Is a Tankless Water Heater Right for You?

Is a Tankless Water Heater Right for Me?

Have you been thinking about installing a tankless water heater? Choosing a hot water system can be a daunting task, especially if you're not familiar how they work. Whether you're building a new home or retrofitting an existing one, a tankless water heater has many advantages, but they aren't right for every situation. 

Many homes are better suited for traditional water heaters. So, let's take a look the basic types of water heating systems and then we'll help you decide if a tankless water heater is a good match for you.

Which Hot Water System is Best for You?


Which Water Heater is Best

Types of Water Heater Systems

Storage Tank Water Heater

A storage tank water heater is the most common type of water heater. As cold water enters the large tubular insulated tank, natural gas or electricity is used to heat the water.

The heated water is then stored within the tank until a hot water tap is opened within the house. Since the water is stored within the tank until it is needed, the water heater needs to cycle on periodically to heat the water back to temperature.

The temperature drop of the stored water within the tank is called standby heat loss, and it's the reason that storage tank water heaters are the least energy efficient systems available.

Pro's

Con's

  • Relatively inexpensive to purchase and install
  • Energy consumption is slow and steady
  • Operating costs are high due to standby heat loss
  • If you run out of hot water it can take several hours for the unit to recover

Tankless Water Heater

A tankless water heater doesn't store heated water, instead it heats the water as needed. Since the hot water isn't sitting in a tank the water will be cleaner, especially if routine maintenance isn't being done on a storage tank system.

Another benefit is energy efficiency. When there's a demand for hot water, the tankless water heater turns on and rapidly heats the water. In a matter of seconds, the hot water enters the home's plumbing and reaches the open faucet. There is no standby heat loss.

Tankless water heaters are also called on-demand water heaters because they deliver hot water when needed. There are models that operate on electricity, natural gas and even propane.

The gas units are more powerful, but less energy efficient than those that use electricity. Read our extensive article on the differences between gas and electric tankless water heaters.

When shopping for a tankless water heater, it's critical that you purchase the correct size. If your unit is too small it won't be able to deliver enough hot water to service your household. Also, we recommend selecting a model with a high EF (Energy Efficiency) rating.

Pro's

Con's

  • Endless supply of water
  • Compact design
  • Energy efficient / Low operating costs
  • Replaceable parts
  • Higher initial cost than storage tank heaters
  • Must be sized correctly or it won't be able to deliver enough hot water 

Solar Water Heater

A solar water heater heats the water within a tank using the energy from the sun. Solar panels, frequently installed directly onto your roof, collect energy which is then transferred to the water heater.

This is a great choice for individuals who want to reduce their carbon footprint and take advantage of an environmentally friendly system. However, installing the solar panels can be costly and it may take years before the installation costs are offset by the energy savings.

There are several different types of solar water heaters, so even if you don't live in an area where the sun always shines, you can still find panels should work for you. 

Pro's

Con's

  • Environmentally friendly
  • Huge savings on energy, especially during summer months or in very sunny locations
  • Extremely low operating costs
  • Expensive to purchase and install
  • Needs sunlight to maximize the savings 
Tankless Water Heater Selection Questions

Is a Tankless Water Heater Right for You?

Going tankless has many advantages, however, they aren't a good match for every household. To see if a tankless system is a good fit for you, ask yourself the following questions:

Are you building a new home? Live in a relatively new home? or are you willing to make upgrades to your household utilities?

  • Installing a tankless system in older homes can be very expensive, especially if you need to upgrade your electrical power. It's a good idea to talk with a professional prior to starting so that you can budget accordingly.

Do you live in a cold climate?

  • Tankless water heaters are very temperature sensitive. The colder the incoming water, the harder the tankless will need to work to deliver hot water (this is called temperature rise). If you want a tankless water heater, and you live in a cold climate, you'll need to purchase an indoor unit that's capable of delivering enough hot water during the coldest days of winter.

Are you considering switching from a storage water heater to a tankless unit?

  • If you are, you may want to speak with a professional to find out what specifically will need to be done to your house, as well as get  an estimate so you can budget accordingly.

Are you willing to spend more money upfront to save money every month on your utility bills?

  • A tankless water heater is more expensive to purchase and install than a traditional tank-style unit. However, they are far more energy efficient, so they'll save you money every month on your utility bills. Keep in mind, it could take years to off-set the initial cost.

Do you want a water heater that is compact and doesn't require floor space? 

  • Tankless units require far less space than traditional tank-style water heaters since they are smaller and mounted onto a wall.

Does the thought of having an endless supply of hot water appeal to you?

  • When properly sized, a tankless water heater can deliver a near limitless stream of hot water.

How do you feel about owning a water heater that can last 20+ years?

  • Hands down,  tankless water heaters have a much longer service life than traditional tank-style systems. When properly maintained, a tankless water heater can still be servicing your home decades after it was installed.

If you think you're a good candidate for a tankless water heater we recommend that you do some further research. You have some important decisions to make and you'll want a good understanding on the topic before moving forward.

We have plenty of great articles on tankless waters, here's a few we recommend you read. They'll help you become an informed shopper!