Tank vs. Tankless Water Heaters: Which Is Better for Your Home?

Tank vs. Tankless Water Heaters: Which Is Better for Your Home?

Choosing the right water heater for your home is like navigating a maze of technical jargon and diverse opinions. With tank vs tankless water heater options, it’s crucial to understand the advantages and pitfalls of each. 

In this blog, we’ll delve into the intricate world of water heaters, guiding you toward an informed decision that aligns with your household needs and preferences.

How Tank Water Heaters Work

Tank water heaters are common in many households. They start working when cold water enters the tank through the dip tube and is directed to the bottom, where the heating process starts. Electric resistance coils or a gas burner system heat the water. 

In electric models, coils heat up via electricity, while gas models combust natural gas or propane at the tank’s base, producing flames and hot gases. As these gases rise, they transfer their heat to the surrounding water. 

A thermostat is in the tank to constantly monitor the water’s temperature. Should the water’s temperature drop below a preset level, the thermostat activates the heater, ensuring a consistent hot water supply.

Pros of Tank Water Heaters

Pros of Tank Water Heaters

Traditional tank water heaters are simple and reliable and come with distinct advantages that have kept them popular over the years. Let’s take a closer look to understand why.

Cost-Effective Initial Investment

Tank water heaters generally have a lower upfront cost compared to tankless models.

Simplicity in Design

Their operation and design are straightforward, making them easier to understand and repair. 

Consistent Water Temperature

The large volume of stored water ensures a consistent temperature for immediate use, especially if the demand isn’t excessive.


Tank water heaters come with a proven track record, resulting in decades of use. For this reason, many homeowners see them as a familiar, reliable choice.

Easy Installation

Especially when replacing like-for-like models, installers often find the installation of tank water heaters more straightforward than that of tankless systems, which may require more extensive plumbing or electrical work.

Multiple Simultaneous Uses

Depending on the tank’s size, you can handle several tasks, like taking a shower while running the dishwasher, without running out of hot water immediately.

No Need for Complex Retrofitting

If you’re replacing an old tank water heater with a new one, you don’t usually need to make major changes to existing plumbing. 

Lower Initial Installation Cost

Often, it’s less expensive to install a tank model than a tankless model. 

Less Sensitive to Water Quality

Tank water heaters sometimes handle harder water better than tankless models, which become clogged or inefficient due to mineral build-up.

Established Infrastructure

Many homes are already equipped to accommodate tank water heaters, which means installers need to make fewer modifications during installation or replacement.

Availability of Parts

Given their long history and widespread use, finding replacement parts for tank water heaters is typically easy.

While tank water heaters offer several benefits, it’s essential to weigh these against their cons and compare them to alternative systems like tankless heaters to determine the best fit for a specific situation.

Cons of Tank Water Heaters

Limited Hot Water Supply

Tank water heaters store a fixed amount of water, typically 30 to 80 gallons. You’ll have to wait for the tank to refill and reheat once the hot water is depleted, which is inconvenient if you have a high demand for hot water. 

Unlike tankless models that heat water on demand, tank water heaters continuously work to maintain the temperature of the stored water. This sometimes leads to standby heat loss, which wastes energy by keeping the water hot even when there’s no immediate need.

Larger Physical Footprint 

You’ll need more space for tank models since they are bulkier. If your home has limited space or you want to maximize your utility area, a tank model might not be your best bet. 

Shorter Lifespan 

On average, your tank water heater should last about eight to 12 years. On average, a tank water heater should last about eight to 12 years, a shorter lifespan than tankless models. Over time, factors such as sediment buildup and corrosion can actively affect their longevity.

Potential for Water Damage

If a tank water heater fails or leaks, it might release a significant volume of water, potentially causing damage to the home. This risk requires homeowners to be diligent about maintenance and watching for signs of wear.

Sediment Buildup

Over time, hard water minerals settle at the bottom of the tank, forming sediment. This buildup reduces the heater’s efficiency, shortens its lifespan, and even leads to noisy operation.

Higher Long-term Costs

Though they might have a lower initial investment, the inefficiencies of tank water heaters, along with potential repair and earlier replacement needs, drive up their long-term costs compared to more energy-efficient models.

Slower Recovery Rate

Once you run out of hot water, the tank water heater will refill, which takes time. 

How Tankless Water Heaters Work

How Tankless Water Heaters Work

When it comes to tank vs tankless water heaters, tankless heaters stand out for their ability to provide hot water precisely when needed, sidestepping the necessity for a bulky storage tank. The process kicks off when a hot water tap is activated in the home, signaling the heater into action. 

