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Hot Water Tanks vs. Tankless Water Heaters: Which is Best for Your Home?

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Home Comfort, Hot Water Heaters

When it’s time to install a new water heater in your home, you’ll be faced with some choices. Hot water tanks and tankless water heaters have the...

Posted by Ryan | April 29, 2020

When it’s time to install a new water heater in your home, you’ll be faced with some choices. Hot water tanks and tankless water heaters have the same purpose: they deliver hot water when you need it. But they do this in different ways.

Budget, in-home water demands, and other factors will frame your decision. Choosing the “best” water heater for your home is about determining what’s important to you. Let’s discuss the benefits of each type of water heater and the differences between them.

And expert advice from a water heater specialist is always a good idea before making a final decision.

Understanding Hot Water Tanks

Hot water tanks, or tank water heaters, are the most common water heaters you’ll find in homes across Canada. Hot water heaters use either electricity or gas to power the heating element. This is typically determined by the energy sources your home currently draws from.

Tank-style water heaters require more room than tankless water heaters. Depending on the size of your hot water tank, you’ll need 15-25 sq. ft available to install the equipment (including clearance space). Tanks are often placed in their own room or with your home’s HVAC system.

Water heater pilot light

How Hot Water Tanks Works

Water enters the tank through a dip tube connected to your home’s main water line. As water is cycled in, it’s heated in one of two ways:

  • For gas hot water tanks, a gas burner turns on at the bottom of the tank. This burner warms up the bottom of the tank, heating the water. The flame’s exhaust runs through a chimney in the center of the tank that leads out of your house’s ventilation system. A water-out pipe then transfers the water around your home.
  • Electric hot water tanks operate much the same as gas water tanks. But instead of using a gas-powered flame, these tanks use electric elements to heat water from the bottom up.

You can think of a hot water tank like boiling a giant pot of water! Gas burners can produce a more intense heat, so they will heat your water faster than electric tanks. But gas powered tanks have a more involved installation and operating costs may be higher.

For a more in-depth look at each type of hot water tank, check out our complete guide to basic hot water maintenance.

Corroded drain valve on water heater

Cost of a Hot Water Tank

Compared to a tankless water heater, hot water tanks are usually the cheaper installation option. Part of the reason is that most homes in Alberta are already fitted with a tank water heater. The switch to a new hot water tank is easy and convenient.

Action Furnace sells hot water tanks for only $1,746.00, including installation and labour! On top of this, we also offer a 5-year parts and labour warranty at no extra cost.

Hot Water Tank Performance

When water is heated and stored, you’ll rarely see a problem with your water tank unless it needs maintenance.

However, water tanks can run out of hot water. Especially if your family has showers one after the other, or if you’re running 2 or more water-demanding appliances at the same time.

You can avoid running out of hot water by making sure you have the right-sized water tank for your family’s size and water demands.

Understanding Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless water heaters are growing in popularity, with new homeowners looking for alternative ways to heat water efficiently. They require far less room to operate, often mounted on a wall in or outside your home.

As the name suggests, there is no tank involved with this heater, and no hot water is stored for use. Instead, water is heated instantaneously and on demand.

Diagram of inner workings of tankless water heater

How Tankless Water Heaters Works

Tankless water heaters are equipped with a heat exchanger that transfers energy to your water supply. This element, or coil, is heated with either gas or electricity. When hot water is requested from a tap or appliance in your home, water passes through this exchanger and is instantaneously heated.

Because water is heated instantly and on-demand, you have a virtually endless supply of hot water.

This heater is perfect if you live in a large home with lots of people or for people living in smaller homes with no space for large tank water heaters.

Cost of a Tankless Water Heater

Tankless water heaters can be between 2-3 times the price of installing a hot water tank. If your home isn’t already fitted with a tankless water heater, you may need to retrofit your plumbing to accommodate the new appliance. This can be expensive.

However, this is only the upfront cost. Tankless water heaters run more efficiently than their tank counterparts. And if the appliance breaks down, it’s less labour-intensive to repair a tankless water heater.

In addition, financing options can help make installation costs more approachable. You’ll need to decide if the upfront costs are worth the savings down the road.

Feet in tub with stainless faucet

Tankless Water Heater Performance

Tankless water heaters can produce hot water on demand, no matter how much you’ve already used. On top of this, tankless heaters are more efficient at producing hot water, which can save you money!

Tankless water heaters are also known for lasting for a long time (up to 20 years!) before needing major repairs or replacement.

Comparing tankless and regular water heaters

Choosing the Best Water Heater for Your Home

The water heater that best suits your home depends on your needs and household. Hot water tanks are less expensive, and your home is likely already set up for it. Tankless water heaters will never run out of hot water and last longer.

For most homeowners, either a hot water tank or a tankless water heater can be installed. An Action Furnace specialist can help you make the best decision for getting reliable hot water in your living space.

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Written by Ryan Tutak

Ryan is considered one of Calgary's most knowledgeable residential HVAC specialists. Working in the industry for over 12 years, he's helped thousands of homeowners with their heating and cooling systems. Outside of running Calgary's most reputable HVAC business, you can find him on the Golf course practicing his short game or traveling with his family. His main goal is to create a positive collaborative culture, one in which his employees are excited to come in and are motivated to work hard. He spends the majority of his day working directly with Home Comfort Advisors, Service and Maintenance Technicians, and Customer Service Representatives ensuring they are fully prepared to lead the Home Service Industry in Customer Service.

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