The average household spends $400-$600 annually heating its water, according to Energy.gov. That makes heating water the second largest expense in your home, accounting for 14-18% of your utility bills. The average water heater lasts 10-15 years, which makes it an appliance that will likely be replaced more than once in a homeowner’s time in a home. The question is, what do you do when it’s time for a replacement?
We’ve talked about the differences between gas vs. electric water heaters. Here, we’ll cover tankless vs. traditional water heaters, including how do tankless water heaters work, how to choose a tankless water heater, and tankless water heater energy savings.
A tankless hot water heater, also known as a demand water heater, is exactly what it sounds like. Unlike traditional water heaters, where tanks store water and maintain the water’s temperature until someone turns on the tap or the washing machine, tankless heaters only heat the water when an actual demand is made. No tap on, no water being heated.
One difference between tankless water heaters vs. regular water heaters is that a tankless will heat the water directly. If you turn on the shower upstairs, cold water travels through a pipe to the tankless heater. There, either a gas burner or an electric element heats the water, delivering a constant supply of hot water for however long that shower occurs. No concerns about running out of hot water while you wait for the storage tank to refill with hot water.
You should note this caveat, however, when comparing a tankless vs. traditional water heater: the output of a tankless heater can limit its flow rate. Energy.gov says that tankless water heaters typically provide hot water at a rate of 2-5 gallons a minute, with gas-fired tankless heaters producing a higher flow rate than heaters powered by electricity.
This means that even gas-fired tankless heaters can have trouble producing enough hot water for someone to take a shower if, say, the dishwasher also is running. Energy.gov offers a potential solution for this problem: install multiple tankless water heaters. Connect them in parallel so that they can meet any simultaneous hot water needs. Another option is to install separate tankless water heaters for different appliances.
Deciding between a tankless vs. tank hot water heater means taking into account a number of factors.
If you’ve decided that tankless water heater energy savings have made a tankless heater the right route for your home, the next step is figuring out how to choose a tankless water heater. Here, as with many other appliances, size matters.
Here are some tips to help you choose the best heater for your hot water needs.
Bottom line: the lowly water heater does a lot of work each day. Understanding the differences between a tankless vs. tank hot water heater can help you make the best energy choice for your family and needs.
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