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Traditional Tank Water Heater vs Tankless Water Heater

Most of us take our hot water for granted—and we use a lot of hot water. One study shows that household hot water usage averages about 25 gallons of hot water per person every day. Let’s say you’ve got four people in the house, that means you are using about 36,500 gallons of hot water every year.

To put that in perspective, that’s enough hot water to fill a swimming pool – a nice, big 20-foot by 44-foot pool. So it’s no wonder hot water heaters wear out and cost a lot to run.

And when they do, you’ve got a choice: a traditional water heater or a tankless water heater. To help figure out which is the right choice for you, read on for the pros and cons of each.

Traditional Storage Tank Water Heater

Traditional water heaters are the most common water heaters in homes across the country. With storage tanks ranging from 20 to 80 gallons, there’s a size for every family. And because they can use several fuel sources – electricity, propane, natural gas, or fuel oil – there’s a traditional water heater for your situation.

How Traditional Water Heaters Work

When you turn on a hot water tap, the tank releases hot water out of the top of the tank. Cold water enters the tank through the drip tube located at the bottom of the tank. That’s where the heating takes place. Tanks are designed so that enough cold water comes in to keep the tank full.

Pros of Traditional Water Heaters

Traditional water heaters are the most familiar to the average homeowner. They are still the industry standard, in part due to their benefits.

  1. Reliability With traditional water heaters, you won’t have any surprises. What you’ll get is reliability. The design and engineering are tried and true, proven – and improved – over many years. Most homeowners are familiar with them, and almost every plumber knows them inside and out. If your heater needs a part, replacements are widely available.
  2. High Flow Rate Traditional water heaters excel in situations where a high flow rate is needed. Got the dishwasher running, clothes in the washing machine, and a shower running? Tank water heaters are up to the job.
  3. Lower Purchase and Installation Costs Traditional water heaters also cost less – roughly half as much as tankless water heaters. Installation of traditional water heaters is also less complicated and expensive.

Cons of Traditional Water Heater

Despite the benefits, tank water heaters have their share of drawbacks. That’s one reason so many people are switching to tankless heaters.

  1. Short Life Expectancy Even with recent improvements, tank water heaters only have a short life expectancy of 10 – 13 years. With good maintenance, that can be extended. On the other hand, if you have hard, untreated water running through the tank, expect a much shorter life span.
  2. Standby Heat Loss Traditional water heaters heat the water in the tank whether you are using it or not. When the water in the tank just sits there, it slowly cools off. And it needs to heat up again, bringing it up to whatever temperature you have set. That costs money.
  3. Slow to Heat Once you have used up all the hot water in your traditional water heater, it takes time to produce more. That might mean a cold shower for the last person in line.

Tankless Water Heater

Instead of continuously heating water stored in a tank, tankless water heaters produce hot water on demand. Turning on your hot water tap activates a heating element which brings the water up to temperature. When you shut the tap, the heater senses the reduced flow and turns off the heater.

There are two main types of tankless water heaters: whole-home and point-of-use. Whole-home heaters provide hot water from one location to the entire house. These are typically powered by natural gas. Point-of-use heaters provide water for just one or two fixtures. Point-of-use heaters are typically electric.

Tankless Water Heater Pros

Tankless water heaters have long been popular in the rest of the world. Their benefits – including lower operating costs and higher energy efficiency – are causing a surge in popularity here in the US.

  1. Energy Efficiency Because they only heat water as it’s needed, tankless water heaters use far less energy. In households using less than 41 gallons a day, they are 24 to 34% more efficient. Even with double the use, they are still 8 to 14% more efficient.
  2. Lower Operating Costs Tankless water heaters don’t suffer from standby heat loss like traditional tank heaters. That translates into energy cost savings for you. On average, a tankless water heater will save a minimum of $100 per year.
  3. Less Space Because they don’t need a large and bulky water storage tank, tankless water heaters take up much less space. Think carry-on suitcase. That opens up a range of installation options.
  4. Longer Life Expectancy Tankless water heaters will provide service for up to twice as long as a traditional water heater. That makes them a much better long-term investment.

Tankless Water Heater Cons

When deciding between a traditional or tankless water heater, you should be aware of several disadvantages that come with tankless heaters.

Higher Purchase and Installation Cost Tankless water heaters cost roughly twice what a traditional water heater costs. Add in more expensive installation, and the upfront cost difference is considerable.

Demand May Exceed Flow In homes that use lots of hot water at the same time, the flow may not keep up with demand. Two simultaneous showers and a washing machine might need more hot water than the tankless water heater can produce.

Traditional Vs. Tankless

Now that you know more about the pros and cons of a traditional and a tankless water heater, it’s time to take the next step and get advice from the pros at Just Plumbing. Their experts will evaluate your hot water usage and help you decide which water heater is best for your situation.

Will it be a tankless water heater with its longer life and energy savings? Or a traditional tank water heater? Knowing your options is the best way to make a sound decision. Call today!