Water heaters are essential pieces of equipment in our Canadian households especially after a long, cold day working outside in sub-freezing temperatures.
If your water heater breaks, or it’s about to finish its useful life cycle, there are two options you can choose from when replacing it: a conventional water heater (which is probably what you are already housing) and a tankless water heater.
Conventional storage water heaters
Conventional storage water heaters are the most common water heater you are going to find in residential homes. They come in sizes of 20 to 80 gallons for residential use and commercial sizes can range into the 100’s of gallons. Their fuel sources include: electricity, propane, natural gas, and fuel oil. In these tanks, water is constantly being heated. Energy is consumed even when you aren’t using hot water. This standby heat loss can be reduced by some, more heavily insulated, water heaters.
Tankless water heaters
Tankless water heaters (also known as on-demand water heaters) don’t require a storage unit. They heat water only as it is being consumed. This results in a constant supply of hot water that also cuts energy costs as no tank of water needs to be kept heated. The downside is that your water flow rate can be limited. Tankless heaters are capable of providing hot water anywhere from 7.6 – 15.2 litres per minuete. They are operated by gas (higher flow rate) or electric. The effect on your water pressure may not be noticed when you are only running one appliance. You will notice it if you are running, for example, a shower and the dishwasher at the same time. To avoid this problem two or more tankless water heaters can be installed. This will help keep the flow rate steady regardless of what is being used simultaneously. You are also afforded more flexibility with the location of tankless water heaters. They are more compact which enables you to place them in a variety of places.
How efficient is a tankless vs. a conventional water heater?
The efficiency of either option will vary from household to household. This is because hot water usage is different in every home. The less hot water used, the more efficient a tankless water heater is compared to a conventional water heater. For example if you use 41 gallons of hot water a day you could see energy savings of 24%-34%* where if you use 86 gallons a day your savings drop to 8-14%*. The more on-demand water heaters you install can increase your savings as well.
Which is the better cost?
The initial cost of your water heater, whether it is a conventional or tankless, will vary on size, fuel source, and brand but a tankless water heater is typically more expensive. That being said, a tankless water heater will not only offer you energy savings (and a constant flow of hot water!), it also can last up to 20 years longer than a conventional water heater. It also is easier to replace parts which can extend their life. A conventional water heater has an expected life of 10-15 years.
Still not sure which is the right fit for your home? Ask your local plumber! They will be able to give you an estimated cost and can tell you from their own experiences what works best.