Time to replace your old water heater? There’s a lot of hype about tankless versus storage tank-style water heaters these days. More than a one-time investment in a new system, your hot water heater comprises about 18% of your monthly energy bill. With ramifications that will affect your pocketbook and the function of your home for years to come, an informed decision here will be key to your happiness with your purchase. How can you decide which is best for your family and home?
Common and inexpensive, storage tank-style water heaters from Bradford and other manufacturers typically store 30-50 gallons of heated water on standby for showers, dishes, and laundry, refilling and reheating the water in the tank as it is used. Because they keep water stored to temperature at all times, however, they create ‘standby losses.’
Located in a sink or closet, these systems can be either point-of-use, requiring a tankless heater by each location in which hot water is needed, or larger, more expensive ‘whole home’ setups. Though a higher initial investment, tankless models can reduce energy consumption about 30%.
Like most things in life, each requires trade-offs. The trick is in deciding which water heater works best for your home and budget.
Electric or gas.
Less expensive – about half the cost of tankless.
Ease of Installation:
Typically a quick and uncomplicated swap out.
If tank isn’t sized large enough to support your household’s water needs, you may find yourself taking a cold shower.
Stored water is heated 24/7, consuming about 30% more energy on average.
Annual maintenance is required to clear sediment from the system and preserve efficiency. If neglected, water heaters can damage the home significantly if they leak.
Shorter lifespan than tankless, 10-15 years.
Electric or gas. Note: Tankless models often require an increase in gas pipe sizing or electrical service, which is a big investment, but necessary to achieve peak efficiency.
About twice as much as standard tank-style systems.
Ease of Installation:
Takes up very little space, freeing up storage. However installation is more complicated, taking additional time. Older homes may require gas or electrical service upgrades.
Though tankless systems offer a potentially limitless supply of hot water, these systems may limit the number of fixtures able to be used simultaneously (i.e. multiple showers, or showering while washing laundry).
Gas-fueled tankless models can save families about $100 annually, electrical models about $44 per year – up to 30% greater efficiency depending on the model. (Gas fueled options typically offer superior performance.)
Tankless systems require more maintenance, including bi-annual attention and the de-liming of the heat exchanger every other year or so. Skip these HVAC services, and the system will break down sooner.
15-20 years if properly maintained.