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Buying a New Water Heater?

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If you need to replace your hot water heater, you may have the same question as many others: Which is better, a tankless water heater or a traditional one with a storage tank?

There are significant differences between the two types of water heaters, including the initial cost.

This guide to hot water heaters will help you choose the best type for your individual needs.

Traditional Water Heater

A traditional water heater is available with a 30, 40 or 50 gallon water storage tank, with the most common being a 30 gallon tank.

The tank uses a burner unit that is fueled by electric, gas or propane to heat water in the tank to the preset temperature, which is controlled by a thermostat.

The size of the tank determines the amount of gallon usage available before it is empty and has to reheat the water.

The main concern for many people is that the burner is continually using energy to heat water stored in the tank.

Tankless Water Heater

Tankless water heaters do not have a storage tank, but instead heat the water only when the fixture for hot water is turned on.

Once the hot side has been turned on, the burner begins to heat up and as water goes through a heat exchanger, it is heated.

The burner must be extremely hot, about three times the amount of heat required for a traditional burner.

A common misconception is that the water in a tankless water heater is instantly heated as soon as a hot water tap is turned on.

The same process applies to both a tank and a tankless heater, in that the water has to go over the heater before warming up.

In some tankless heater situations, depending on the distance between the water heater and the faucet, you may end up wasting a great deal of water while waiting for the hot water to make its way through the pipes.

A tankless water heater installation typically costs between $4-5,000.

Storage tank water heaters installation average between $1,400-1,500.

A tankless model also requires electrical outlets to operate the fan and electronics, a ventilation system and upgraded pipes, which brings the total coast to about $4,500, compared to an average price of $1,500 for a standard model.

The initial cost of a tankless model is higher; however, the energy costs to operate it are lower.

The average consumer can reduce energy use about 30 percent with a tankless water heater, but with the cost difference being so much higher, it will take about 20 years to break even.


Both models have their advantages and disadvantages, so it is basically up to the individual taste of the homeowner.

If you are still unsure about which model will best suit the needs of your family, contact an experienced heating and conditioning company, such as Sears Heating and Cooling for information and recommendations.

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