Traditional vs Tankless Water Heaters

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Overview of how a traditional water heater works

There are two general types of traditional water heaters. Gas fueled water heaters and electric water heaters. Gas powered water heaters require a natural gas line into the home, although some appliances can be converted to run on propane, it is not recommended to do so unless your water heater is an (LP) Propane tank.

Gas Water Heater

Gas water heaters work with heating flames to heat up the water stored within. The burner heats the bottom of the water heater and the air in a chimney built into a tank’s reservoir to effectively transfer heat to all of the water contained within the water tank. This chimney also utilizes an air slowing device called a baffle to decrease the speed of the hot air moving through it, allowing the walls of the chimney to absorb more heat from the air, in turn allowing more heat to be transferred to the water.

A cold water pipe enters the tank from one side, depositing water to be heated, and a hot water pipe exits from the other side of the tank carrying heater water.

Gas water heaters also have a flue for the evacuation of heated air, which will need to be routed through the roof of your home or business.

Electric Water Heater

Unlike gas water heaters, electric water heaters heat the water with warming elements directly in contact with the water. Most electric hot water heaters utilize two heating elements for water heating. One near the top or middle of the tank, and one at the bottom of the tank. Once the water within the tank reaches a specified temperature, the heating elements will cycle off.

Overview of how a tankless water heater works

Tankless water heaters heat water as it is needed. They heat the water as it is flowing through the heat exchanger and manifold instead of storing heated water in a tank. This means that tankless water heaters take up less room than traditional water heaters and provide an endless supply of hot water. For those with traditional water heaters already installed. Tankless water heaters will need upgrading to gas pipes an upgrade to the exhaust system, and an electrical outlet for fans and electronics.

How to choose which water heater is right for you

There are many considerations to take into account when selecting a new water heater. Unless the most obvious reason is because it is leaking. However, first ask yourself or find out how old is your unit? Next decide due to its age, is it worth repairing? *Putting money into a system aged is not a wise investment as it will eventually be an old leaking water heater in need of replacement.  Second, Find out what it will cost should you make that decision or advised by a Licensed Plumbing Professional. Third, for Tankless water heater considerations. Seek the assistance of a Licensed Plumbing Professional to take a fixture count of your home to match your needs. Not all systems are one in the same. Always consult a licensed professional for installation. You may think or say to yourself, “I can do this!”  However, with the right tools and experience. What could take a professional a couple hours may take you a full day or longer. A licensed professional is bonded and insured. Your attempt may turn into a disaster! Causing you destruction and damage to your home. Your insurance company will not be so willing to stand by your side in this event for any loss incur.

It is also important to work with a licensed professional as working with gas water heaters, there is the possibility of carbon monoxide if it is not installed correctly. With electric water heaters you have the danger of electrocuting yourself or even installing the system improper and frying out the unit. Hiring a professional plumber also ensures that gas, electrical, and plumbing lines leading to your water heater are up to code, safe for you and your family’s health and the material used is alike.

What kind of water heater should someone who uses a lot of hot water get?

For those that use a lot of hot water, a Tankless water heater will be best for you as they provide the greatest volume of hot water. Depending on how much hot water you use, there are various models with higher BTU rates, or that can handle a higher volume of water. The best thing to do will be for you to go over your specific needs with a licensed plumber. Some locations make it more expensive to install certain types of water heaters. A plumber should always take the space and water heating needs into consideration before recommending a specific model water heater.

Which one is the most and least expensive to install?

Generally, tankless water heaters are the most expensive to install as they take longer to install and sometimes require re-piping, vent installation, and mounting on the wall to ensure that your system is installed correctly.

The least expensive installation option would most likely be the same type of water heater that you currently own. This would require the least amount of effort to install your new water heater but the same type of water heater may not suit your current needs.

Additionally, if you do not already have a gas water heater, you may need a gas line installed which would increase the price of the install.

Should I go with a gas or electric water heater?

Generally, an electric water heater is more efficient and cheaper to run over its life when compared to a gas water heater. However, if you live in an area with frequent power outages, you may want to consider a gas water heater as electric water heaters will not produce hot water during a power outage.