Water Heater: Tank or Tankless, Gas or Electric

by Purvin Arshad

The purchase of a water heater is not an everyday occurrence. It is something you will buy twice or perhaps three times in your entire lifetime. Before reaching your wallet, make sure that your once-in-a-lifetime purchase is the right one. Learn everything you can about them. Find out about the different kinds available, installation costs, and possible problems. Learn about capacity, running costs, and what will best serve your needs.

Tank Water Heater

This type is installed in a majority of American homes, making it the most common type. As the name implies, it comes with an insulated storage tank in which the water is heated and stored. Tank capacity tells you how much water is available for use in one go.

It is equipped with two valves; one controls temperature and the other pressure. If the water temperature goes above 120°F, the valve is opened to discharge heat and control temperature. When the pressure reaches roughly 150 psi, it opens to reduce it.

Though the technology of tank water heater is safe enough. It’s recommended to turn off the power before you take a shower just in case of electricity leakage.

tank water heater

Pros:
They can be run on gas or electricity. The gas-run models tend to be more expensive at the time of purchase but are cheaper to use over time.

The electric models are less costly to purchase upfront. However, electricity being more expensive, makes their daily use more costly. If your home is wired for an electric water heater, and you wish to switch. Then the new wiring will add to the overall cost.

Generally, tanked water heaters have lower installation costs compared to all other types. It is also the most efficient if it gets good maintenance.

Cons:
Some of the cons associated with these models include the fact that they are not energy efficient. They run nonstop to retain the preset temperature.

They tend to be oversized, as they must be able to hold 20 to 75 gallons of water.

One of their most fatal failings is that they are prone to water damage. Lack of maintenance may lead to rust or corrosion, even worse water to your house.

Maintenance:
Due to the danger of rusting, it is best to remove scale and mineral deposits biannually. It is not that the unit will not work if not cleaned. It has more to do with increasing its lifespan. Typically, conventional water heaters last ten to twelve years.

Tankless Water Heater

tankless water heater

Source: Amazon

Needless to say, the tank is missing with this kind. Tankless water heaters are equipped with coils that become super-heated and provide a nearly endless supply of hot water. They can churn out around 3.5 gallons per minute. It is also known as an “on-demand water heater”.

Tankless water heaters have two energy models: electric instant water heater, gas instant water heaters.

Electric tankless water heater requires larger load wiring and safe electricity-leakage devices as it requires high instant power to operate.

If your home has a gas line, you can enjoy on-demand hot water provided by the gas tankless water heater. For safety reasons, you’d better install the gas water heater in a well-ventilated area, such as a balcony.

They are available in different sizes, so it is important to get one that suits your requirements. A size that is too small for your needs will not be able to meet your demand. For example, if the dishwasher is running, you may end up with cold water in the middle of a shower.

Pros:
The water heaters don’t require much maintenance, just the annual removal of scale. But even just doing that is more difficult as this type of water heater has smaller parts that are hard to reach. They have a lifespan of eight to ten years.

Their biggest benefit is that they are very energy efficient, so more eco-friendly than conventional ones. Tankless water heaters start heating water only when demanded, unlike conventional ones, which work continuously.

Since they do not store water, they are generally compact. This means they can easily be placed in any nook or mounted on a wall with ease.

They also have lower running costs.

Cons:
Unfortunately, the tankless water heaters do have their flaws also. The upfront cost is approximately twice as much as conventional water heaters. For smaller families, they work perfectly.

However, larger families may run into issues if hot water is in demand at too many places at once. Finally, you may need to increase gas or electric supply lines to sufficiently supply the larger models. These upgrades will add to the installation costs of the already expensive water heater.

All things considered, they don’t offer too many impressive perks. The installation and upfront costs take years to recover. That means the monthly running costs take that much longer to kick in.

Maintenance:
Tankless water heaters tend to accumulate minerals over time, especially if you are in an area that has hard water. This accumulation will eventually clog the passages and restrict the flow of water. If this happens, your unit will have to work harder to provide hot water. This will impact the life of your unit, and affect your energy bill. Annual cleaning of the exchanger helps to avoid this.

