If you’ve been trying to decide what kind of water heater you want in your new home, or if you’re looking to upgrade to a more efficient water-heating system, then you should read through the points below and learn about why tankless water heaters are preferred over storage heaters.
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Tankless Heaters vs. Storage Heaters: Energy Efficiency
If you told a plumber you were installing a storage water heater to save energy, they’d probably look at you funny. Storage water heaters are bought for many reasons, but energy efficiency is far from one of them. Traditional storage water tanks waste 40 to 50 percent of the fuel they burn. But for all that wasted energy, the water stays hot for hours, right? Wrong! Storage water heaters heat up and cool down regularly, and this is largely why they’re so bad on energy. Moreover, most of these heaters run on natural gas, propane, or fuel oil, and all these fuels are expensive, dangerous, and harmful to the environment.
Tankless heaters, on the other hand, are great on energy, and they run on electricity so you don’t have to worry about gas- or propane-related hazards. These system’s use a coil to heat water, so there’s no waste from gas or oil use. The Department of Energy has found that 17 percent of energy use in the typical American home is linked to heating water, and across the U.S. homeowners routinely pay high energy bills. A system that saves energy is a system that saves money, and this truth is one which leads many homeowners to go with a tankless water heater installation. You may also qualify for a rebate if you purchase one of these electric systems.
Answering this requires some explanation about how a tankless system works compared to a storage tank system. A storage tank system does exactly what it says: it stores water kept at a high temperature so it’s ready for use. But this means the supply in the tank can be depleted, and it can take a while for the natural gas burners or electric heating elements to replenish the heated water supply. People can end up with cold showers until that happens.
With a tankless system, there isn’t a supply of hot water that can be depleted. Instead, the water heater heats up water as there is a demand for it. If you turn on the shower for hot water, the tankless system will detect the movement of water in the hot water lines and start to apply heat through a heat exchanger to the water. It will keep doing this as long as there is demand—and that means you won’t run out of hot water!
But … yes, there’s a downside to this. Although a tankless system can’t run out of hot water, it can be overwhelmed with demand. A single tap won’t do this: run that single shower all you want, you’ll keep getting hot water. (But please don’t do this! Save water, save energy!) If more than one tap is on-demand hot water at the same time, however, such as other showers or a running washing machine, the water heater will struggle to keep up and drain extra power.
Because of this, we recommend making sure to work with professional water heater installers before making a choice about going tankless. Your water use pattern may be better suited for a storage tank system. Or you may wish to consider installing more than one tankless system (they’re modular and this is easy to do). You can trust that we’ll find the right option to meet your family’s hot water demands.