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Choosing a Water Heater: Traditional or Tankless?

Oct 15, 2018

Should I get a traditional or tankless water heater?

choosing a water heater

As the weather begins to cool down, it’s crucial to have hot water readily available in your home. A new water heater is a long-term investment for homeowners, so it’s important to consider not only the upfront cost of the equipment, but the efficiency and longevity as well when choosing a water heater.  
There are several factors that impact the process of choosing a water heater: gas vs. electric, traditional vs. tankless, etc. While gas vs. electric will ultimately be determined by the fuel source your home is equipped with, homeowners do have a choice to make when it comes to the model of water heater they purchase. 
Let’s explore the differences between traditional and tankless water heaters and how these factors influence a homeowner's buying decision.

What is a tankless water heater?


Tankless water heaters work by rapidly heating water on demand through a heat exchanger fueled by high-powered burners. Water is heated as needed and delivered directly to your faucets, which eliminates the need for a storage tank, the key component of a traditional water heater. Traditional tank water heaters typically hold 30 to 50 gallons of water, storing water until it needs to be heated. 

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, tankless water heaters are around 21 percent more energy efficient on average than traditional water heater models (with energy savings dependent on how much water you use in a day).

Advantages of Tankless Water Heaters 

Energy savings are just one of the benefits offered by a tankless water heater. Here are some other advantages of tankless water heaters:
Saves money. Tankless water heaters are more energy-efficient than traditional water heaters because water is only heated as needed. Traditional water heaters must heat the entire contents of its storage tank in order to deliver hot water to wherever it’s needed. Energy.gov reports that homes with gas-powered tankless water heaters save, on average, $100 per year, while electric tankless heaters offer around $44 in annual savings.
Long-lasting. While traditional water heaters typically last 10 to 15 years, tankless water heaters have a shelf-life of 20 to 30 years, which means some homeowners might not ever need to think about a water heater replacement again once a tankless water heater is installed.

Read more: The Life and Death of a Hot Water Heater

Compact. Since there is no storage tank required, tankless water heaters are great for smaller homes or homes with few storage areas. Tankless water heaters can also be installed on an exterior wall of your home to help save space. 
Hot water on demand. It is common with traditional water heaters to need to wait a few minutes for the water to heat up before you hop in the shower. Since tankless water heaters heat water on demand, homeowners have hot water immediately available for their use whenever they need it. 

Disadvantages of Tankless Water Heaters

While there are many benefits to installing a tankless water heater, there are also a few drawbacks homeowners should be aware of before making their final decision: 
Higher initial cost. A traditional water heater costs, on average, less than a tankless water heater. Retrofitting a tankless water heater in place of a traditional water heater requires more time and is a more complex process, so there are additional labor costs involved. 
Can be poor multitaskers. Since tankless water heaters work by heating water on demand, they only heat a few gallons of water at once. This can create issues when hot water is needed for a variety of tasks simultaneously, like running the washing machine while someone else is in the shower. 
Maintenance and repairs can be expensive. Tankless water heaters are more complex devices than their traditional counterparts, which means that maintenance and repairs can be more expensive. 

Find the right water heater for your home. 

For homeowners who can afford the upfront installation cost, a tankless water heater may be the best choice, as they’re more energy-efficient and help lower monthly utility bills. On the other hand, larger families that use a lot of water each day may face more of the drawbacks than the benefits of a tankless water heater, in which case it makes more sense to install a traditional water heater. 
When choosing a water heater for your home, reach out to the plumbing professionals at CroppMetcalfe. We can help you weigh your options and make the right choice for you and your family. Call 703-698-8855 or schedule an appointment online with one of our 5-Star technicians today. 


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