The reality is, a water heater is a commodity appliance. It’s not as exciting as a spacious shower with a rain head or a whirlpool tub with jets. Few enjoy the purchasing process, sure, but for the sake of hot showers and clean laundry, you need to have one. If all goes as planned, any water heater you purchase will live in your home for at least a decade, so it’s worth considering which type is best before you budget and plan. There are two types, powered two ways, each with its respective pros and cons. All water heaters are either tank or tankless models, powered by either natural gas or electricity. When deciding which type of water heater is best for your needs, consider the costs, energy efficiency (and the corresponding power bills you’ll pay), and longevity.
Traditional Water Heaters
A traditional (tank) water heater preheats between 30 to 50 gallons of water in a storage tank, and pipes send hot water across the house for use, from laundry to a dishwasher to a shower. They use either natural gas or electricity as heating sources. In such tank-style models, natural gas uses less energy than electric by at least 10%, reducing your power bills. As a result, natural gas models tend to be more expensive. A tank-style water heater will perform well for 10 to 15 years before you’ll need a replacement.
Traditional tank water heaters are less expensive than tankless models and are cheaper to install. This makes maintenance simpler and cheaper, too. However, if your 30 to 50-gallon tank malfunctions, you run the risk of a basement flood. The large tank also means that the appliance will take up a large space in your basement, which isn’t ideal in small homes. Traditional tank water heaters use more energy to keep a large tank of water hot, at your specified temperature. They’ll work harder if they’re in a cold location and during the winter months, too.
Traditional Water Heater Pros and Cons
- Lower initial cost
- They’re simpler, so easier to install, maintain and repair
- Higher utility bills
- Shorter life, must be replaced more often
- They occupy a larger space and must be located inside the home
Tankless Water Heaters
Tankless water heaters will heat water on demand, so there’s no storage tank component. The tankless heater can even be installed outside or on a wall. Typically, a tankless water heater will last 20+ years and are also known to be much more energy-efficient. The actual dollar amount saved will fluctuate, but an average household will see 25% – 30% greater energy efficiency with a tankless model than a storage-tank water heater. If your household uses more than 50 gallons of hot water each day, you’ll see energy efficiency increase around 10% – 15%. On average, a gas-fired tankless water heater saves homeowners $100 per year, and electric tankless heaters save homeowners about $44 per year. So, in a 20-year lifetime, you can expect to save $2,000 in power costs by switching to a gas-powered tankless water heater.
Regardless of whether you choose a storage or a tankless model, you always run the risk of running out of hot water after the fourth or fifth shower! If you want to circumvent this issue, it’s only possible with tankless water heaters. If the investment is worthwhile for your home, you can install tankless water heaters at multiple hot water outlets, so every shower or dishwasher has its own on-demand hot water. Installing on-demand water heaters at every outlet is also the most energy-efficient option, with average energy efficiency increases ranging from 25% to 50%.
Tankless Water Heater Pros and Cons
- Last 20-30 years
- Space efficient: can be installed in a very small area, or even on a wall
- Energy-efficient: can save $44 – $100 per year on power bills
- The purchase price and installation costs of tankless models higher
- Like traditional water heaters, they have output limitations
With All Water Heaters:
If you live in an area with hard water, talk to a plumber about best practices for keeping your water heater healthy. Hard water can be tough on any type of water heater — gas or electric, tank or tankless, and can even shorten its lifespan. If you need a plumbing appliance installed and would like our input, give us a call and we’ll help you find the best options for your home.