters. However, they have a higher upfront cost and aren’t always the best fit for high-demand hot water needs.

Choosing the Right Commercial Water Heater

Every building and every business has different needs, so there’s really no one-size-fits-all solution to choosing the right commercial water heater. Several factors should be considered:

Hot Water Demand

The amount of hot water your business requires is the cornerstone of selecting the right water heater. This demand varies greatly depending on your type of business.

For instance, a restaurant during a dinner rush or a hotel during morning hours may have a high demand for hot water. It’s crucial to estimate the peak hot water usage to ensure you never run short during critical business hours.

A hot water recirculating pump can help meet high hot water demands by continuously circulating hot water throughout the building, eliminating the need to wait for the water to heat up.

Number of Fixtures and Appliances

The total number of fixtures (like sinks, showers, and dishwashers) that require hot water in your facility will influence the size and type of water heater you need. More fixtures generally mean a greater demand for hot water.

Recovery Rate

This measures how quickly the water heater can replenish hot water. A higher recovery rate is essential for businesses with sporadic, high-usage periods.


Accurate sizing isn’t just about the physical size but also involves the storage capacity and input. It’s about finding the right balance between how much hot water is available immediately (capacity) and how quickly it can be replenished (recovery rate).

Fuel Source Availability

The type of fuel available for heating water (electricity, gas, oil) can affect your choice. Each fuel source has its pros and cons regarding cost, efficiency, access, and environmental impact.

Space Limitations

The physical space available for installing a water heater can limit your options. Larger facilities may accommodate bigger or multiple units, while smaller spaces might need a more compact solution.

Upfront and Operating Costs

Balancing the initial purchase cost with long-term operating expenses is important for capital planning. While some water heaters may be cheaper to install, their running costs could be higher, and vice versa.

Energy Efficiency

Energy-efficient models might have a higher upfront cost but can reduce operating costs in the long run. There are also tax credits and rebates available for qualifying energy-efficient water heaters that can make them a more financially viable option.

Installation of Commercial Water Heaters

A qualified commercial plumber can guide you in selecting the right water heater for your business and installing it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. They’ll be familiar with building codes, safety regulations, and plumbing requirements that must be met to minimize safety and performance risks.

Professional installation means the system is correctly sized, set up, and vented for optimal performance and longevity. It also helps avoid potential hazards like leaks, gas or carbon monoxide emissions, and damage to the surrounding area.

We want you to avoid wasting money on a commercial water heater that doesn’t meet demand or fails prematurely because of incorrect installation. So, make sure to work with a licensed, reputable commercial plumber.

Commercial Water Heater Maintenance

How much revenue is lost due to operational downtime when a commercial water heater breaks? Unfortunately, this is one of several common plumbing problems in commercial buildings. But it’s not just the cost of repairs or a replacement that has an impact…

If employees can’t wash their hands or equipment can’t operate how it’s meant to, it can cause a significant blow to your business. Lost productivity, unhappy customers, negative online reviews, and potential legal or health repercussions are just some of the consequences.

If you want to maximize building uptime and avoid costly breakdowns, routine maintenance of your commercial water heater is crucial. This includes flushing the tank, checking for leaks, inspecting and replacing parts as needed, and adjusting temperature settings based on usage.

For optimal performance and longevity, we highly recommend scheduling a professional plumber to conduct a thorough inspection and maintenance of your industrial and commercial water heaters every six months. Given their higher workload compared to residential units, this proactive approach means catching problems early and avoiding unexpected, costly repairs.

Commercial water heater maintenance by a professional includes:

  • Sediment Removal: Draining the tank to clear out any sediment build-up which can affect efficiency.
  • Heating Element and Burner Care: Thoroughly cleaning and inspecting the heating elements or burners for optimal performance.
  • Leak Checks and Repairs: Checking for any leaks and promptly repairing any damage found.
  • Anode Rod Maintenance: Inspecting the anode rods and replacing them as needed to prevent rust and corrosion inside the tank.
  • Thermostat Management: Checking and adjusting the thermostat settings for the perfect balance of safety and energy efficiency.
  • Safety Valve Inspection: Testing the pressure relief valve to prevent dangerous pressure build-up.
  • Component Replacement: Inspecting and replacing any worn-out or damaged parts.
  • Electrical Connection Checks (for electric heaters): Ensuring all electrical connections are secure and free from corrosion.
  • Safety Feature Testing: Testing all safety features and controls to confirm they work correctly.
  • Venting System Inspection: Checking the venting system, and making necessary repairs or adjustments, especially important for gas heaters.
  • Gas Line Checks (for gas heaters): Inspecting gas lines and connections for any signs of leaks or damage.
  • Scale Deposit Management: In areas with hard water, check for scale deposits and treat them to protect the heater.
  • Rust and Damage Inspection: Look for any signs of rust, corrosion, or other tank damage and address any issues.

