Tank or Tankless: Which Water Heater Is Right for Your Home?

If you need to choose a water heater for your home, you might go with what you’ve always had: a simple storage tank that heats a reserve of water waiting for your use. However, the needs of different households are variable, so there might be a better fit for your lifestyle and your budget.

There are a few different types of water heaters, and they all have their pros and cons. Learn more about the different types of heaters available and their advantages.

Tank Storage Heaters

There is a range of models and sizes, and some can be more efficient than others. They also use a variety of fuel sources, which can affect how costly the water heater is to run. Electric water heaters, for example, may cost more to heat water than a water heater fueled with natural gas or propane.

Design Advantages

There are some basic advantages to having a large reserve of hot water. The water is hot almost from the moment you turn on the tap, so there’s no waiting period. The appliance provides enough evenly heated water to fill a tub for bathing or to provide hot water for deep cleaning.

Tank heaters are also the most affordable water heaters at the point of sale. For a house that needs hot water and doesn’t have a lot of money to spend up front, this type of heater is the most obvious choice.

Disadvantages

The disadvantage to tank heaters is that even when they heat efficiently, they can still waste energy. The water in the tank must stay hot at all times. A thermostat turns on the heat source as soon as the internal water temperature begins to drop, even when you’re away from home.

If you live alone, opt for showers instead of baths, and use little hot water for daily tasks, the 24-hour heating of the water can mean you’re paying to heat the same water over and over again, even though you use just a fraction of that water at a time.

Another disadvantage is that your supply of hot water is limited to how much heated water is in the tank. For large families or resort homes with a large guests capacity, it’s easy to empty the tank on a few showers in the morning, so everyone has to wait a while before there’s more hot water in the tank.

Finally, tank heaters are large. They need space a utility room to hold all the water they need to heat. With today’s small home trend, the bulkiness of these units can be prohibitive to some homeowners.

Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless water heaters heat the water as it runs through the appliance, meaning you only heat the water you use, and you aren’t heating a tank in reserve.

Design Advantages

There are small tankless heaters that are designed for a single point of use. For example, you might have a tankless heater installed just to heat the water at the kitchen sink. There are also larger heaters designed to provide heated water to the whole house.

Point-of-use heaters are useful because they provide the most energy savings. They use less electricity, they are smaller, and they can be tied into a larger whole-house water system. Because they are installed so close to the exit point for the hot water, little heat is lost as the water travels through piping.

Some people might like the idea of using a single heater for every hot water outlet. You might install one in the kitchen, in each bathroom, and in your laundry room.

To get most of the benefits of the tankless heater without the cost of several units, the alternative is to get a larger heater that can take care of the whole home. You do get some heat loss as the water travels through the pipes, and you will have extra wasted water because you do have to wait a few minutes for water to warm up before you can use it.

Tankless heaters last longer than storage heaters, saving you money in the long term. You will also save on energy costs — homeowners can see savings as high as 40 percent.

Disadvantages

There are some downsides to tankless heaters. Tankless heaters are more expensive than storage-style heaters, making the upfront investment much higher.

The whole-house tankless heater might not be able to support multiple uses at once. A reserve tank heater will simply empty until the water is cold, providing hot water to a shower, sink, and tap simultaneously. If you have simultaneous demand, you might need a few single point-of-use appliances to pick up the slack.

Temperatures can sometimes be unpredictable with tankless heaters. Rooms with lower water pressure might have cooler temperatures. As you shower, the water might get warmer and cooler depending on water being used in other parts of the house or changes in pressure within the plumbing system.

For more information about which heater is right for your home, contact us at Ragan Mechanical Inc.

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