Here in Commerce, MI, most homes rely on traditional storage tank water heaters for their hot water. They’re popular for a variety of reasons. For one thing, they’re based on mature technology, with the earliest storage tank water heaters dating back to 1889. Also, the average storage tank water heater will give you between 10 and 15 years of reliable service before needing replacement.
However, storage tank water heaters aren’t the only option. There are also tankless, on-demand water heaters. They offer an unlimited supply of hot water whenever you need it. But what’s the difference between these two water heater types? Here’s a comparison of storage tanks and tankless water heaters.
How Storage Tank Water Heaters Work
Storage tank-based water heaters are relatively simple. They include a water tank capable of storing between 30 and 60 gallons of heater water. The electric variety of storage tank water heaters usually includes two electric resistance heating elements inside the tank, while a natural gas model will have a burner located at the base of the tank.
In both cases, a storage tank water heater takes in water from your home’s incoming water supply. Then, its heating apparatus will turn on and remain on until the stored water reaches a preset temperature. When you turn on a faucet or otherwise request hot water in your home, the tank provides it while refilling and reheating additional incoming water.
The Advantages of Storage Tank Water Heaters
The biggest advantage of a storage tank water heater is its potential flow rate. Generally speaking, a storage tank water heater can simultaneously supply hot water to as many taps in your home as you need. The only limitation is the amount of stored hot water. Plus, modern storage tank water heaters feature quick recovery times. The average model needs approximately a half-hour to an hour to replenish itself with a full tank of hot water. Also, storage tank water heaters are affordable and energy efficient.
The Disadvantages of Storage Tank Water Heaters
Storage tank water heaters do have some disadvantages. The most obvious among them is their limited capacity. With a storage tank water heater, running out of hot water and having to wait for more is always a possibility. For that reason, some homeowners opt for extra-large models to reduce the odds of a hot water shortage. However, doing so can harm energy efficiency since you’re paying to keep extra water heated that you won’t need the majority of the time. Storage tank water heaters can also waste up to 15% of the energy they consume via radiant heat loss. As a result, they will continue to reheat stored water even during times of low household demand.
How Tankless Water Heaters Work
Tankless water heaters don’t include any hot water storage capacity. Instead, they feature more powerful heating elements capable of creating hot water on demand whenever you need it. Like storage tank models, tankless water heaters come in both gas and electric varieties.
A tankless water heater contains a flow sensor that can detect when a faucet or appliance in your home is calling for hot water. When that happens, the system turns its heating element on while water flows through a high-efficiency heat exchanger. The water heater controls its heating element to generate hot water at a preset temperature for as long as you need it. Once the demand for hot water stops, the tankless water heater will turn off.
The Advantages of Tankless Water Heaters
The most notable advantage that comes with a tankless water heater is that it produces hot water endlessly. Homes with tankless water heaters never have to worry about running out of hot water. Also, tankless water heaters have a longer lifespan than storage tank models, with the average tankless system lasting between 20 and 30 years. They’re considerably smaller and can operate as much as 34% more efficiently than storage tank models.
The Disadvantages of Tankless Water Heaters
The biggest disadvantage of tankless water heaters is their limited flow rate. While they can produce a steady supply of hot water indefinitely, they only do so at a specific consumption rate. If you try to do laundry and take a shower at the same time, you may find your tankless water heater struggling to keep up.
Another disadvantage is their upfront cost. A tankless water heater can cost twice as much as a similar storage tank model or even more in some cases. Plus, in homes with high hot water demand, it’s sometimes necessary to install multiple units to meet the home’s needs.
Choosing Between a Storage Tank and a Tankless Water Heater
If you’re trying to choose between a storage tank and a tankless water heater, there are a few factors to consider. One is how your family uses hot water. If you expect high levels of simultaneous demand, a storage tank water heater is likely your best option. It will give you the perfect mix of high flow rates and low upfront costs.
However, if you rarely need hot water in multiple places in your home simultaneously, a tankless model is ideal. Even if it costs a bit more upfront, it will last twice as long as a traditional model. This saves you money on energy costs throughout its lifetime.
You should also think about how much extra work it might take to install one system type versus the other. If your home already has a storage tank water heater, replacing it with a tankless model might require extensive rerouting of water and gas lines or a significant electrical upgrade. The same is true if you’re switching from a tankless system to a storage tank.
It’s also a good idea to consider your future plans for your home. If you currently have natural gas appliances but are planning for full electrification, a tankless water heater may be ideal. This is because an electric tankless water heater is more efficient than an electric storage tank model. The only exception is if you opt for an electric storage tank model that integrates heat pump technology as its heating system.
Your Local Water Heater Experts
Whether you want a storage tank or a tankless water heater for your home in Commerce, Matheson Heating, Air & Plumbing is the place to go. We’re a full-service, family-owned and -operated HVAC and plumbing company that’s served the local community since 1946. We offer expert water heater installation and service, as well as complete plumbing, HVAC, and indoor air quality services. We can install and repair ductless mini-splits and whole-house humidifiers. We even offer service agreements that can help you keep your home’s ongoing HVAC and plumbing costs low.
If you need a new water heater for your Commerce home, call the experts at Matheson Heating, Air & Plumbing today, and we’ll take care of the rest.