Depending on the type, the water is heated either by electric resistance coils, in the case of electric tankless heaters, or by a gas burner for gas-fueled models. As the water flows over these heating elements, it’s rapidly brought to the desired temperature.

Pros of Tank Water Heaters

Continuous Hot Water Supply

Tankless systems deliver hot water on demand, ensuring an endless supply as long as there’s a need, making them ideal for extended showers or filling large tubs.

Energy Efficiency

Since they heat water only when required, there’s no standby energy loss like traditional tank heaters. This on-demand heating can lead to energy savings of up to 20-30% compared to standard tank models.

Space-saving Design

Tankless heaters have a compact design, freeing up valuable space in the home. They can often be wall-mounted and placed in closets, basements, or outside the house (with proper weatherproofing).

Longer Lifespan

While traditional tank water heaters typically last eight to 12 years, tankless models have a lifespan of 15-20 years or more, given proper maintenance.

Reduced Risk of Water Damage

Without a large tank to potentially burst, the risk of significant water damage due to a leak is minimized.

Fresh Water

Since no stored water stays stagnant for periods, the water from a tankless system is often fresher and heated directly from the main supply as needed.

Lower Long-term Costs 

Their energy efficiency and longer lifespan often reduce long-term costs when considering energy bills and replacement frequencies.

Cons of Tank Water Heaters

Higher Initial Costs

While they might save money over time, the upfront costs of tankless water heaters — including the unit and installation — are typically higher than traditional tank models.

Retrofitting Challenges

You might need additional plumbing or electrical work done if you’re replacing a traditional tank heater with a tankless system, which will add to your costs. 

Inconsistent Temperatures

Under high demand or with multiple taps running simultaneously, some tankless models might struggle to maintain a consistent water temperature.

Limited Output

While they provide continuous hot water, there’s a limit to the flow rate. The unit’s capacity might be exceeded if multiple appliances or fixtures simultaneously demand hot water.

Maintenance and Cleaning

In areas with hard water, mineral scale buildup affects a tankless heater’s efficiency. Regular maintenance and occasional descaling are often necessary.

Requires Venting

Gas-powered tankless water heaters need proper venting, adding to installation costs and complexity, especially if suitable venting isn’t already in place.

Learning Curve

Adjusting to the instant heating mechanism and understanding the unit’s flow rates might require a period of adjustment for some users.

Factors to Consider When Making a Decision

Factors to Consider When Making a Decision

Initial Cost

Tank water heaters generally have a lower upfront cost for the unit and installation. In contrast, tankless systems can be more expensive initially, especially if retrofitting is required.

Operating Costs

While tankless heaters might have a higher upfront cost, they often offer lower monthly operating costs due to their energy efficiency. Tank models, on the other hand, might have higher energy bills because of standby heat loss.

Space Constraints

If space is at a premium, the compact design of a tankless heater might be appealing. Traditional tank heaters require more room because of their bulky storage tanks.

Hot Water Demand

For households with high simultaneous hot water needs, a large tank water heater or multiple tankless units might be necessary. If hot water needs are more spaced out, a single tankless unit could suffice.

Energy Efficiency and Environmental Concerns

For those prioritizing energy efficiency and reduced carbon footprints, tankless water heaters often stand out due to their on-demand heating mechanism.

Maintenance and Durability

Areas with hard water might see more frequent maintenance requirements with tankless systems due to mineral buildup. In such cases, water softeners or regular descaling become crucial. Tank systems can also face issues like sediment buildup and corrosion over time.

Consistency of Water Temperature

If consistent water temperature is a priority, especially when multiple fixtures are in use, it’s essential to size the tankless system correctly. Tank systems generally provide consistent temperatures until the stored hot water is depleted.

Future Home Sale Considerations

Modern amenities, like tankless water heaters, can be a selling point for homes, potentially increasing their resale value.

So, now that you understand tank vs tankless water heaters, you’re better equipped to make a decision for your home.

Get Your Water Heater From Quick Quality Plumbing

Don’t leave things to chance when it comes to ensuring warmth and comfort in your home. Whether you’re leaning toward a traditional tank water heater or considering the modern tankless option, Quick Quality Plumbing has expertise in both.

Contact Quick Quality Plumbing or call us at 801.980.2671 for tailored advice, seamless installations, and top-tier service. Trust Quick Quality Plumbing to keep the hot water flowing!

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