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Conventional vs. Tankless Water Heaters

Last week we looked at some of the differences between electric and gas water heaters. Today we’re diving into another set of options that some folks don’t even know exists. If your unit is on the fritz and you’re looking for a new water heater with installation, there are a couple of alternatives beyond conventional gas and electric. We’ll look at conventional vs. tankless water heaters below, along with one other option that might surprise you.

Conventional Water Heaters

As we saw when comparing conventional gas and electric tanks, today’s conventional tank models are more energy-efficient than they used to be. This translates to about 7% less in water heating bills.

A conventional water heater runs constantly. It keeps water stored, hot, and ready to use. The downside of this is that when your stored hot water is gone, it takes time to heat up more. If you’ve ever been the third or fourth person to shower in the morning, you may have experienced this.

dumping water on a man
Know the feeling?
Tankless water heaters mean NO MORE COLD SHOWERS!

Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless water heaters offer a slightly different approach to hot water storage than conventional models… they don’t do it. A water heater without a tank will heat your water only when you need it. The moment you turn the “H” handle on your faucet or shower is the moment your water gets hot. (To be honest, as plumbing contractors, we have a soft spot for how efficient these models are.)

“Tankless water heaters offer a slightly different approach to hot water storage… they don’t do it.”

Tankless water heaters will save you around 30% on water heating bills. They do this by only heating water when you need it. Even in a single year, that can mean a lot of money back in your pocket.

Just like conventional tanks, you can supply tankless water heaters with your choice of gas or electric. A tankless water heater will have a higher upfront cost, but there are many benefits to this style of water heater:

For one thing, a tankless water heater takes up less space. This means you have more choices on where you’d like to place your unit. They also aren’t as much of an eyesore.

tankless water heater
A tankless water heater model

Maybe the biggest benefit, however, is that when you turn on the hot water tap, you get hot water for as long as you want it.

Tankless water heaters are a wise long-term investment. They last longer than conventional water heaters, meaning you’re very likely to get your investment back on a tankless water heater with installation and other upfront costs factored in.

Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heaters

This infographic video gives an excellent overview, not just of the way these units work, but of their insane efficiency as well.

Hybrid heat pump water heaters combine elements of both the tankless and conventional models. As the above video clip shows, these water heaters use whatever heat source (heat pump, gas, or electric) is most energy-efficient based on the outside temperature. They’ll even switch between gas and electric supply based on whichever market price is the least expensive at the time!

As you might imagine, hybrid heat pumps are expensive. But these babies will save you a SIGNIFICANT amount on operational costs in the long-run (we’re talking a whopping 60% savings over conventional tank models). The model’s unique ability to harness renewable energy makes this possible (Again, check out the video above. It’s pretty fascinating stuff).

For even more data, here’s a helpful table that shows the average operational costs of different water heater options. Compare the heat pump (#1) to the electric tank (#8) over a 10-year period. Despite the high initial cost of the heat pump, you can see how operational savings start to add up pretty quickly.

What makes sense for your home will depend. Budget, family size, and more matter. We understand that high upfront costs can be an obstacle. Likewise, running out of hot water isn’t as big of a risk if you live alone. There are plenty of local plumbing services that will try to sell you a specific model, but at Plumbing One, we believe in presenting you with all your options.

That said, here is our recommendation in the conventional vs. tankless water heater debate as a three-decades-old plumbing company in Ohio:

Our Choice: Tankless Water Heaters

There’s a reason so many folks are making the switch to tankless water heaters. If you can swing it, you stand to save a lot more in operational costs with a more efficient, longer-lasting model.

Please give us a call if you have any questions. We’re happy to share our experience to help with any decision on upcoming plumbing and heating projects. It’s what we do!

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