Going Tankless: The Pros and Cons of a Tankless Water Heater
Your water heater shot craps and you have to replace it. Will you be going tankless? Or will you stick to the traditional water heater? If you’re on the fence, here are some pros and cons of a tankless water heater to consider.
Maximizing Your Space
One of the biggest issues with a traditional water heater is the amount of space it takes up, whether it's a side closet or a closed-off area in the basement. Fortunately, one of the benefits of tankless water heaters is that they can be wall-mounted almost anywhere in your house so they won't need their own separate space. The traditional water heater may be bulky and require an area of its own, but your tankless water heater will not have to work around the needs of the rest of the house! Much of the United States builds homes with basements. This is typically where utility rooms, including a hot water heater, are located. However, in our neck of the woods, only about 50% of homes have basements. This frequently leads to floor plans with very little storage and utility space. With that in mind, a tankless water heater is ideal because it takes up so little space, by comparison.
Hot Water… ALWAYS
Your traditional hot water heater stores and heats water 30 to 40 gallons at a time (on average). You know what happens when 2 people take long hot showers at the same time. We’ve all experienced it. You run out of hot water! Once you have exhausted the ready supply of hot water, it takes time for your hot water heater to heat the next “batch” of water. The largest benefit of a tankless water heater is you have an unlimited supply of hot water. UNLIMITED. 3 hour shower? No problem. You want to fill your hot tub with hot water? No problem.
Heating water instantly requires some serious energy. A lot more energy than a tiny flame. Most existing homes simply don’t have ample energy sources to run one. If it’s gas powered, you likely need to upgrade your gas line. If it’s electric, you’re going to need to upgrade your electrical service.
While tankless are considered to be more energy efficient because there is no tank of water to keep heated continually, the upfront cost is higher. The unit and installation is more expensive than a traditional tank, and they are much more costly to maintain. Do you have hard water? (I hear a resounding ‘yes’ from all of us here in Southwest Montana.) This will wreak havoc on your tankless water heater. And most manufacturer warranties don’t cover this type of damage. If a tankless water heater is in your future, you’d be money ahead to go ahead and install a really good water softener as well.
The Bottom Line
So, the benefits are it’s compact size, the fact that you never run out of hot water, and POSSIBLY a lower utility bill. The drawbacks are upfront cost of the unit and expensive maintenance/repair. If money’s really a non-issue for you and you’re happy to install a water softener, then a tankless heater for your home is a pretty easy choice. If your pockets aren’t quite that deep, you may want to stick with the traditional water heater.