Team Tankless or Team Standard? A Water Heater Comparison
With any luck, you won’t face an emergency before replacing your home’s hot water heater. Understanding there are a variety of systems out there, it’s smart to brush up on what type would best suit your living situation. The two most popular choices are tankless water heaters and standard water heaters. Let J&D Heating, Cooling & Water help you compare the features and benefits of both.
Hashing Out the Basics
A tankless water heater uses either a gas burner or an electric element to heat the water. Instead of storing the water in a large tank and keeping the tank hot, a tankless heater will heat the water as it travels through the pipes. It’s been shown that a gas tankless water heater will produce a higher flow rate than an electric tankless system.
A standard water heater is what folks in our neck of the woods (Castle Rock and the surrounding areas) are more familiar with. It’s a large storage tank, between 20-80 gallon capacity, which heats the water and then holds it–keeping it hot–until the water is used. A burner under the tank fires up when the water temperature inside dips below a pre-determined set point.
For reference, the flow rate is the number of gallons of hot water that can be provided per minute. Standby heat loss is a loss related to standard water heaters keeping the hot water “standing by” in a tank or keeping your water heater ready to fire again at a moment’s notice.
Determining What Type of System to Use
Consider the following when determining what water heater system would best suit your home:
- Fuel: type of fuel, availability, and fuel cost.
- Size/Usage: How much hot water does your house use? Do you often perform hot water activities at the same time? And, how important is “instant” hot water to you?
- Energy Efficiency: Compare energy efficiency with the cost of the system over the lifespan of the equipment. It’s also important to consider how important reducing your energy usage is.
- Costs: Consider both the cost of installation and the annual usage costs.
How Large or How Many Water Heaters Do I Need?
For larger households that typically use more than 85 gallons per day, two tankless systems, or the largest tank-style model, are likely needed.
Smaller households that use under 40 gallons per day should be able to function on one tankless unit. For homes that use 41 gallons or less of hot water daily, tankless water heaters can be 24%–34% more energy efficient than conventional storage tank water heaters. But depending on the household's usage of hot water, standard storage tank models could be a more cost-effective option.
A small (50- to 60-gallon) standard hot water tank is usually sufficient for one to three people. A medium (80-gallon) storage tank works well for three to four people. A large tank is appropriate for four to six people.
The Pros and Cons of the Different Water Heater Types
J&D Heating, Cooling & Water has researched this topic for you! Below, we provide the facts so that you can make an informed decision regarding your water heater investment.
Tankless Water Heater Pros:
- LIFESPAN: When regular maintenance is performed, tankless systems are expected to last 20+ years. Since there is no holding tank for hot water, the risk of unit corrosion plummets.
- EFFICIENCY: Due to “standby heat loss” of standard water heaters, tankless water heaters are more energy efficient. These systems save you money over time.
- SMALLER FOOTPRINT: A tankless water heater requires less space than a standard water heater.
- CAPACITY: There is no “maximum” hot water capacity for a tankless system. Whereas a standard system usually stores hot water in a tank ranging from 20-80 gallons at a time, the amount of hot water available to you is limited. Once it’s gone you have to wait for the water heater to heat all 20-80 gallons back up again.
- WAIT TIME: Wait time is a non-issue with a tankless water heater. The water is heated in the pipes, on the way to you. Ever run the water at the sink until it gets hot? That is a delay caused by a standard water heater as the water leaves the unit and finally reaches where you are.
- PAY AS YOU GO: Since there is no tank to store hot water in–and keep it hot–you only pay for hot water as you use it.
Tankless Water Heater Cons:
- HIGHER INITIAL COST: The real efficiency and money savings we hear about tankless systems happen after installation. Up front, these systems are more expensive to purchase and install, UNLESS you are building a new home. A new home installation can be very comparable.
- COMPLEXITY: They are more complex systems and require routine maintenance and can be a bit more expensive to repair and replace.
- MORE POWER USAGE: Tankless water systems draw more power. Gas tankless models may have different venting and gas supply requirements. Translation? You may need to increase the diameter of the pipe from the water heater to the gas meter. Electric tankless models draw so much power—120 to 160 amps—that you may have to upgrade the electrical service to your house to 200 amps or more.
- TEMPERATURE VARIES: It has been shown that hot water production may depend on the initial temperature of the groundwater. The groundwater temperature in Castle Rock, CO averages 52°F.
- OUTPUT CHALLENGES: Tankless systems produce between 2-5 gallons of hot water per minute and typically can’t support two “hot water using” activities at the same time.
Standard Water Heater Pros:
- LOWER INITIAL COST: A standard hot water system is more economical to install than a tankless system.
- SIMPLICITY: Standard systems operate more simply, resulting in less costly maintenance and repairs.
- TEMPERATURE CONSISTENCY: Hot water temperatures are consistent and the amount of hot water “ready to go” is greater. Stores 20-80 gallons of hot water, depending on capacity.
Standard Water Heater Cons
- HEAT COST: With a standard hot water heater, you are paying for the hot water, whether you use that hot water or not. Consider that with a tankless system, you don’t pay for hot water until the minute you start to use it.
- LARGER FOOTPRINT: This type of system takes up more space than a tankless system.
- HIGHER UTILITY BILLS: Standby heat loss in standard systems affects efficiency and can cause higher utility bills.
- LIFESPAN: A standard water heater is expected to last between 10-15 years with regular maintenance.
The Wrap Up
As you can see, no matter what type of hot water unit you decide to invest in, there are upsides and downsides to each. If you have any further questions regarding which system might be best for you, contact us at (208) 466-6910. We can help you weigh your choices and rest assured when it’s time for water heater installation, you can count on J&D Heating, Cooling & Water for professional and efficient installation.