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What You Need to Know About the Different Types of Water Heaters

There are two main types of water heaters for your home: tank water heaters, and tankless water heaters. Both of these types of water heaters can provide your home with the hot water you need. Both rely on a form of fuel to heat the water (usually natural gas but sometimes electricity or another source), and both have improved so much over the last several years that they’re more efficient and effective than ever.

However, despite these similarities, the two types of heaters are drastically different, and these differences are what make the choice between the two extremely important for your home. On this blog, we’ll help you make that choice by explaining some of the pros and cons of each type and what you need to know about each of them.

Water Storage

As their name implies, a tank water heater has a large tank which holds the heated water until you need it. This tank is insulated to help reduce heat loss, making it easier to keep this tank at your ideal temperature for longer. When you turn on the hot water in your home, water flows out of the tank and into your home, eventually reaching the tap which needs it. The tank then replaces the water you used with water from your supply, and then heats it to get it back up to temperature.

Conversely, tankless water heaters do not have a storage tank. Instead, they use a series of heating elements to heat the water as it flows through the heating unit, in a sense creating it on-demand as you need it. When you turn on a hot water tap, the heating elements in your tankless water heater turn on, heating the water quickly then feeding it immediately into your hot water lines for use elsewhere in your home. This makes it extremely easy for water to reach your ideal temperature and makes hot water delivery quick.

Tank Water Heater Pros & Cons

A tank water heater has several advantages. First, the overwhelming majority of homes were built with tank water heaters, which means that you already have the infrastructure and plumbing lines necessary to use them. Replacing a tank water heater with a new tank unit is pretty much a direct swap which requires little to no retrofitting or line construction in most cases. Likewise, they are also quite a bit cheaper than their tankless counterparts, so if you’re on a tight budget, they’re the unit for you.

On the downside, tank water heaters face a number of additional issues. Because they’re a giant holding tank full of water, it’s only a matter of time before they’re going to wear out and start to leak. Leaks can be extremely damaging to your home, potentially causing serious issues such as mold, rot, and even flooding. Because of this tendency, even the best water heater that’s taken care of as much as possible generally will only last between eight and ten years. Finally, tank-style water heaters have faced an increasing issue over the last several years. Because they’re becoming more energy-efficient, tanks have been shrinking to make room for more insulation in order to keep the heat in. This means you may not have the space to replace your tank with one that’s got the same capacity as you used to. Furthermore, increased efficiency has also led to increased pressure inside your tank, which could lead to potentially serious problems, including leaks and possibly even causing a tank explosion in super-rare cases.

Tankless Water Heater Pros & Cons

Arguably the largest advantages of tankless water heaters is that they eliminate a number of the potential risk factors that a tank-style heater can carry. Because they don’t have a storage tank, they rarely leak and have much longer lifespans as a result. In fact, a well-cared-for tankless heater can last for decades, and even outlast the amount of time you own your home! Likewise, because there’s no risk for a pressure-related explosion, they’re far safer for your home and your family.

Tankless heaters are also far more efficient. Because they only use energy to heat the water you use once, you’ll see significantly reduced energy costs. No more paying for the energy to heat an entire tank of water and then paying more to keep it at your ideal temperature!

What are the downsides to a tankless system? The largest one is cost—tankless water heaters are quite a bit more expensive to install, so they’re a larger investment in your home. However, switching over to a tankless system could actually be a self-funding investment—because they last significantly longer than your traditional tank-style heater, their longer lifespan and reduced energy costs will save you a bundle, which means more money right back in your pocket!

Need a new water heater? Call Paws Plumbing at (858) 252-1670 and let our San Diego plumbers handle it for you!