Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
If you are considering replacing your old water heater or installing a new one, you might be wondering whether to choose a tankless water heater or a tank-style water heater. Both types of water heaters have pros and cons, and the best option depends on your needs, preferences, and budget. This blog post will compare the main features, benefits, and drawbacks of tankless and tank-style water heaters and help you decide which one is better for your home.
What is a tankless water heater?
A tankless water heater, also known as an on-demand water heater, is a device that heats water only when you need it. It does not store water in a tank; instead, it uses a heat exchanger to heat water as it flows through it. When you turn on a hot water faucet, a sensor detects the water flow and activates the heat exchanger, which can be powered by electricity, natural gas, or propane. The water is heated instantly and delivered to your faucet or shower. When you turn off the faucet, the water heater also shuts off.
What is a tank-style water heater?
A tank-style water heater, also known as a storage water heater, is a device that keeps a large amount of water heated in a tank. It uses a heating element powered by electricity, natural gas, or propane to heat the water in the tank and then maintain it at a constant temperature. When you turn on a hot water faucet, the water heater draws hot water from the top of the tank and replenishes it with cold water from the bottom. The water heater cycles on and off to keep the water in the tank hot.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of tankless and tank-style water heaters?
Here are some of the main factors to consider when comparing tankless and tank-style water heaters:
- Energy efficiency: Tankless water heaters are more energy efficient than tank-style water heaters because they only heat water when needed and don’t waste energy to keep a tank of water hot. According to Energy.gov, if you use less than 41 gallons of hot water daily, a tankless heater is 24%-34% more efficient than a tank-style heater. If you use a lot of hot water, around 86 gallons per day, tankless water heaters are only 8% to 14% more efficient since they run more often.
- Water capacity: Tank-style water heaters are limited by their tank capacity, ranging from 20 to 80 gallons. If you use more hot water than the tank can hold, you will run out of hot water and have to wait for the tank to refill and reheat. Tankless water heaters do not have a tank to limit the amount of hot water they can deliver and can heat an endless stream of hot water. However, they are limited by their flow rate, which is the number of gallons of hot water they can deliver each minute (gallons per minute or GPM). If you use multiple hot water appliances simultaneously, such as a shower and a washing machine, you might exceed the flow rate of the tankless water heater and experience a drop in water pressure or temperature.
- Installation cost: Tankless water heaters are more expensive to purchase and install than tank-style water heaters. The average installation cost for a water heater is between $825 and $1,700. On average, you can expect to pay about $1,500 for parts and labor. However, the cost can vary depending on the size, type, and location of the water heater, as well as the complexity of the installation. Tankless water heaters typically cost more than tank-style water heaters because they require additional equipment, such as venting, gas lines, or electrical outlets, and may need upgrades to your plumbing or electrical system. The installation cost for a tankless water heater can range from $1,500 to $3,000 or more.
- Maintenance and lifespan: Tankless water heaters require less maintenance and have a longer lifespan than tank-style water heaters. Tank-style water heaters are prone to corrosion, sediment buildup, and leaks, affecting their performance and efficiency. They also have a shorter lifespan, typically lasting 10 to 15 years. Tankless water heaters are more durable, resistant to corrosion, and can last up to 20 years or more. However, they still need regular cleaning and descaling to prevent mineral deposits from clogging the heat exchanger. They also need to be serviced by a professional at least once a year.
Which one is better for your home?
The answer to this question depends on your personal preferences, needs, and budget. Here are some questions to ask yourself before choosing a water heater:
- How much hot water do you use per day?
- How many hot water appliances do you use at the same time?
- How much space do you have for a water heater?
- How much will you spend on a water heater and its installation?
- How much do you care about energy efficiency and environmental impact?
Tankless and tank-style water heaters are viable options for your home, but they have different features, benefits, and drawbacks. The best choice depends on your hot water usage, preferences, and budget. Before making a decision, you should compare the pros and cons of each type of water heater and consult a professional plumber or contractor to estimate the installation cost and requirements. By doing so, you will be able to find the best water heater for your home and enjoy hot water for years to come.
It’s All About Usage
If you use a lot of hot water, have a large household, or want unlimited hot water, a tankless water heater might be a better option. However, you will have to pay more upfront for the purchase and installation, and you might need to upgrade your plumbing or electrical system. You will also have to maintain the water heater regularly and hire a professional to service it.
If you use less hot water, have a small household, or want to save money on the purchase and installation, a tank-style water heater might be a better option. However, you will have to deal with the limitations of the tank capacity, and you will waste energy and money to keep the water hot. You will also have to replace the water heater sooner and deal with the potential problems of corrosion, sediment, and leaks.
Join my 9,000+ member Facebook group for homeowners and inspectors.