Tank Vs Tankless Water Heater – Which One Should I Buy for My Home?

Every decade or two, Maryland homeowners are faced with a choice when it’s time to replace their water heaters. How do you decide between a tank vs a tankless water heater? The plumbing pros at Grove Heating & Cooling explain the differences between these two systems, their advantages, and how to decide between the two options.

Tank Water Heaters

A tank water heater is a type of water heating system that uses a hot water storage tank. Water is preheated and held within the tank for use as needed in the home. These units are also called storage tank water heaters due to the storage tank, or sometimes conventional water heaters as this type of unit was the standard used for many decades.

When a hot water tap is turned on in the home, pre-heated water from the top of the tank flows through the hot water pipes to the desired location. As hot water goes out to the tap, cold water simultaneously enters the bottom of the tank to replace the outgoing hot water. To maintain a consistent water temperature within the tank, a thermostat monitors the water temperature and activates a heating element or natural gas burner when the temperature falls below a predetermined threshold. This process ensures a ready supply of hot water for household use. 

Advantages of Tank Water Heaters

When it comes to choosing between a tank water heater and a tankless water heater, the benefits are important to consider for the tank style:

  • High flow rate: These systems can deliver hot water at a high flow rate, ensuring an adequate supply for simultaneous use across multiple fixtures.
  • Simple and reliable technology: The straightforward design and operation of tank water heaters make them easier to maintain and less prone to technical issues.
  • Easier installation: With fewer requirements for specialized equipment or venting systems, tank water heaters can be simpler and less expensive to install than tankless models.
  • Compatibility with existing infrastructure: In many cases, tank water heaters can be easily integrated into existing plumbing systems without the need for extensive modifications.
  • Wide range of sizes and capacities: Homeowners can choose from a variety of tank sizes and capacities to suit their specific hot water needs and space constraints.

Disadvantages of Tank Water Heaters

While tank water heaters are a popular choice for many households, they come with several drawbacks that should be considered before making a decision:

  • Standby heat loss: Energy is constantly consumed to maintain the temperature of stored water, leading to higher utility bills.
  • Limited hot water supply: Once the stored hot water is depleted, reheating the incoming cold water takes time, potentially causing interruptions in hot water availability.
  • Shorter lifespan: Traditional tank water heaters typically have a lifespan of 10-15 years, which is shorter than their tankless counterparts, which can last up to 20 years or more.
  • Larger footprint: The size of the storage tank requires more space for installation, making them less suitable for homes with limited space.
  • Risk of leaks, water damage, and explosions: As the storage tank ages, it may develop leaks or even rupture, potentially causing significant water damage to the surrounding area.
  • Less energy efficient: Compared to tankless heaters, tank storage water heaters are generally less energy efficient due to standby heat loss and the energy required to keep the water heated.

Tankless Water Heaters

Before the 1990s, tank vs tankless water heaters wasn’t really a debate. In the past 30 years or so, though, this technology has grown in popularity and is now more widely used. Tankless model water heaters differ from tank water heaters in that they do not have a storage tank to hold hot water because they do not preheat hot water for the home. Instead, water is heated as needed.

Inside the unit, either a gas burner or an electric element heats the water, providing a continuous supply of hot water as needed. This efficient process eliminates the need for a storage tank and the energy losses associated with constantly maintaining a large volume of heated water.

Advantages of Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless water heaters are also called on-demand water heaters, as they heat water as the demand arises in the home. The benefits of these systems include:

  • Energy efficiency: Tankless water heaters heat water only when needed, eliminating standby heat loss and resulting in lower energy consumption and reduced utility bills.
  • Continuous hot water supply: These systems provide an on-demand, endless supply of hot water, ensuring that hot water is always available without the need to wait for a tank to refill and reheat.
  • Longer lifespan: Tankless water heaters typically have a longer service life compared to tank models, lasting up to 20 years or more with proper maintenance.
  • Space-saving design: Due to their compact size and lack of a storage tank, tankless water heaters require less space for installation, making them ideal for homes with limited space or for wall mounting.
  • Reduced risk of leaks and water damage: Without a storage tank, there is a lower risk of leaks or ruptures that could cause water damage to your home.
  • Eco-friendly option: Tankless water heaters are generally considered more environmentally friendly due to their higher energy efficiency and reduced water waste.

Disadvantages of Tankless Water Heaters

While tankless water heaters offer numerous benefits, it’s important to weigh their potential drawbacks before deciding if they are the right choice for your home:

  • Higher upfront cost: Tankless water heaters typically have a higher initial purchase price and installation cost compared to traditional tank models.
  • Complex installation: Installing a tankless water heater may require specialized equipment, venting systems, and potentially upgrading your home’s electrical or gas infrastructure, which can add to the overall cost.
  • Limited flow rate: Some tankless water heaters may struggle to provide sufficient hot water for simultaneous use across multiple fixtures, especially in larger households with high hot water demands.
  • Inconsistent water temperature: Some users may experience temperature fluctuations or a “cold water sandwich” effect when using hot water intermittently or at low flow rates.
  • Maintenance requirements: While tankless water heaters generally have a longer lifespan, they may require more frequent maintenance, such as descaling or cleaning, to maintain optimal performance.
  • Potential for higher energy costs: Depending on the fuel type (gas or electric) and usage patterns, some homeowners may not see significant energy savings between a tank vs tankless water heater, particularly if the unit is not sized or installed correctly.

Choosing Between a Tank vs Tankless Water Heater

Each system type has distinct qualities and advantages. However, you cannot make the tank vs tankless water heater decision based on these stats alone – it is important to weigh how they fit with your household and lifestyle to decide between a tank vs tankless water heater.

  • If you want the unit with the most affordable installation costs, choose a storage tank water heater. Tankless units are more expensive up front, plus there are additional installation costs involved with upgrading the home’s natural gas or electrical service to support the unit.
  • If space is at a premium in your home, installing a tankless water heater on the wall can free up valuable floor space for other needs.
  • If your household uses hot water in multiple applications simultaneously, a tankless water heater may not offer enough hot water at one time to satisfy everyone’s needs. Their output is measured by flow rate, and multiple simultaneous hot water demands are often too much for the system to adequately manage. In this case, a large tank water heater would be a better solution comfort-wise.
  • If energy savings is a priority, a tankless water heater is the top choice. However, there are high-efficiency storage tank water heater models available that offer excellent energy savings.
  • If you plan to stay in your home for a long period of time, investing in a tankless water heater may be the most beneficial for you as you’ll save money with fewer system replacements over the years. If you’ll be moving soon, you may choose to go with a lower-cost tank model.

Contact Us for Water Heater Installation in Maryland

No matter your choice in the tank vs tankless water heater debate, Grove Heating & Cooling is here to help. Our team of plumbers performs expert installation for all types of water heaters, ensuring your family has a reliable source of hot water for years to come. Call us today to request an estimate for hot water heater installation, and we can help you decide between a tank vs tankless water heater for your home.

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