Tankless vs. Standard Water Heaters
So you had a rough day at work. Rude customers, an overbearing boss, and somebody dropped a whole bottle of cooking oil in the break room and YOU had to clean it up. When you get home, you decide you need a bath to relax, so you go to your tub and turn on the hot water. But it’s not hot yet, so you wait. And wait. And wait. Turns out your roommate/spouse/spawn took an extended shower right before you got home, and now there’s no hot water left in your standard water heater! After half an hour, when the water finally gets warm and you sink into the sudsy tub, you think, “there has to be another way…”
Well good news, there is! The answer is the tankless, or on-demand, water heater!
What’s the difference?
By far, the most popular type of water heater in North America is the storage water heater, which holds tons of water in a big tank and keeps it warm until it’s ready to use. The problem with this is that if there isn’t enough insulation around the tank, heat escapes the water and the unit has to keep reheating it, wasting a ton of energy. Another problem is the above predicament, where when the whole tank is depleted, there is a long delay until hot water is available again, since the tank has to fill and reheat before it is ready.
The alternative is a Tankless water heater, which doesn’t have a tank (as the name implies). It supplies a continuous flow of hot water without the need to wait for it to heat up between uses.
How does a Tankless heater work?
A Tankless water heater heats up the water on-demand, as it’s being used. To do this, water is passed through a device known as a heat exchanger (often just a really hot pipe), which transfers heat into the water as it passes through. This heats the water very fast, allowing it to be used right away. No water is stored internally – it is all heated as it passes through, which permits on-demand use and no down time.
Pros and cons of a Tankless water heater
As mentioned above, Tankless water heaters allow for instantaneous hot water and continuous flow of hot water. What’s more is that they are much more efficient than storage water heaters, saving you money in the long run. They are much smaller than storage heaters, and they typically live twice as long (20-30 years for a tank-less, versus 10-15 years for a storage).
Unfortunately, these benefits are not without downsides. Tankless water heaters can have higher costs upfront, as the unit itself and the installation are typically more expensive than the storage counterpart. Additionally, Tankless water heaters have a problem keeping up with simultaneous demand – that is, if you and your spouse and your kids all want to use the hot water at the same exact time.
Pros and Cons of a Standard Heater
The classic standard water heater is not without its benefits as well. Storage heaters have a much lower initial cost than tank-less heaters, and since they have a simpler design, are often cheaper and easier to repair.
The problem, though, is they run out of hot water, are less efficient than tankless (which leads to higher utility bills), have shorter lifespans, and take up a lot of space in your home.
So which one should I get?
Keeping in mind the pros and cons of each type, you should choose whichever option is right for your home. If you have the space to spare, and not many people live with you, a standard water heater is probably a good option. If you have many roommates, a need for on-demand hot water, and you want an appliance with longevity, then go with a Tankless water heater.
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