Heating water accounts for 15 percent of your home's energy use. If you are looking to lower your utility bills or have noticed your water heater malfunctioning, it may be time to invest in a new unit. Before you pull the trigger, read below to find out which system is right for you.
A tankless water heater is a newer technology created to save energy and water. Also known as demand-type water heaters, they heat water on an as-needed basis instead of constantly heating a large tank of water. This will save you money on both your water and energy bills. Tankless water heaters do not need a storage tank because they heat water on demand. For instance, when you turn the shower on, cold water travels through a pipe and into the tankless water heater. A gas or electric heat source heats the water until it is at the desired temperature. Therefore, a home with a tankless water heater will never run out of water and will be significantly more efficient. According to EnergyStar, a tankless water heater will save an average of $1,800 in its lifespan.
A tank water heater is the traditional way of heating water for your home. A large tank full of water is constantly being heated so it is ready for use. Tank water heaters have a lower upfront cost, but will result in higher energy and water bills in the long run. They supply a limited amount of hot water because once the tank runs out, it needs to refill and heat the new water before it's ready to use again. The energy wasted on keeping a tank full of hot water is called "standby loss." Typically, a tank can hold between 20 and 80 gallons of water stored at 120 degrees. Tank water heaters typically last for 8-12 years, sometimes longer if they are well maintained.
Tank water heaters are easy to install and typically require only a few hours. An electrical tank water heater can be installed without making major changes to your home's electrical system or purchasing additional equipment, which makes it the right fit for families with a limited budget or small home. Electricity isn't the only option for tank water heaters--there are options to use natural gas, oil, and propane as well.
Tankless water heaters have several positives. They are 95 percent efficient, resulting in less standby loss and more savings on your utility bills. They heat on demand, which means you will never run out of hot water. Their lifespan is significantly longer than a tank water heater, with the average unit lasting between 15-20 years.
While there are significant pros, tankless water heaters do have some downsides. They require a higher upfront cost, and may have a limit on how many fixtures can access hot water at one time. If your home does not have a water softener, tankless water heaters require maintenance every 2-3 years in order to descale the heat exchanger. If you choose a tankless water heater, it is important to factor these costs into your budget.
Tank water heaters require a lower upfront cost than tankless, which may make it the right choice for families with limited budgets. They don't require additional costs and are relatively easy to install. Essentially tank water heaters work with what you have instead of requiring add-on costs to make the system functional.
There are significant downsides, though. Because they are only 55 percent efficient, utility bills will be higher each month. They also have a shorter life span, 8-12 years, so it will need to be replaced every decade.
If you have a limited budget or timeline, or if you don't plan to live in your current home for much longer, a tank water heater may be the way to go.
If you are looking to lower utility bills and increase your home's amount of hot water, a tankless water heater is the right choice for you.