Your water heater is one of the most important appliances in your home, but you probably don’t give it much thought. You may not even be aware that there are two different types of water heaters: one with a tank, and one that’s tankless. What’s the difference? Let’s take a look.
How Tank and Tankless Water Heaters Work
Most water heaters use a tank, which generally sits in a closet, out of the way. The tank heats up the water, which is then distributed to your home whenever you need it, whether it’s for a shower, or to wash the dishes, or to wash your hands. The further away from the tank the faucet is, the longer it takes the hot water to reach it, and the more water is wasted, waiting for it to heat up.
The amount of hot water you can get is limited by how much is in the tank. If you like long showers or have multiple people showering one after another, then the water will eventually turn cold. When this happens, you’ll have to wait a while until your tank can heat up more, before you can take another hot shower.
A tankless water heater doesn’t have these problems. Rather than storing water in a tank, it heats your water right at the source—i.e. your faucets. This means you can get your hot water right away, almost as soon as you turn on the tap. Built-in sensors can tell when the hot water is turned on or off, and heat water for you as needed, so there’s no running out of water halfway through your shower. It heats the water as you use it, and stops when you’re finished.
Pros and Cons of Tankless Water Heaters
The main advantage of a tankless water heater is that it saves both water and energy. With a tank water heater, even if you don’t use hot water at all for several days, it’s constantly measuring the temperature of its reserve water and keeping it heated just in case—generally using either electricity or natural gas. That’s between 30 and 80 gallons, depending on your heater size, constantly heating, cooling, and heating again, whether you’re using it or not.
Your tankless heater saves energy by only heating water when you need it, and only as much as you need. It also doesn’t waste the water that tank heaters do, running the faucet while waiting for hot water to reach it. With a tankless heater, the hot water is there on demand.
Of course, the water still isn’t completely limitless. Your tankless water heater has the capacity to heat a certain amount of water at one time. Therefore, if multiple people are taking a shower at once, or you’re running the dishwasher while showering, the water may start running cold, just like a tank heater. The good news is, you can choose the capacity of your tankless heater, based on your household’s needs, in order to minimize these issues.
The other major drawback of tankless heaters is their cost. They’re significantly more expensive than a regular tank heater. However, with the water and energy savings, you can make up the savings over time—though it may take several years.
If you’re wary about the cost of a tankless water heater, you could look at a more energy-efficient tank heater. The ones certified by Energy Star can also save you energy while costing a lot less. This, combined with a more mindful approach to your water usage, and a concerted effort to conserve, can lower your bills significantly.
Which type of water heater is right for your home? There are a number of factors to consider. Contact us at Benjamin Plumbing at 608-271-7071 and let us help you find the water heater that best meets your needs.