If you own a conventional water heater (one with a storage tank), it works mostly by heating water to have it ready when you need it for your appliances or taps.
The problem is that you might not need it for hours, and in the meantime, the water sits in a tank in your (usually cold) basement losing heat (we call this standing loss). Insulating the storage tank will help slow this process, but it won’t stop it altogether, so eventually, the water will have to be heated a second time…which, of course, you’ll pay for.
Now, imagine a different kind of water heater – one that doesn’t store water at all. Instead, it heats water instantly when you need it – and only when you need it.
That’s how a tankless water heater works.
By operating this way, a tankless system enjoys some important advantages over conventional water heaters, including:
As you can see, the advantages of a tankless water heater are pretty clear. So does it ever pay to choose a conventional water heater?
A tankless water heater will cost more than a conventional storage water heater, so that’s certainly a factor. Of course, in the long run, the energy savings and longer equipment life make a tankless water heater a better investment – especially when you factor in incentives.
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:
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