Imagine it’s a cold winter morning. You go outside, start up your car, and turn the heater on. Your car sits for about 15 minutes, getting nice and warm inside.
Then you shut the heater, turn off the ignition, and go back in the house, because you don’t need your car for another half an hour. By the time you return, your car is cold again – which means you’ll have to repeat the routine, wasting twice as much fuel in the process.
Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Yet that’s more or less what happens every day in your conventional storage-type water heater.
A conventional water heater (one with a tank, which is what most people own) does its job by heating water and storing it in the tank until you need it. The problem is that the more that tank sits in your cold basement, the more heat the water within it loses (this is known as standing loss). Eventually, the water will have to be reheated so you’ll have hot water when you need it. Insulating the storage tank will help slow this process, but it won’t stop it altogether.
The tankless water heater difference
Now, imagine a different kind of water heater – one that skips storing hot water altogether, opting instead to heat water instantly and only when you turn on your tap or hot water appliance.
That’s exactly what you have in a tankless propane water heater.
By operating this way, a tankless system enjoys some important advantages over a storage-type water heater. Here are five of the big ones:
- Unlimited hot water – With a right-sized tankless water heater, hot water will flow continuously for as long as your main water line keeps feeding it.
- Much greater efficiency – By working only when needed, not using a pilot light, and never having to reheat water, a tankless water heater can improve efficiency by 40 percent or more.
- Quality components – The more durable components of a tankless water heater system fail less often and can often be repaired rather than replaced.
- More placement flexibility – Since it lacks a storage tank, a tankless water heater is small – about the size of a suitcase. It can also be wall mounted, which means a tankless water heater can be placed just about anywhere in the house, including closets and crawl spaces.
- Longer equipment life – The primary culprit in the limited lifespan of a conventional water heater is the corrosive water stored in its tank. Because it doesn’t store water, a tankless water heater will last an average of 50 percent longer than its storage model counterpart.
Should you ever choose a storage-type water heater?
As you can see, the advantages of a tankless water heater are pretty clear. So does it ever pay to chose a conventional water heater?
The answer is “sometimes.”
A tankless water heater can cost twice as much up front as a conventional storage water heater (sometimes even more), so that’s certainly a factor. Of course in the long run, the energy savings and equipment longevity could very well offset or even exceed that initial outlay.
Another cost consideration is maintenance: a tankless system should be professionally serviced every year, while a storage-type system could be a bit more forgiving if you skip your tune-up.
With all of this in mind, here are some rules of thumb for choosing between a storage or tankless water heater:
- For singles or couples – If you don’t use large amounts of water and are replacing a storage water heater, investing in a storage water heater could be a better choice.
- For new construction, or for larger families and efficiency-conscious / space-challenged homeowners, tankless heaters are absolutely worth the investment. Just make sure to get a professional to help you size and install your tankless heater for years of trouble-free service.
A tankless water heater can be a great option – as long as it’s the right choice for your Southern Maine or New Hampshire home, and as long as it is sized and installed by the pros at P. Gagnon & Son. Contact us today to talk with our water heater experts!