Deciding Between Tank and Tankless Water Heaters
When you’re building a new home or business or replacing an aging or malfunctioning water heater, you have many choices to make. One of those is the choice between tank and tankless style water heaters. Because you’ll probably be living with your decision for at least 10 years, this is a topic that deserves careful consideration. Your family’s comfort or the effective operation of your business depends on it.
Here are some things to think about when deciding which type of water heater is right for your residence or commercial setting.
How Much Water Will You Need at One Time?
Water demand is one of the primary considerations in your decision. At home, if you have a large household and everyone takes a shower first thing in the morning, you want to be sure enough hot water is available at that time because that is when demand is the highest. If some people shower in the evening and some in the morning, then the demand is more balanced. If your business is one that uses a great deal of hot water during business hours, such as a restaurant, you want to make sure your system can keep up with that flow. Tankless systems can provide limitless hot water delivery.
Utility Expenses for Your Water Heater
Utility expenses make up a significant portion of the household budget for most people, and the same is true for businesses. Many people don’t think about how much energy your water heating system uses. In fact, Consumer Reports says that heating water adds up to 20% of the utility expense for most homes, so your water heater’s efficiency plays a large role in how much you pay. While it won’t pay for the difference between the two options, it will save you some money each year and pay for some of the difference.
How Long Will Your Water Heater Last?
The life expectancy of your new water heater is another factor. Modern tank units should last 10 years or longer, so you want to be sure you choose the one that suits your needs best, but you don’t want to overspend if you don’t plan to be at that location for many more years. A tankless option can last two to three times longer than a tank solution if maintained.
How Quickly do You Need Your Water Heater Replaced?
Time may be of the essence. If you are replacing your water heater because your last one died, your choices may be limited. Switching from a traditional tank-style system to a tankless one requires modifications to piping. You may not be able to wait for those renovations to get your hot water back again, especially in a business setting where a lack of hot water can close down your operation.
Understanding Tank and Tankless Water Heaters
Before you can make an informed decision on which to purchase, you need to understand the difference between tank-style and tankless water heaters.
Tankless water heaters have burners that heat water quickly as it moves through an exchanger and into the faucets. This model operates off gas or electricity and does not use a storage tank, which is why it is called tankless. You may also hear them called on-demand water heaters.
Tank-style water heaters, also called storage tank water heaters, are the most common type in residential settings. These units also heat with gas or electricity, but instead of on-demand heating, they store from 30 to 60 gallons of water in an insulated tank or reservoir. Pipes then carry the hot water to the faucets, showers, and appliances. As the water is used, more water is heated and stored.
Tank-style water heaters that run on gas use less energy than electric models, but they are more expensive at the initial purchase. For safety purposes, this type of unit has valves that release when preset thresholds for temperature and pressure are exceeded.
Weighing the Benefits and Drawbacks of Tank-Style Water Heaters
Many people prefer the traditional tank-style water heater, and it does have some benefits, especially in terms of cost.
Installing a new tank-style water heater is less expensive than installing a tankless model. For a traditional system, you can usually get the tank and installation around $1,500.00 as compared to a few thousand for a complete tankless system and installation.
The internal workings of a tank-style water heater are fairly straightforward and simple, so maintenance and repairs are less expensive but are required. An annual flush should be done and a technician review of the system every couple of years
The disadvantages of a tank-style water heater are worth consideration as well.
Space can be a limiting factor in installing a tank-style water heater. If you are working with a small space, you may not be able to fit in one of these units, and unlike tankless systems, a tank-style system must be inside your house or in your garage in warmer climates
Tank-style systems last about 10 years, while tankless systems can last two to three times that long.
Utility costs will be higher for tank-style water heaters because they are constantly heating and reheating the water to the temperature you set. In a cold climate, a tank-style unit uses more energy to accomplish this task, increasing utility costs.
