Are Stainless Steel Water Heaters Worth It?

If you are looking to install a new or replacing an old water heater and are wondering if stainless steel water heaters are worth it? This quick guide will help explain the different types of stainless steel used for water heaters so you can decide for yourself if the qualities that stainless steel offers are worth it.

We’ll point out the strengths and weaknesses to help you answer the question as to whether opting for a stainless steel water heater is worth the cost.

Stainless Steel Is All The Same – Right?

Wrong, you may be surprised to learn that there are over 150 grades of stainless steel available, and each type has its own advantages for different applications.

In this guide, we’ll be looking at types 304, 316, 316L, which are the most common grades of stainless steel used for water heaters today.

Which Type of Stainless Steel Is Best for A Water Heater?

The great advantage of a stainless steel water heater over the tradition steel tank water heater system is the fact that stainless steel tanks won’t rust away like the standard steel tanks eventually will.

Water properties can vary greatly in different areas and knowing if the water is corrosive, or reactive, reactive being where the water properties are full of minerals which cause problems by lining the inside of standard tanks resulting in slow heat transfer.

If you know that the water supply in your area is acidic or high in mineral content then it is definitely worth the initial extra expense of opting for a stainless steel water heater, simply because of the stainless steel resistance to those water properties.

Stainless Steel 304

By far the most popular form of stainless steel in use in the world today, it’s a cost-effective option but it does have its limitations.

First off 304 contains around 18% chromium and about 8% of nickel and although 304 is highly resistant to corrosion, it can react with chlorides, and although chloride occurs naturally in groundwater, if you have a high concentration of chloride present you could end up with a form of corrosion that is known as “pitting.”

So it is essential that you know your water supply properties and avoid 304 stainless steel if high chloride levels are present.

Stainless Steel 316

Not a great deal of difference between 304 and 316 graded stainless steel but the important thing to note here is that 316 stainless steel contains 2% – 3% of molybdenum.

316 stainless steel doesn’t harden when exposed to heat and makes for a great choice if you have an acidic environment, and the addition of molybdenum makes 316 much more resistant to the chloride problems found in 304 stainless steel.

316 stainless steel is not easy to weld, so that’s something to consider if you think welding will be required.

Stainless Steel 316L

This really is the grade of stainless steel to go for if you want to protect against all of the problems associated with standard steel water heater corrosion problems.

The L in 316L stands for low carbon, there is more carbon in 316 which makes 316 difficult to weld which could be a problem if you need to do any alteration work on the water heater.

316L stainless steel is ideal for welding and so is more adaptable if alterations are needed.

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