Heat Pump Water Heater

This type of water heater makes use of a unique idea to get your hot water. A fan directs warm air from its surroundings towards the heater’s evaporator coils. The coils contain a refrigerant that allows them to absorb heat and transfer it to heat the water. The cool air then exits the unit. It works in the opposite way of a refrigerator. The pump water heater houses a storage tank like the conventional but different technology to heat it. Thus, it is also called a hybrid water heater.

heat pump water heat

Pros:
Hybrid water heaters are an efficient replacement for electric or fuel heating systems. Consumer Reports says pump heaters use 60% less energy compared to conventional heaters. While the average running cost is higher than tankless water heaters, the payback on energy-saving payback is quicker.

Cons:
The average lifespan is not that great, lasting about a decade. This falls below the life spans of solar and conventional heaters.

As they use surrounding hot air, they are only suitable in environments with temperature stays between 40°F and 90°F. This automatically limits the population that can take advantage of this type of water heater.

Another significant point to note is that it must have at least 1,000 cubic feet of clear space surrounding it. This is where it draws air in from. Without this clearing, it will not work efficiently. Hence, if your space is limited, clearly this option will not suit you.

Maintenance:
Pump water heaters are not fussy when it comes to taking care of them. They only need yearly check-ups, and they do not require a specialist. You can do it easily yourself. The only significant upkeep is the cleaning of air filters, which requires little time and effort. They need a professional system check every three to five years.

Solar Water Heater

Solar water heaters make use of light from the sun to heat the water. The existing solar heaters all employ the same basic idea. It converts light energy from the sun to electrical energy vial solar panels. A system of storage containers, pumps, and various devices transfer it to water to heat it.

solar water heater

Pros:
One huge pro is that they are environmentally friendly. The purchase of solar panels is also very economical, allowing you to save money on electricity bills. Government offers tax credit as well as help with installation costs through rebates.

Cons:
They are expensive and can take decades to see a return on investment. Since they use light from the sun, they are ineffective in areas where the sun is in limited supply. Roof space has to be sufficient to install the heater and its panels. There will be a need for a backup water heater to cover for rainy days.

Maintenance:
The solar panels have lifespans of around 25 years and require no other maintenance except simple cleaning. The water tank is prone to the same type of issues as those of conventional water heater. It requires annual scale removal and cleaning to stop corrosion.

Condensing Water Heater

This water heater uses a water tank like the conventional water heater. But that is where the similarity stops. It heats water by collecting the exhaust gases that exit the house via a flue for heating. The collected fumes are channeled through a coil situated at the bottom of the unit to heat water. It recycles energy that is already burned in other places around the house, like a stove or heating system.

Pros:
This is another eco-friendly option, allowing you to cut down on the carbon footprint you leave behind. It is cost-effective, reduces your energy bills by 30%. Lastly, they are very efficient, heating water as fast as tankless water heaters.

Cons:
The upfront cost of a condensing water heater is two to three times greater than a conventional heater. The installation costs are less than those incurred in a Conventional Water Heater but insufficient to cover the difference of initial costs. Switching to condensing water heater from Conventional requires reconfiguration, which will add to costs.

They tend to be large, 55 gallons or more, meaning they are suitable for heavy use. So it may not be practical for small households with limited space.

Maintenance:
They require the same maintenance as other water heaters with tanks. The only additional item is the cleaning of the gas import valves on an annual basis.

Important Features

Warranty

Typical warranties run from three to twelve years. The models that offer longer warranties are usually better built. They have bigger burners and thicker insulation. So look for the longest possible warranty as your unit will have a longer lifespan.

Anti-Scale Models

Some models claim to have an anti-scale device built-in which cuts down on scale collection by swirling water. If you select a model with the longest possible warranty, then this feature becomes pointless.

Brass Valves

The valves positioned at the base of a water heater intended for attaching a hose to drain the tank can be plastic or brass. Look for brass valves, as they last for the lifetime of the unit, unlike the plastic ones.

Glass-lined Tanks

This is a good feature to look for. The lining helps to cut down on corrosion and add to the life of the unit.

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