Large families may find that the last person to shower in the morning won’t have much hot water unless he or she waits for more to get warmed. You can get a larger tank, but that option is more expensive in initial costs and energy usage. Some families find they have to schedule shower times to work around this. Businesses may need to schedule tasks requiring hot water in a similar way.
Weighing the Benefits and Drawbacks of Tankless Water Heaters
Tankless water heaters have some definite advantages over the tank-style units.
They are generally more energy-efficient because they heat the water on demand as it is needed rather than heating and reheating around the clock. Energy.gov reports that, for homes using 41 gallons or less of hot water each day, tankless water heaters are up to 34% more efficient than the traditional tank-style.
Tankless water heaters also tend to last longer, from 20 to 30 years, as compared to the 10-year lifespan expected from a tank-style water heater.
A tankless unit takes up less room in your home since they don’t have a tank to accommodate. In fact, tankless units mount on the wall, so they don’t take up any floor space at all. Most units measure about 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide, so they fit almost anywhere you need to put them.
Heating the water on demand means you always have hot water when you need it without waiting. The average rate of delivery is 2 to 3 gallons per minute.
Tankless water heaters use about 25% less energy than a tank-style unit. That efficiency translates to about $100 per year in savings for most residential settings.
For all the benefits though, tankless water heaters do have some drawbacks.
They are expensive on the front end. You can expect to spend from $3,000 to $5,000 on a tankless system while a tank-style water heater is usually less than $2,000. Estimates range from 12 to more than 20 years for you to recoup this investment through lower utility bills, though this doesn’t take into account replacement costs. A tank-style unit will have to be replaced at least once and maybe twice before a tankless unit reaches the end of its life.
Tankless water heaters may have difficulty multitasking. For example, if you have two people taking a shower at the same time and you’re also doing laundry, you may find that the showers are a bit cooler than normal. Businesses should calculate hot water demand carefully to avoid this problem in a commercial environment.
The installation of a tankless water heater is more complicated, especially if you are replacing a tank-style unit. Piping will need to be modified, and that can increase the cost and time to install. Most manufacturers require licensed plumbers to complete the installation of a tankless system in order to maintain the warranty.
Choosing Between Tank and Tankless Water Heaters
When deciding between tankless water heater vs tank, the first consideration may be how much money you have available to install your new water heater. Though a tankless heater will save you cash over time on your utility bills, the initial outlay for purchase and installation may be more than you are able to invest. If that is the case, then you may have to go with the tank-style unit. However, if you require limitless hot water for a big family or high demands and have time and room in your budget, it may make sense to go with the tankless system for savings over time.
Maintaining Your Water Heater System
No matter which system you choose, regular maintenance is important to identify and correct issues that can shorten the life of your system. Plumbing and appliance failures make up 20% of claims filed on homeowners insurance each year. Common problems such as leaks and sediment build-up in your water heater contribute to inefficiency and higher utility bills. Over time, the anode rod designed to protect your system from deterioration wears down in a tank unit.
Regular inspection by a professional should identify these problems if the examination includes these basic components.
A trained technician should look for any evidence of corrosion or leaking. The earlier these issues are identified, the easier they are to correct.
The relief valve should be inspected to make sure it’s in good working order. This keeps your system operating safely to protect your home or business.
Electric water heaters need an inspection of the heating elements.
The anode rod should be removed and inspected for breakdown.
The professional should flush the corrosive sediment out of the heater to prevent damage to the system’s components.
Recommendations for further service should come from the evaluation of the anode rod. This may include replacing the rod.
Even if you’ve done all the research you can and you think you know which way you want to go, it never hurts to hear from the professionals. Contact Aqua Science for a free estimate on the purchase and installation of both styles of water heater so you can be even more confident in your choice. The licensed plumbers on staff are knowledgeable of many brands of tank and tankless water heaters. For more than 30 years, Aqua Science has helped clients with their water heater needs. A team of 25 licensed, bonded, and insured technicians are ready and waiting to serve you. Contact Aqua Science today! Call: (480) 454-3700