Water Heaters: A Hot Topic

February 20, 2014

The two most common types of water heaters are tankless and traditional; if you’re in the market for a new water heater, you should become familiar with all of your options.

Traditional storage water heaters, as the name implies, work by storing heated water.  The water temperature is maintained just waiting to be released when a hot water tap is turned on somewhere in the house.  As hot water is used, cold water fills the tank and the tank heats it so that it is waiting for the next hot water request.

Storage water heaters can come in gas, propane, and electric. Their main drawback is that they use energy keeping water heated, even when it isn’t needed. The best way to reduce their energy consumption is to purchase an energy efficient model with an R-value of R-12 to R-25. 

Traditional storage water heaters are the most popular choice due to their economical price, however, there may be more efficient of the options to suit your needs.

Tankless water heaters are an efficient alternative to traditional, storage-tank water heaters.   A tankless water heater provides hot water by heating only what is needed, as it is demanded.  When a hot water tap is turned on, cold water is passed across either a gas burner or electric element, heating the water. Since a storage tank is not constantly heating water and losing heat, no energy is wasted keeping the water warm when it’s not needed.

One drawback to tankless water heaters may be their flow rate.  Typical tankless heaters can provide about two to five gallons per minute, with gas water heaters having a higher flow than electric. But if a dishwasher is running while someone is taking a shower, a tankless water heater may not be able to provide hot water fast enough. The best way to know if a tankless water heater is an efficient option for your home is to learn your average daily usage.  If your family averages 40 gallons or less a day, a tankless heater can be around 30% more efficient than a storage tank water heater. However, if you use double that amount of water, the efficiency will be less than 15% better.

Each option has its advantages and its disadvantages; choosing the best type of water heater can be confusing; the best way to make a decision is to contact a reputable plumber who can give you professional advice.

Last Updated: June 09, 2023