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How Tankless Water Heaters Work

23.12.21 06:52 PM By Brandon

A water heater is something that's usually stuffed into a closet and taken for granted. However, most people don't realize that traditional water heaters are often the second highest annual homeowner cost after the heating/AC system!

There are two types of water heaters. The traditional and most common type is a storage tank water heater. There is, however, a newer player in the game. Tankless water heaters are quickly becoming a realistic choice for a lot of homeowners. Here's an overview of both types and how they fit your family and home.

Storage Tank Water Heater

How Storage Tank Water Heaters Work

Traditional storage tank water heaters work well for most people. They have a lower initial cost and offer between 30-60 gallons of hot water when you need it. The average size for a single family home is a 50 gallon tank. Because they store and keep that amount of water at 120°F for long periods of time, they are more inefficient than their counterpart. 

Although storage tanks are insulated to preserve the heat, they still have to draw constant power to maintain hot water and re-heat water every time the hot tap is turned on. The water coming into your home is usually 56°F-60°F, so it takes a lot of time and energy to heat and store hot water in a traditional storage tank. 

If you're looking for a relatively fast and affordable replacement, a storage tank may be the best option for you.

Storage Tank Water Heater

How Storage Tank Water Heaters Work

Traditional storage tank water heaters work well for most people. They have a lower initial cost and offer between 30-60 gallons of hot water when you need it. The average size for a single family home is a 50 gallon tank. Because they store and keep that amount of water at 120°F for long periods of time, they are more inefficient than their counterpart.

Although storage tanks are insulated to preserve the heat, they still have to draw constant power to maintain hot water and re-heat water every time the hot tap is turned on. The water coming into your home is usually 56°F-60°F, so it takes a lot of time and energy to heat and store hot water in a traditional storage tank.

If you're looking for a relatively fast and affordable replacement, a storage tank may be the best option for you. 

How Tankless Water Heaters Work

Tankless water heaters, also known as on-demand water heaters, are  relatively new technology. Natural gas and propane are the most common types, but there are electric models that are less common. Tankless water heaters are more efficient than storage tanks, because they do not need to store and maintain heat. Instead, the water is sent from you intake through a heating element, heated to a pre-set temperature (usually 120°F), and sent to its destination.

Tankless water heaters save you more money that storage tanks over the long-term, but they come with a higher initial cost to install. The installer may also need to retrofit some of the piping to accommodate the newer technology. If you're using hot water from several sources at once — say running the dishwasher, and needing to take a hot shower at the same time— it can be difficult for the tankless system to keep up with the demand. In this case, the water would not be heating to the proper temperature and be delivered at a lower temperatures to both destinations. In general, tankless water heaters can produce 3-4 gallons per minute at a consistent temperature.


For the majority of the time, tankless water heaters are very convenient. They allow for almost instant hot water, they never run out of hot water, and the temperature is often a more consistent temperature. 

Tankless Water Heater

How Tankless Water Heaters Work

Tankless water heaters, also known as on-demand water heaters, are  relatively new technology. Natural gas and propane are the most common types, but there are electric models that are less common. Tankless water heaters are more efficient than storage tanks, because they do not need to store and maintain heat. Instead, the water is sent from you intake through a heating element, heated to a pre-set temperature (usually 120°F), and sent to its destination.

Tankless water heaters save you more money that storage tanks over the long-term, but they come with a higher initial cost to install. The installer may also need to retrofit some of the piping to accommodate the newer technology. If you're using hot water from several sources at once — say running the dishwasher, and needing to take a hot shower at the same time— it can be difficult for the tankless system to keep up with the demand. In this case, the water would not be heating to the proper temperature and be delivered at a lower temperatures to both destinations. In general, tankless water heaters can produce 3-4 gallons per minute at a consistent temperature.


For the majority of the time, tankless water heaters are very convenient. They allow for almost instant hot water, they never run out of hot water, and the temperature is often a more consistent temperature. 

Pros and Cons of Storage Tank Water Heaters

While it is difficult to find the best option to fit your home and lifestyle without a consulting a professional plumber first, here are some common pros and cons of both types of water heaters. 

PROS: CONS:
  • Storage tank water heaters can easily handle multiple uses at the same time. (Example: washer, shower, faucet)
  • Lower initial cost to purchase and install
  • Generally lower cost of maintenance and repairs 

  • Takes up a lot of space

  • High level of standby energy loss

  • Will eventually run out of hot water with heavy use

  • Uses more gas, propane, or electricity than tankless

  • Shorter lifespan than tankless

Pros and Cons of Tankless On-Demand Water Heaters

PROS: CONS:
  • Takes up very little space

  • Provides instant hot water

  • Never runs out of hot water

  • No standby energy loss

  • Longer lifespan than storage tanks

  • Uses less gas, propane, or electricity

  • Difficulty keeping up with multiple uses at once (example: washer, shower, faucet)

  • Higher initial cost of purchase and install

  • May require piping retrofit by installer

  • Generally more expensive maintenance costs

Summary

Choosing the right system for you and your family is important. Weighing the pros and cons may feel daunting. Storage water heaters are often your more affordable choice. But the allure of tankless water heaters and their newer technology has proven to be more efficient and cost-effective than storage tanks over time. Contact us to have one of our pros suggest the best option for you and your home. ONE Call, we can do it all! 865-351-0241