Are you thinking about replacing your old water heater, upgrading to a more efficient one, or choosing the best unit for your new home? A question we often hear from Denver-area clients like you is whether to install a traditional tank water heater or a tankless water heater.
Not sure the difference between a tank water heater and a tankless one? We’ll compare the two types of units so that you’ll be more prepared when it comes time to choose the best water heater for your home. After all, it’s an investment you’ll be living with for probably ten years or more, so it’s smart to weigh all your options. Keep reading to learn more!
(And while you’re at it, check out our ultimate guide to all things water heater-related: Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Your Water Heater.)
Tankless Water Heaters vs. Tank Water Heaters
You’re probably familiar with the traditional tank water heater. They’re a common sight in a lot of garages and utility closets. Tank water heaters heat 30 to 50 gallons of hot water all at once and store it in an insulated tank until you need the hot water for your sinks, showers, and other appliances.
A more space-efficient, cost-effective, and energy-efficient alternative is a tankless water heater. Using gas or electricity, tankless water heaters rapidly heat your water as it moves through a heat exchanger. The hot water is delivered through your pipes, directly to your faucets, showers, and other fixtures without first being stored in a tank.
Want a visual? Here’s what the inside of a tankless water heater looks like.
The inside of a recent tankless water heater installation © High 5 Plumbing
Differences in Efficiency
If you’re looking for a more cost-effective, energy-efficient water heater, a high-efficiency tank water heater will certainly perform better for you than a standard-efficiency tank water heater.
But let’s take things a step further. Tankless water heaters are more efficient than all tank water heaters—by a long shot. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “for homes that use 41 gallons or less of hot water daily, demand [tankless] water heaters can be 24%–34% more energy efficient than conventional storage tank water heaters.”
What does that mean for your monthly energy bill?
Here’s what you can expect to save over the lifetime of your high-efficiency water heater, according to Energy Star:
High-efficiency storage (tank) water heaters: up to $500
On-demand (tankless) water heaters: up to $1,800
While the up-front cost of a tankless water heater may be more than that of a tank water heater, a tankless unit will save you more money over time on your energy bills. Tankless units also produce fewer carbon emissions, so they’re better for the environment.
Consider Your Space and Water Needs
Are you tight on space? Is your water heater in a more conspicuous area of your home? If so, you might prefer the more minimalist look of a tankless water heater. The low-profile design is a great space saver, and it’s an attractive alternative to a larger hot water tank.
Additionally, tankless water heaters provide endless hot water because they heat your water as you need it. You’ll never have to worry about running out of hot water mid-shower again!
Customer Story: Gas Tankless Water Heater Installation
One of our customers requested that we install a gas tankless water heater in their home earlier this year. We had to disconnect and remove the old unit. Then we capped the gas and water lines in their crawl space that supplied the old water heater.
The tankless replacement unit also got a new home! © High 5 Plumbing
Once we’d run water and gas piping to the customer’s preferred new location, we installed the tankless unit. We were even able to run the venting for this unit to the exterior of the home via the existing hole for the water heater vent, minimizing costs for the customer!
Gas venting utilizing existing water heater vents © High 5 Plumbing
There are just a couple drawbacks to choosing a tankless water heater if yours is gas-powered.
There are restrictions on where a tankless water heater can be installed because all gas water heaters require exterior venting; your tankless unit may require additional venting. As such, installation of a tankless unit can be expensive if the required venting is not immediately available.
Customer Story: Upgrade from Tanked to Tankless
One of our clients, Andrew, had a 50-gallon, two-vent power-vent tank water heater. He wanted to replace it with a tankless water heater system.
Our technician drained Andrew’s old water heater, then disconnected the vents, the water lines, and the gas. Once the heater was drained, he removed the unit from the home.
To prep the area for the new tankless water heater, the tech moved the water line, the gas and the vents to the desired location of the new heater. Then, he installed the new tankless water heater and connected the gas, the water lines and the vents.
After turning the water on to test the system and cleaning up the work area, our tech’s installation was complete!
Here’s the before-and-after of Andrew’s water heater setup:
© High 5 Plumbing
On the other hand, if space isn’t an issue, a tank water heater might be right for you. Depending on how much hot water your family needs, you can even upgrade from a smaller tank water heater to a larger one.
Just remember that your hot water supply is limited to the size of your unit. If your family typically uses a lot of hot water all at once (like showering while running the dishwasher and washing machine), you stand the chance of running out of hot water.
Customer Story: Upgrade to a Larger Unit
Below is a before-and-after of a recent installation. This customer upgraded from an old 40-gallon tank to a 50-gallon tanked water heater system.
Out with the old, and in with the new! © High 5 Plumbing
Tank water heaters need less maintenance than tankless water heaters.
If you choose a tanked unit:
Flush the unit annually
Replace the anode rod every one to three years
If you choose a tankless unit:
Flush the unit annually
Use a descaling solution during the flush
Clean your inducer motor
For a complete guide to keeping your water heater in great shape (no matter the type), check out Everything You Need to Know About Water Heater Maintenance.
Trust the Professionals
Choosing the right water heater for your home can be a tricky process. We always recommend you have your water heater installed by one of our experienced certified technicians.
Customer Story: Leaky Unit in a Tight Space
One of our technicians, Caleb, recently installed a new tank water heater for our client, Ken, whose old water heater had sprung a leak. Water was spraying from the top of the old unit and needed to be replaced.
You can see from the photo below that sometimes, space is tight!
© High 5 Plumbing
Here’s a brief review of how tankless and tank water heaters compare.
Tankless water heaters:
Provide endless hot water (but not on demand)
Need more maintenance
Have restrictions on where they can be installed due to gas venting requirements
Can be expensive to install if the required venting is not immediately available
Save you money over time on energy bills
Produce fewer carbon emissions
Are smaller and take up much less space
Tank water heaters:
Are less efficient than tankless water heaters
More affordable (up front) than tankless water heaters
Take up more space than tankless water heaters
Do not provide an endless supply of hot water
While the decision to install a tank water heater or tankless water heater is ultimately up to you, we’re happy to assess your current situation and help you choose the water heater that’s best for you.
We will say that if your current setup allows, going tankless is an extremely popular upgrade. We get a lot of requests to replace tanked units with tankless ones based on all the benefits they provide.
Our customers love that their tankless systems can often pay for themselves in savings (when compared to a tank water heater). Plus, tankless is the more environmentally friendly option! What’s not to love?
We’d say that’s worthy of a High 5!
Request an Estimate Today!
At High 5 Plumbing, our trustworthy, reliable experts can help you select the perfect water heater system for your home. Call us today at 720-330-4868 or contact us online to get your expert estimate—fair and honest every time!