If you need to replace your old water heater, there are a number of different options. Traditional gas water heaters are still the most common choice, but more and more people are opting to switch to gas or electric tankless water heaters instead. Determining which type of water heater is best is usually a matter of how much you’re willing to spend and what your specific goals or priorities are. How much hot water you use daily can also be an important consideration. To help you understand your choices, this guide will take you through all of the options and look at the benefits and downsides of each type of water heater.
Pros and Cons of Traditional Water Heaters
Traditional water heaters are those that constantly keep a store of hot water within a large holding tank, and these can be powered by either gas or electricity. The primary reason that most people still opt for a traditional water heater over a tankless unit is that they are less expensive. It also costs less to install a traditional water heater than a tankless unit. This is especially true if you want to switch from a traditional to a tankless heater. In this case, it is necessary to retrofit your plumbing to accommodate the new type of unit.
While traditional water heaters are less expensive up-front, they consume much more energy than tankless units. This is because they have to constantly heat the water in the tank instead of only running when hot water is needed.
Another issue with traditional heaters is that they have a much shorter average lifespan. A traditional heater will typically only last for 10 to 15 years, whereas tankless units may last for 20 or even 30 years. This means you may go through two traditional units in the same timespan as you would one tankless heater.
The biggest drawback to traditional water heaters is their propensity to leak. As the unit ages, the tank can begin to rust and corrode, which could cause it to develop a leak. A small leak usually isn’t a big issue. However, if the tank suddenly fails, it can cause serious flooding and water damage. This isn’t an issue with tankless water heaters since they don’t store any water.
Benefits of Opting for a Tankless Water Heater
Although tankless water heaters require a much larger initial investment, the benefits they offer still make them a fantastic choice. Tankless water heaters are on-demand units, which means that they only turn on when hot water is called for. As soon as you turn the hot water on at a faucet or shower, the unit immediately kicks on and begins heating.
Both gas and electric tankless units use a heat exchanger to transfer heat energy to the water. Gas units have a burner that almost instantly heats the exchanger, while electric units obviously use electricity to supply the heat. The one main drawback to tankless units is that they have a longer lag time before hot water begins to flow. Depending on how far away the plumbing fixture is from the heater, it may take anywhere from 15 seconds to a minute or more before you have hot water.
The biggest benefit of opting for a tankless water heater is that it will greatly reduce your monthly energy costs compared to using a traditional unit. The US Department of Energy estimates that switching to a tankless device can reduce your energy costs by anywhere from 10% to 40%. The main factor in determining this is how much hot water you use every day.
Your savings will be greatest if your home uses less than 40 gallons a day. On the other hand, if you use 80 gallons or more, the difference will be minimal. As a result, you may be better to opt for a traditional unit if you use lots of hot water on a daily basis.
One other advantage of tankless water heaters is that you will never need to worry about running out of hot water. If you deplete all of the hot water in the tank of a traditional unit, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours before you will have hot water again.
Gas Versus Electric Traditional Water Heaters
If you’ve decided to go with a traditional water heater, you’ll now need to decide whether you prefer a gas or an electric unit. This usually means considering up-front costs, operating costs, and energy usage. Electric water heaters typically cost a few hundred dollars less than similar-sized gas units.
An electric unit is also more energy efficient. On the other hand, a gas unit will cost you less each month to run. This may sound slightly confusing, and you’re probably wondering how an electric unit is more expensive if it uses less energy. The answer lies in the difference in price between natural gas and electricity.
Natural gas tends to be quite a bit cheaper than electricity in most places. As a result, even though a gas water heater will use more energy, it will still cost less to operate.
The other main difference between gas and electric is that gas units need to be vented while electric water heaters don’t. Venting is necessary because gas units produce carbon monoxide and other dangerous combustion fumes whenever they are heating. If the unit isn’t properly vented, these fumes can become trapped inside the home and create a serious health risk.
Choosing Between a Gas or Electric Tankless Water Heater
As with gas and electric traditional units, a gas tankless water heater will cost less each month to run. Again, this is merely because of the price of natural gas compared to electricity. Electric units have lower up-front costs and higher energy costs. Gas heaters are slightly more expensive to purchase and install but will save you more money in the long run.
Many electric water heaters are point-of-use units, which are designed to supply hot water to only one plumbing fixture. This type of unit is installed near your shower or underneath your kitchen sink and only supplies that fixture. This type of unit does have its uses, but you would obviously need multiple units if you wanted hot water at each fixture.
Virtually all gas tankless units are whole-home systems that can supply water to every fixture. You can find electric whole-home units as well. Deciding which of the two is best is really a matter of your budget and personal preference.
Las Vegas Water Heater Installation and Repair
If you still can’t decide what type of water heater is best, the experts at Sierra Air Conditioning & Heating are here to help. We can explain all of your options and the pros and cons of each so you can make a thoroughly informed decision. Our licensed plumbers install all types of tankless and traditional heaters. If your water heater is having any issues, we can inspect it to determine why it isn’t working. We’ll help you to determine whether repairing the old unit or replacing it with a new model is the better option.
We’ll also take care of your water softening and filtration needs, your drains, and your septic tank. In addition, we offer a complete range of heating, cooling, and indoor air quality services, including installation, maintenance, and repair. For more information on these options or our water heater services, give us a call at Sierra Air Conditioning & Heating today.