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The Difference Between Tank vs. Tankless Water Heaters

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If you’re in the market for a new water heater, it’s important to understand the difference between the two main options you can choose from. Those options are tank water heaters and tankless water heaters. They both function in different ways and come with their own unique pros and cons.

In this guide, we’ll help you take a closer look at what each of these options offers and what the advantages and disadvantages are to using them:

Tankless Water Heaters

As the name suggests, tankless water heaters don’t store hot water in a tank for it to be used later. Instead, they heat water on-demand. The water is not stored in a tank, so it doesn’t need to be continually reheated to combat heat loss the way tank water heaters need to. Tankless heaters are becoming more popular because of their efficiency, but they aren’t as common or tried-and-true as tank heaters just yet.


    • Durability: When your new tankless water heater is installed, it will last for up to 20 years and often longer than that. They’re highly durable and their parts can be replaced easily. On the other hand, tank water heaters typically last only 10–15 years, and replacement parts can be more difficult to find, depending on your model.
    • Size: Because there is no storage unit in a tankless heater, they also take up less space in the home. If your storage space is limited, a tankless water heater is a great option
    • Energy and Cost Efficiency: As mentioned, tankless heaters provide hot water on-demand, meaning they save money in standby heat loss and lower your energy bills
    • Safety: Tankless water heaters can be much safer than regular tank water heaters because they don’t include a tank that can be overpressurized or overheated, thus eliminating these risks altogether.


    • Higher Upfront Costs: When you first buy your tankless water heater and have it installed, it will cost you more money than if you were to choose a tank water heater. The higher costs are a result of the more advanced systems and technology used by tankless water heaters. They can also be a little more complicated to install and maintain.
    • Limits to Simultaneous Usage: While tankless heaters do provide on-demand hot water, they also have limitations on their flow rate. This means that simultaneous usage, such as showering and running the dishwasher at the same time, could push a tankless heater to its limit\
    • Home Accommodations: Some homes will require considerable changes to their electrical systems or gas line to ensure they can accommodate the tankless heater. You have to be aware of the voltage and amperage requirements of the tankless heater and, if you’re switching from a tank water heater, reconfigure the space surrounding the unit to accommodate a tankless one.

Who Should Buy a Tankless Water Heater?

Anyone looking for a fast and convenient source of hot water in the home should opt for a tankless water heater. They will be able to provide you with the hot water you need, when you need it, although simultaneous usage should be considered. You’re also far less likely to have to deal with breakdowns early in the water heater’s lifespan, and that gives you some peace of mind.

Tank Water Heaters

Tank water heaters store water in a tank and heat it so that it’s ready to be used when needed. The water reheats while on standby and the tank regularly fills and heats after the water in it has been used. Tank water heaters come in a variety of sizes. Small tanks hold 30 to 60 gallons of water at a time, while medium- and large-sized tanks hold around 80 gallons. 


    • Cheaper Installation Costs: Tank water heaters are cheaper and easier to install than tankless heaters, reducing your upfront costs. 
    • Cheaper Maintenance: When something goes wrong with your water heater, chances are it will be cheaper to fix in a tank water heater. Generally speaking, the cost of replacement parts is lower for tank water heaters than for tankless water heaters.
    • Dependability: Tank water heaters have been around for years, and models continuously upgrade to ensure you have a dependable heater in your home with the necessary safety features. Tankless heaters are newer and not as common, meaning many manufacturers are still testing different features that could make tankless heater models better.


    • Heating Times: Waiting for the tank to refill and reheat can be frustrating, whereas tankless water heaters provide instantaneous hot water
    • Standby Heat Loss and Higher Energy Bills: Because a tank water heater continuously heats up water in the tank until it is used, more energy is wasted on standby heat loss. This also increases the cost of your energy bill
    • Shorter Lifespan: Tank water heaters tend to last for an average of 10–15 years before they need to be replaced. Tankless water heaters tend to last up to 5 years longer. 

Who Should Buy a Tank Water Heater?

The simplicity and dependability offered by tank water heaters is what makes them appealing to many people. They’re easy to install, operate, maintain, and repair. Problems can be easier to diagnose than a tankless water heater. Tank heaters also have cheaper water heater installation costs than tankless water heaters, which can be beneficial to those looking for lower upfront costs.

If you want to learn more about the tank and tankless water heaters to decide which one is best for your home, contact The Water Heater Company today. 

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