PlumbingFebruary 26, 2024by mcmullen

Tankless Water Heaters vs. Hot Water Tanks

Wondering whether you should stick with your conventional hot water tank or upgrade to a tankless water heater? Here’s a simple guide to different types of hot water heaters and their pros and cons.


Understanding Hot Water Tanks

Hot water tanks are the conventional large storage tanks that come to mind for most people when they think of a hot water heater. They function by using a heating element, typically positioned at the tank’s base, to raise the temperature of the water held within. When you turn on a hot water tap in your home, the heated water from the tank circulates through the pipes to reach the tap. In situations where a substantial amount of hot water is used within a short timeframe, such as when multiple people take showers one after another, the hot water in the tank may run out, requiring a waiting period for the tank to refill and reheat before hot water is available again.

Pros of Hot Water Tanks

Lower Initial Cost: Hot water tanks generally have a lower upfront cost compared to tankless water heaters, making them an accessible choice for those with a limited budget.

Simple Installation: Storage tanks are typically easier and quicker to install than tankless models. Note that it is still not advisable to try doing it yourself – always hire a reputable, experienced technician.

Stable Water Temperature: Once heated, water in the tank remains at a constant temperature, providing a consistent supply.

Cons of Hot Water Tanks

Limited Hot Water Supply: Tanks only hold a certain amount of hot water, which can run out with heavy usage. This means you may have to wait around for your water heater to refill and reheat, making tanks inconvenient for households that require a lot of hot water.

Shorter Lifespan: On average, hot water tanks have a shorter lifespan compared to tankless water heaters, often needing replacement sooner. Typically, hot water tanks last about 10 years, while tankless units generally last 15-20 years.

Energy Inefficiency: Hot water tanks need to continuously heat to maintain the water temperature, even when not in use. This can result in a lot of energy usage.

Space Requirements: Hot water tanks are bulky and take up significant space, which can be a limitation, especially in smaller homes.


How Tankless Water Heaters Work

Because tankless water heaters don’t use a storage tank, they present a more streamlined approach to water heating. This compact system heats water instantly as it passes through the unit, eliminating the need for pre-stored hot water. Within the tankless water heater, powerful heating elements or a gas burner quickly heat the water as needed for household use.

This on-demand heating process gives you a constant and immediate supply of hot water, meaning that if you have a tankless water heater you won’t experience the inconvenience of running out of hot water and having to wait for your tank to heat up again.

Pros of Tankless Water Heaters

Endless Hot Water: Tankless water heaters provide hot water on demand, ensuring a continuous supply without the risk of running out.

Energy Efficiency: Tankless units are generally more energy-efficient than tanks since they only heat water when needed, reducing standby heat loss.

Compact Design: Tankless water heaters are compact and can be installed in smaller spaces, making them suitable for homes of any size.

Longer Lifespan: On average, tankless water heaters last 5 to 10 years longer than traditional hot water tanks.

H3: “Cons of Tankless Water Heaters”

Higher Initial Cost: Tankless water heaters have a higher upfront cost to buy and install compared to traditional hot water tanks, although their energy efficiency will save you money over time.

Installation Complexity: Installation is more complex than for a conventional tank and may require changes to the existing plumbing and gas lines. 

Potential Cold-Water Sandwich: In some cases, there may be a brief delay in receiving hot water, leading to a phenomenon known as a “cold-water sandwich” where you will get hot water at first, then a small amount of cold water, and then a steady stream of hot water.

Do you want to upgrade to a tankless water heater or need your hot water tank replaced? Trust McMullen’s Refrigeration & Heating for professional, precise installation all makes and models of water heaters.


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  • As far south as Olds/Bowden
  • North to Ponoka and west to Eckville
  • More or less 50 km East/West/North/South
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