Enhancing Efficiency in Commercial Water Heaters

In a commercial setting, a water heater’s actual function can significantly impact the company’s bottom line. A strategic approach to enhancing efficiency in your commercial water heating system could save money, energy, and resources while improving performance. Below are some ways to increase efficiency:

Add Insulation for Heat Loss Mitigation

Insulating pipes and tanks can help retain heat, reducing energy consumption. Proper insulation can also prevent heat loss and reduce the need for reheating water, which helps conserve resources and save money.

  • Pipe Insulation: Insulate all accessible hot water pipes, especially those with long runs from the heater, to minimize heat loss.
  • Tank Insulation: Use insulation blankets on storage tank water heaters to retain heat in the tank, especially in unheated spaces.

Upgrade to Energy-Efficient Models

Traditional tank-style water heaters may not be the most efficient option in a commercial setting, especially when there is inconsistent demand for hot water. Switching to a more energy-efficient commercial water heater could lead to significant savings over time, especially if your current water heater is older and less efficient.

  • Condensing Water Heaters: These heaters capture heat from exhaust gases that would otherwise be wasted, significantly improving energy efficiency.
  • Solar Water Heaters: Leverage the power of the sun to heat your water, reducing energy costs and environmental impact.
  • Tankless Water Heaters: Ideal for businesses with fluctuating hot water needs, they heat water on demand, reducing energy loss associated with storage tanks.
  • Hybrid/Heat Pump Water Heaters: These use heat from the air or ground, making them much more efficient than traditional electric heaters.

Implement a Demand-Controlled System

Implementing demand-controlled systems like recirculation pumps, waste heat recovery systems, or smart controls can reduce hot water waste. These systems only heat the necessary amount of water at any given time, rather than continuously heating a full tank of water that might not be fully used. This can mean massive energy savings and lower utility bills.

  • Recirculation Pumps: These pumps circulate hot water through the system so it’s readily available when needed, reducing wait time and waste.
  • Waste Heat Recovery: Utilize waste heat from other processes or HVAC systems to preheat water. This reduces the amount of energy needed to get the water to the desired temperature.
  • Smart Controls: Implementing smart controls allows for remote monitoring and control of your commercial water heater, optimizing its performance and energy efficiency.

Utilize Efficient Water Heating Strategies

High-efficiency water heating strategies can also enhance efficiency in commercial settings. These include using low-flow fixtures, implementing temperature controls, and training employees on proper usage to avoid excess hot water consumption.

  • Programmable Thermostats: Implement thermostats that allow for different temperature settings during peak and off-peak hours to reduce energy waste.
  • Temperature Moderation: Maintain a balance between meeting health standards and conserving energy. For instance, setting the thermostat to around 120°F can suffice for most commercial needs while saving energy.
  • Water-Efficient Fixtures: Install low-flow fixtures, such as faucets and showerheads, to reduce water consumption without compromising comfort.
  • Employee Education: Train employees on efficient hot water usage practices, such as turning off taps when not in use or using cold water for tasks that don’t need hot water.

Efficient water heating practices can lead to significant savings, not just in terms of energy and resources but also in maintenance costs. These strategies and regular maintenance will help your commercial water heater function at its best and maximize its lifespan.

Choose Lee Company for Your Commercial Water Heater Services

When it comes to the installation, maintenance, and efficiency of commercial water heaters, the expertise of Lee Company stands unmatched. Our team of certified, licensed, and fully insured plumbers is equipped to handle every aspect of your commercial water heating needs, from custom installations to routine maintenance and repairs.

If your commercial property is located in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, or Georgia, you can expect:

  • Comprehensive Services: Whether you’re dealing with a minor issue or need a complete system overhaul, Lee Company has the skills and experience to keep your commercial water heater functioning at its best.
  • Proactive Maintenance: Our Facility Maintenance Plans will keep your water heater in top shape, saving you from expensive repairs and unexpected breakdowns.
  • 24/7 Availability: We understand that water heater problems don’t always happen during business hours. That’s why our experts are available around the clock, ready to help whenever the need arises.
  • Customized Solutions: Every business is unique, and so are its water heating requirements. Lee Company offers tailored solutions that fit your specific needs and budget.

Don’t let water heater issues disrupt business operations. Contact us today for reliable, efficient, and professional commercial water heater services.

Do you need commercial water heater services?

CALL US NOW AT 615.567.1000