You’ve heard about them, maybe you’ve seen one at a home improvement store or on the internet. You probably heard some manufactures say they could save up to 45% with a whole-home tankless water heater, compared to traditional water heaters, and can supply endless hot water. But, you haven’t made a decision to get a new tankless water heater. Today I’ll explain briefly some of the considerations you might not have heard about. Then you can decide if a tankless water heater is the right solution for you and your home. First, a quick lesson...

What’s the difference between traditional and tankless water heaters?

Traditional: Traditional water heaters are designed to heat and store water in a tank, usually 40 or 50 gallons at a time. When someone in your home takes a shower or bath, the pre-heated water stored in the tank flows to the point of use (the shower head). The tank is filled again with new water from your water source. This new water is heated and stored, and the cycle continues.

Tankless: A tankless water heater heats water only at the time it is being used, instead of storing pre-heated water in a water tank. Therefore, the energy needed to heat the water is only consumed at the time and for the duration that the water is in demand.

How do I choose the winner?

There are pros and cons to both, and more to evaluate than just the heating method. Traditional water heaters may work more consistently with low pressure, but frequently use energy to keep the water in the tank hot. Tankless water heaters usually operate less, but some have limitations with running many hot water appliances at once. In most cases, the benefits of tankless water heaters should exceed those of traditional water heating. But, you still need to carefully consider your specific situation and lifestyle needs. You benefit in differing ways in the short term, and may benefit more or less in the long-term with each type of system.

Generally, if hot water demand in a home is lower than the cost to store the hot water in a tank, a tankless hot water heater might make sense for that home. But, there is a lot more involved in this competition. The right choice depends on your specific home’s needs and your lifestyle. Here’s an example of what I mean, let’s look at Jenny’s case.

Jenny's Story

Jenny is a single mom with 3 children, all girls. Her 1984 townhome has 1 full bath and one half bath, and the original water heater. Because her daughters are all in middle school, the shower, tubs and sinks are used constantly between 6 and 8am when her girls are getting ready for school. After they catch the bus, Jenny gets herself ready to go to her job at the library, and runs the washing machine and dishwasher after her kids have eaten breakfast.

The hot water in Jenny’s home usually runs out in less than 40 minutes and just can’t keep up with the demand. So the unlucky third child, and Jenny herself, are always stuck with a slightly lukewarm shower at best (actually, a rather cold shower most of the time).

I would advise Jenny that, due to the age of her water heater and the circumstances in her home, the continuous hot water benefits of a properly sized tankless water heater would outweigh the cost to replace her old water heater. Even though her old water heater might have a couple of years left, Jenny and her family can be far happier in the morning when they don’t have to compete for a place in the shower line. Jenny could also easily afford a tankless water heater on her salary by financing a low monthly cost over 24 months.

It could be that you do not want to replace your old water heater with a tankless water heater, because your situation might not demand it. Here’s another scenario:

Tom & Jean

Tom and Jean are an elderly retired couple living on a limited income in their small 60s Tudor style home. They need a new water heater after the old one started leaking, then gave out altogether. I would advise them that the long-term money they could save with a tankless water heater might not make a significant difference to them. With their high medical bills, the cost of a tankless water heater might not make sense in the short-term, plus they also know they might not be in the home much longer. A new traditional water heater would supply all the hot water they need for their relaxed lifestyle. They should purchase a new, more affordable 40 gallon water heater and enjoy the short-term savings. When the grandkids visit, there’s more than enough hot water for everyone because the water heater is brand new and runs like a champ.

Here’s the point. As with the purchase of a heating, air conditioning and air quality system, the water heating choice you make depends on your situational factors; it’s not primarily a price decision. Our plumbing service locations can happily offer a free consultation to help you evaluate your family’s water heating lifestyle needs. After understanding your lifestyle considerations, there is still one more very important factor everyone should consider.

Sustainability Matters

As the world embraces more sustainable energy efficient systems, tankless water heaters are the best choice we have. Anyone who can upgrade to tankless water heating should try to do so because of the long-term environmental benefits tankless water heaters provide. Hopefully they will become the norm in North America as they have in the rest of the world. Until then, just remember that it’s a combination of factors that contribute to your family’s comfort. Be sure to think about all the pros and cons, think about your home, lifestyle and family situation… and you will make the best decision for yourself. Then the winner will always be you.

Learn more about tankless water heaters and our other plumbing services, or request plumbing service now by contacting a Service Experts location near you!