When it comes to heating your home’s water, there are two main options: traditional tank water heaters and tankless water heaters. Both have their own advantages and considerations, and the best choice depends on your specific needs and circumstances. We aim to provide an unbiased, factual comparison to help you make an informed decision.
Tank Water Heaters
- Lower initial cost
- Simpler installation process
- Typically easier and cheaper to repair
- Long lifespan with minimal maintenance
- Larger physical footprint
- Lower energy efficiency
- Potential for venting issues when there is a chimney
Tankless Water Heaters
Tankless water heaters, also known as on-demand water heaters, heat water directly without the use of a storage tank. When a hot water tap is turned on, cold water travels through a pipe into the unit where it’s heated.
- Higher energy efficiency
- Compact size saves space
- Endless hot water supply
- Longer manufacturer warranty
- Works well with recirculating lines, providing near-instant hot water
- Higher initial cost
- More complex installation process
- Regular maintenance required to maintain performance
- The manufacturer warranty often does not cover labor or may not fully cover it
- May require more than one unit for large households or homes with multiple body jet showers
Clearing Up Misconceptions
While it’s not unusual to see tank-style water heaters in Kansas City that have lasted about 18 years with minimal maintenance, we’ve also encountered some tankless units that are still operational after 20 years. This indicates that with proper care and maintenance, tankless water heaters can indeed have a long lifespan.
However, it’s crucial to note that while tankless water heaters typically come with longer manufacturer warranties, these often do not cover labor costs or may not cover them fully. Additionally, we have encountered instances where tankless water heaters less than 10 years old had to be replaced due to performance issues. Often, these problems can be traced back to a lack of regular maintenance, underscoring the importance of proper upkeep with tankless systems.
Many resources suggest significant energy savings with tankless water heaters due to their higher efficiency. However, real-world savings can vary. While tankless units are indeed more energy-efficient, some homeowners may not see a significant reduction in energy usage. This is often because the unlimited hot water supply can lead to increased hot water usage, offsetting potential energy savings.
Contrary to what some resources suggest, flushing a tank-style water heater isn’t necessary in the Kansas City area. However, flushing a tankless water heater is crucial for maintaining its performance.
Lastly, while tankless water heaters can supply endless hot water, they may struggle to keep up in large households with multiple simultaneous hot water demands or homes with multi-jet showers. In these cases, multiple tankless units may be needed.
Ideal Candidates for Tankless Water Heaters and Potential Savings
Certain homeowners may particularly benefit from switching to a tankless water heater. This is often the case for empty nesters or those living in large houses with less demand for hot water. If you currently have two 40 or 50-gallon water heaters, or a single 75-gallon water heater, you may be able to meet your hot water needs with a single tankless unit.
For instance, you might have a large Jacuzzi tub that requires a substantial hot water supply but is rarely used. By downsizing from two gas water heaters that collectively use $660 per year ($330 per tank) to a single tankless unit that uses between $190 and $250 per year depending on usage, you can achieve significant savings of around with a conservative average of around $500yr.