Are Tankless Hot Water Heaters More Energy Efficient?

Traditional water heaters carry the responsibility of keeping your home and family clean and comfortable. Hot water for showers, laundry, the dishwasher, mopping, and many other chores and luxuries are made possible by the hot water tank in your home. However, making the switch over to a tankless hot water heater is something to consider if it is time for you to replace your current water heater, or if you are just looking to upgrade. Let’s take a quick look at the similarities and differences between traditional hot water tanks and tankless water heating systems. Knowing the pros and cons of these two different systems can help you make the best choice for your home, your budget, and your family.

  • Traditional water heating vs tankless water heating – in a nutshell, traditional water heaters heat water ahead of time and have it ready and waiting in the tank, while tankless water heaters heat the water on demand as it passes through the heat exchanger. Here is a quick explanation with a little more detail:
    • Traditional hot water heaters involve the use of a big tank of water that is constantly being heated. The tank, which can usually be found in the basement, a closet, or some other tucked-away space, fills with water and then the heating system begins to work. The tank heats up the water and then cycles on throughout the day to keep the water warm at all times (even when you aren’t using hot water) so that you can have hot water on demand. If you use a lot of hot water at one time – i.e. everyone showers around the same time, the tank will empty, and then it will take time to heat more water. You could have the same issue if you run the dishwasher, do a load of laundry, and take a bath all in the same time frame. Traditional water heaters require space for a water tank.
    • Tankless hot water heaters operate with a more “on-demand” approach. When you request hot water (by starting the dishwasher or turning on the “hot” side of the sink, etc.) cool water passes from the water supply into the heat exchanger. As it passes through the heating coils, it reaches the desired temperature and then travels to the requested area of your home. After heating the desired amount of water, the water heater turns itself off until it is needed again. While traditional water heaters can run out of hot water if the tank empties, a tankless water heater will continue to provide hot water as long as it has a source to power the heating coils (power, natural gas). These water heaters also do not need space for a tank. 
  • Efficiency – saving energy, time, and space
    • Tankless water heaters have a lot of pros when compared to traditional water heaters. They take up much less space – the unit is a small box that is installed on the wall, so you don’t need floor space for it. While your current water tank might be tucked away in the basement or in a closet, it is still taking up space that could be used for storage. 
    • Tankless water heaters are also masters of energy savings. Depending on how many units you have in your home, and how much hot water you use, you can reduce energy usage by up to 50%. Traditional water heaters waste a lot of energy because they are constantly turning off and on to keep the water at the desired temperature, waiting. Even when you are at work or on vacation, your water heater is still working. Tankless units stay off until the water is requested and it takes seconds for the heating coils to turn on and heat the water. Once the demand for hot water is over, the unit turns off. If you have a big household, installing heaters near the most-used areas (i.e. the main shower or the laundry room) will also help increase savings by reducing the distance the water must travel.
    • Tankless water heaters also last much longer than traditional ones. There is less corrosion and the parts are simple to replace. Tankless units can last more than 20 years, while traditional systems need to be replaced every 8 to 12 years.
  • Negatives of a tankless water heater
    • Lower flow rate – tankless units can only heat a certain amount of water per second, so in order to accommodate this, the flow of the water is slower than traditional water heaters. Tankless heaters can provide between 2 and 5 gallons per minute, while traditional units allow 5+ gallons a minute to flow. 
    • More expensive – tankless systems are generally a little more pricey than traditional ones. This is usually due to installation costs and the need to run venting and gas lines.  Keep in mind, though, that the savings you will reap over the years with a tankless system will end up paying for itself.

When you are thinking about making the switch to a tankless water heater, think about the size of your home, the amount of hot water your household consumes, the current state of your water heater, and your overall budget. Contact Drain Wizard to discuss your options and what choice is best for you. Our highly-trained team is here to answer any questions and walk you through the process. Don’t wait until you are taking an ice-cold shower, call Drain Wizard today!


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