Which type of water heater is better: tankless or traditional? The right answer is whichever best fits your water usage, lifestyle situation, and budget. Here, we’ll compare the two types to help you determine which option is a better match for your needs.
Tankless Water Heaters
These use a heat source (electric or gas) to warm up cool water on-demand, whenever you need it, rather than storing hot water in a tank.
- Energy savings - According to Energy.gov, for homes that use 41 gallons or less of hot water daily, they can be 24-34% more energy efficient than traditional systems.
- Space savings - They are small and can be installed in more places – even on the outside of an exterior wall.
- Longer life span - They can last 20+ years, almost double a traditional water heater’s life.
- Better for the environment - They heat water only when a tap or an appliance is turned on. This means lower energy consumption – a green advantage.
- Higher initial cost - It typically costs between $2800 and $4500 to install.
- Retrofitting adds to upfront cost - Replacing a traditional heater with a tankless system is more complicated, which increases the installation cost even more.
Traditional Water Heaters
They store and preheat 30-50 gallons of water in a tank. That preheated water is used whenever someone showers, does the laundry, or washes dishes. The tank then refills to be reheated once again.
- Lower initial cost - A traditional installation can be half as much as a tankless.
- Cheaper to install - It costs less to install a traditional system. Installing a tankless version can take a full 8-10 hours versus the 2-3 hours for a traditional installation.
- Cheaper maintenance - Less installation complications mean that there’s less that can go wrong.
- Cheaper repair – Traditional systems are easier and cheaper to repair.
- Wider Serviceability - More people know how to fix traditional heaters than tankless.
- Higher utility bill - They heat and reheat water at a pre-set temperature, regardless of your water needs. This increases your utility bill – especially during the winter.
- Bigger and harder to place - They occupy more room and can’t be placed outside.
- Can run out of hot water - Ice cold showers (not by choice) are no fun. This problem can be avoided by purchasing a larger tank (although that will raise energy costs).
- Shorter life - A traditional system typically lasts 10-15 years. This means that there’s more turnover and, therefore, you have to purchase them twice as often.
- Vulnerable to flooding: The glass lining at the bottom of the heater is where corrosion begins. With enough corrosion they can rupture and cause gallons of water pouring into your basement.
Now you can weigh the pros and cons of both traditional and tankless systems and make an informed decision that best fits your particular situation. Truly knowing the difference can make a big difference.