How to pick the perfect hot water tank for your cottage

Hot water heater

This article was originally published in the Summer 2016 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

How to pick a hot water tank? Start here.


The 40-gallon electric model (the same as in your house) is common. Two 240V elements heat water to a set temperature. You’ll rarely run out; the trouble is, they’re set always to heat water, even when you’re not using it.

Choose this option if: space and energy bills are not issues.


Cottages without the space can use a 20-gallon heater, but these take longer to heat water with their single 120V element. Plus, they run out of hot water fast.

Choose this option if: you’re tight on space and don’t have a horde of smelly teens waiting to shower.


Your best option is a tankless, propane, on-demand hot water heater. These small units hang on the wall and heat water as needed. Electric units are available, but pro- pane works better.

Choose this option if: you want to save energy and your cabin is rigged for propane.

Tip: Choose a unity with a longer warranty. You’ll pay more, but it’s built to last longer.