Tank vs. Tankless Water Heaters

A traditional water heater, or a tank water heater, preheats about 30-50 gallons of water at a time. As all the warm water is used, it begins to refill again.

Tankless water heaters use a gas or electric heat source to warm up the water on-demand, making it much more convenient as you won’t have to wait for water to heat up again once the water gas fired water heater unit with tank heater has emptied.

But what are the actual pros and cons of using a tankless water heater vs. a traditional one?

Here is a short comparison of the two:

Traditional (tank water heater) Pros

  • Installation costs are typically half the amount of a tankless water heater. According to a comparison on Home Advisor, a traditional water heater costs about $890 to install. Tankless installations cost about $3000.
  • If you needed to replace it, it is less complicated than that of a tankless.

Traditional (tank water heater) Cons

  • These types of heaters result in higher utility bills. Because of the way the traditional water heaters are set up with a pre-set temperature regardless of your needs, they cost more to maintain the heat, especially during winter months.
  • Traditional water heaters are bulky and hard to put into place. These water heaters cannot be stored outside, so if you have a small house or apartment, you must have a closet dedicated to the water heater.
  • They run out of hot water. Although 30-50 gallons of water seems like a lot, it really isn’t. It is easy to fill up a bath tub with that amount of water and run out. You then have to wait until the tank refills and reheats, which could take longer than you would like.
  • Traditional heaters have shorter lifespans in the long run. With an average water heater lasting 10-15 years, it is likely you will to have to replace it twice as much as you would a tankless water heater.

Tankless Water Heater Pros

  • Although installation costs are more expensive, having a tankless water heater costs less over time.
  • They are not bulky and take up little space. These water heaters are able to be stored outside, making for a more appealing heater since it won’t take up any storage space.
  • Tankless water heaters last at least 20 years.
  • These water heaters produce hot water on demand, about 2-3 gallons per minute.

Tankless Water Heater Cons

  • The initial cost is higher than that of a traditional water heater.
  • To replace a traditional water heater with a tankless, it may cost more due to it being a little more complicated.
  • Electric tankless water heaters are less energy efficient than traditional water heaters, and are not built for heating your entire home.

While there are obvious reasons that a tankless water heater’s benefits outweigh the traditional tank heater, there are cons to each of the options. It may be in someone’s best interest to invest in a tankless water heater, as the pros are much stronger than the cons, but the initial cost may deter someone from doing so.

The cost of a traditional water heater is much more appealing to those on a budget. But while they cost less, they take up more space, an unappealing factor for homeowners with limited extra space.

Another con is that through the years, the traditional tank water heater will need to be replaced more often, although easier to do.

Comparing the two, in the long term the tankless will cost less money due to the fact that the heater isn’t constantly using energy to keep the water heated since it is heated on demand. But, if you only plan on being in your house for a few years you may not be there long enough for the energy savings to catch up to the initial cost.

There is rarely a “right” answer, as every situation has varying circumstances. For the best option, examine your situation and decide what works for you!


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