Tank vs. Tankless Water Heaters: Make the Right Choice

If you’ve never replaced a water heater before, it may seem like a daunting task, but it’s less challenging than many would imagine. You have a few options when the time comes to replace your water heater, including how it’s going to be installed and the type of heater you’re going to get in the first place.

That latter concern is what we’re going to focus on today. We’ll be taking a look at the differences between the two most common types of residential water heaters: tank and tankless models.

How Do Water Heaters Work?

Before we get to the details, let’s briefly discuss how each of these kinds of water heaters works. Tank water heaters are the most common variety, and they’re also simpler than tankless models. They’re essentially big tanks of water that are kept hot and ready, much like a hot water reservoir.

On the other hand, a tankless water heater is more of a hot water-on-demand design, in which it travels through the unit and gets heated up. Unlike a tank heater, tankless models look like a small rectangular unit built into a wall.

The Volume of Hot Water

The first thing to consider when choosing the right water heater is the amount of hot water that will be available at any given time.

In a tank water heater, there will always be a significant volume of hot water available for use due to the tank’s reservoir. This hot water will also be instantly accessible, so you won’t have to wait for it to warm up. Unfortunately, the hot water in a tank-type heater can end up running out, and your shower will gradually start to turn cold.

For tankless models, it will take a little longer for the water to get hot, as it will need to cycle through the unit. Usually, this means that you’ll have to run the water for a few seconds before it gets warm enough to step in. On the other hand, once the flow of hot water starts, it can continue all day without getting cold.


When purchasing a new appliance, it’s always imperative to set a budget and stick to it, so let’s look at how much it’ll cost to replace your water heater.

The tank water heater is a proven design that has been around for a long time, and this makes them relatively affordable to produce. You can find a tank water heater for anywhere between 300 and 1500 dollars. While this may be cheaper than a tankless option, you’ll also have to pay more to maintain and operate the tank heater over its lifespan.

Tankless water heaters are around twice the price of tank models up front, with some of the best models carrying a cost of up to 4000 dollars. Since a tankless heater won’t have to constantly keep a supply of water hot, a tankless water heater will save you money on your energy bill to make up for this.

Energy Efficiency

The point about operating costs brings us to efficiency. Lower energy usage will save you money on your power bill, but it will also make the water heater more eco-friendly.

Tank water heaters are far less efficient than tankless models because they need to keep the entire tank of water hot at all times. Even in the dead of night, when nobody is awake, your water heater is silently chugging along to keep a supply of hot water ready, just in case.

The majority of households won’t need hot water available 24/7, so tankless water heaters can save quite a bit of energy, especially for smaller families where fewer people will require hot water. Efficiency is usually the main draw of a tankless water heater for homeowners looking to make the switch.

The Unit

Of course, both of these appliances will have to be physically installed in your home, so you’ll want to take a look at the layout and size of the unit for each option.

Tank water heaters are the bulkier option, and you’ll either need a dedicated room or even an attached shed to position it in. Most of the time, tank water heaters are located in the basement as it will reduce the risk of damage from flooding, though this isn’t always feasible for apartments.

A tankless water heater is a lot more compact than a tank, and it looks a bit like a box mounted on the wall. This gives you the freedom to place your tankless water heater behind a cabinet or somewhere else where it will be sure not to take up too much space.

Potential Failures

A water heater is an appliance that can cause all sorts of problems when things go wrong, so it makes sense to want the safest option.

Tank water heaters have a much higher risk of flooding due to the volume of water that is always sitting in the tank. Any breach in the wall of the tank will result in a rush of water filling the area that you use to store your water heater as well as the surrounding rooms. The pilot light also results in a slight risk of fire.

Tankless models will typically leave you without hot water, much like a tank unit, but they won’t leave you with a flood on your hands. Unfortunately, tankless heaters are challenging to restart when the power goes out and may require a specialized technician.

Type of Power

You’re also going to want to look at what kind of power is supplied to your house, as some heaters may require gas, electricity, or both.

Tank water heaters have two distinct varieties: gas heaters and electric heaters. As you would expect, one of them runs using gas as fuel while the other one heats the water with an electrical current.

Tankless water heaters are also available in gas and electric varieties, but even the gas models will need to be connected to the grid to power the unit itself. This means that you’ll need to make sure that your power grid isn’t already too strained.


In the end, the right kind of water heater is going to depend on your needs as well as the layout of your home. If you live in an apartment alone where space is at a premium, and you don’t need hot water as frequently, then a tankless model is probably going to save you enough money and room to be worth it.

On the other hand, if you want something cheap and proven, then a tank water heater will be perfect, but just keep in mind that you’ll be paying more to keep it running.


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