Having a steady supply of hot water is obviously important. Both traditional water heaters and tankless water heaters can fulfill this same important role and both can be a good option depending on the circumstances. The two work in very different ways and both have their own advantages and drawbacks. With this in mind, here is an overview of how traditional and tankless water heaters work and how they compare to each other.
How a Traditional Water Heater Works
Traditional water heaters use a boiler and a large tank to heat and store water. Most units use either natural gas or electricity as their energy source, but you can also find units that run on propane or fuel oil. With this type of unit, the water inside the tank is constantly heated to the set temperature to hopefully ensure that you always have hot water. The size of the tank will obviously determine exactly how much hot water you can use before it runs out. The most common size of water heater is 50 gallons, but they can range anywhere from 25 to 60 gallons or more.
One advantage of this type of water heater is that you will always have immediate access to hot water the instant you turn on the tap or shower as long as your tank is at least partially full. However, if you use up all the hot water, you will have to wait some time for the unit to reheat the water in the tank. Gas water heaters typically take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes to reheat while electric water heaters will generally take around an hour to an hour and a half.
The fact that traditional water heaters store a large volume of hot water is both an advantage and a drawback. The reason is that they are constantly using energy to keep the water inside the tank hot. This essentially means that you are paying money to heat the water whether or not you’re using it.
How Tankless Water Heaters Work
Also known as on-demand water heaters, tankless units don’t store hot water. Instead, tankless water heaters use electricity, natural gas or propane to instantly heat water whenever it is needed. These systems are extremely efficient and only take a few seconds to heat the water up to the set temperature. They also use less energy than traditional water heaters since they only use energy whenever hot water is needed.
Tankless water heaters will continue to run for as long as they are needed. This means that you’ll never have to worry about running out of hot water as long as the unit has a supply of gas or electricity. One other advantage is that you’ll never again have to worry about your water heater’s tank leaking and causing water damage. In addition, tankless water heaters last for far longer than traditional units. With proper maintenance, a tankless unit could last for over 20 years, whereas most traditional water heaters will need to be replaced within 10 to 15 years.
Tankless water heaters are generally more cost effective in the long run. However, they do come with a larger up-front cost both in terms of purchasing the unit and for installation. A good tankless water heater will typically cost several hundred dollars more than a traditional water heater to purchase. You should also expect to pay as much as twice the cost to have a tankless water heater installed.
One other thing to consider is that the efficiency and effectiveness of a tankless water heater can be affected by the temperature of the water entering the unit. In warm weather, both gas and electric tankless units will have no issues quickly heating water to the set temperature. However, if the water entering the unit is too cold, many electric tankless units can struggle to achieve and maintain the set temperature. For this reason, gas tankless units are always the better choice in colder climates.
Comparing the Efficiency
The EPA estimates that tankless water heaters are, on average, around 22% more efficient than traditional gas water heaters. This makes them many times more efficient than traditional electric water heaters, which usually use almost twice as much energy as traditional gas units. This improved efficiency directly translates into lower energy costs. However, the exact amount of energy savings depends on how much water you use.
The savings can be much greater if your home only uses a moderate amount of hot water every day. For instance, if you use under 40 gallons of hot water a day, a tankless system could reduce your energy usage by over 30%. The energy savings could be as low as 8% if your home uses over 80 gallons of hot water a day. In this situation, the amount you’ll save on energy costs may not be enough to ever fully offset the additional costs of buying and installing a tankless unit.
Can I Convert From Traditional to Tankless?
The fact that tankless water heaters are so much more efficient than traditional units can make them a great choice. However, this doesn’t mean that you should immediately replace your old traditional unit with a tankless heater. It is generally always possible to switch from a conventional water heater to a tankless model, but it requires a lot of work. In order to make the switch, it is necessary to retrofit your plumbing to accommodate the tankless unit. As a result, you’ll end up paying even more for installation than you would if you were replacing an old tankless heater with a new one.
If your existing traditional water heater has at least a few years of life left or is still under warranty, you’re definitely better off waiting until it actually needs to be replaced to make the switch. If your existing water heater is at or near the end of its life, then converting to a tankless heater can definitely be a smart financial decision. This still depends on how much hot water you use.
Professional Water Heater Installation and Services
With over 60 years of experience serving customers in Greenville and the surrounding areas, Black-Haak has what it takes to handle all of your water heater needs. We offer installation, maintenance and repairs for both traditional and tankless water heaters, and our team of professional plumbers can also take care of your other plumbing needs. We also have a team of experienced HVAC technicians that specialize in both residential and commercial heating and cooling repairs, maintenance and installation. Our team of licensed electricians can also take care of your home’s electrical system, wiring, lighting, generators and more. For more information on traditional or tankless water heaters or about any of the other services we provide, give the team at Black-Haak a call today.