Tankless vs. Tank Water Heaters: Which Do I Need?

Tankless vs. Tank Water Heaters: Which Do I Need?


It does not matter what type of home a person has, there is something that remains the same – everyone needs a way to heat their water for bathing, cleaning, and cooking. Today, water heaters come in various styles and sizes, but two of the best options include the standard type with a tank and tankless units.

Both these water heater options provide the heated water needed; however, they work differently. Depending on a person’s home and their unique needs, one option may be a better fit than the other. Keep reading to learn the difference in the two hot water system options described above.

Understanding How They Work

Most people are familiar with the standard tank heater system. This unit includes a large container (the tank) that is installed in the home. It’s job is to heat and maintain the water and keep it at a constant temperature. The heaters are available in all sizes, starting at just 25 gallons. They can be fueled by electricity, propane, oil, and gas. The system works by heating the cold water that comes into the home to the desired temperature and stores it until demanded. This system works 24/7, which means there is always hot water available.

A tankless heater is installed on the wall. These are smaller since they are not designed to store the water inside. Instead, the pipes that supply the water move through the unit, and it is heated on demand. Usually, these tanks run on propane; however, some models use electricity. When no water moves through the tank, they are in standby mode, which means they are not using any fuel or heating up the water.

Energy Efficiency Considerations

Since tank-style heaters will run continuously, they are using energy all the time. If someone goes out of time for a few days and does not use any hot water, the tank is still heating the water and using energy. Some tank-style heaters have also been set to heat water to a higher temperature than what most people really need, which means they use even more energy. While the temperature can be reduced manually, water heaters use a constant energy supply.

A tankless heater only comes on when water moves through it, which means they use much less energy overall. These do not use a constant energy supply, but they require more energy when they are operating.

Something a person must consider is how much water they use each day. For homes that use 41 gallons or under of hot water each day, they will use up to 34% less energy with a tankless unit. The savings go down as the number of gallons used each day increase. For example, if a homeowner fills up a huge bathtub each night or uses more water for showers, dishwashers, and washing machines, the traditional tank-style unit is best.

The Installation Process

Of the two models, the tank-style unit is much easier to install. It takes just a few minutes to put the heater in the proper position and connect the fuel and water supply. Since the tank is typically found in a utility closet, basement, or another easy-to-reach area, the installation is not considered difficult or invasive.

A tankless heater, however, has a much more complicated installation process. It is installed inside the walls; the pipes must be spliced and then connected on both sides. This means the pipe has to be found, the wall opened, the pipes cut and disconnected, the unit installed, reconnect the pipes, and then the walls fixed. The process takes much longer and, depending on where it is installed, often requires finishing work.

The Costs

A tank-style water heater is typically priced for its size. If the home has three to four people living there, a 50-gallon tank is needed, which can cost around $500 for a gas-powered option. A homeowner must also take into account the installation cost, which will increase the price further.

A tankless unit will usually cost more to install but has similar purchase prices. While the final cost of a standard tank unit may be upwards of $700 with installation, a tankless unit can cost up to $1,500, sometimes more.

Durability Considerations

The standard, tank-style unit will last for around 10 to 12 years. The main reason it does not last as long is because of poor water and sediment. As time passes, corrosion caused by mineral buildup and constant water wears away the valves and the tank’s base. With regular draining and cleaning the sediment at the bottom of the tank, it can help prolong the unit’s lifespan.

A tankless unit lasts, on average, 20 to 30 years when it is properly maintained. Since they are not continually exposed to standing water, the tank will not corrode or experience the same sediment issues at the tank’s base than standard tanks do. However, more mineral issues may arise. Hard water can cause severe problems for any tankless unit, which means that proper maintenance is essential.

Hot Water Limits

A massive problem with a standard storage style tank will heat and then maintain the water inside, and once the water is used, a person must wait for it to fully refill and reheat the new water before more is available. If a house has a 50-gallon heater and people in the house take several showers, back-to-back, they will have to wait for the unit to refill and reheat before having more hot water. The best option for solving this is purchasing a bigger tank than what is usually used in one day.

A tankless unit will not run out of water because it will heat the water as it enters the system. As long as there is freshwater entering the system, the homeowner will have an ongoing hot water source.Deciding about which one to use can be complicated. While this is true, reviewing the information can help. It will pay off and help ensure the desired results are achieved with the unit selected. Contact LaVergne's today to schedule your next service and discuss which unit is right for you and your home.

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