So we’ve repaired our current water heater more than once, and we know that it’s probably going to finally give up the ghost any day now. We’ve been putting off replacing it as long as possible because we haven’t been able to decide which kind we want to replace it with.
Tankless water heaters appeal to me for many reasons, not the least of which being the size. With just a tankless, we could reclaim a huge chunk of a closet that’s currently filled to capacity with the old standard model. Then there’s also the potential energy savings from not keeping water hot when we don’t need it.
Unfortunately, that’s not where the decision making ends. First, we currently have a gas water heater, and looking at varying sources about efficiency, a gas tankless seems to have much lower efficiency ratings than an electric model. We’d also have to run larger gas lines under our house. Switching to electric would require running new 220 line, and would eliminate one of the things I love about our current heater: that it can still heat up when the power goes out. There is also some debate over whether or not we’d really see much in the way of energy savings, since there are only two of us, our new dishwasher heats it’s own water, and we do most of our laundry on the cold setting.
Fine Homebuilding has a nice article on their website going through the pros and cons of each type of heater.
(You can download a PDF of the article HERE.)
For the common tank style heaters, here are the pros and cons:
• Lowest up-front costs
• Easiest installation and replacement
• Some models don’t require electricity to operate
• Uses a wide variety of available fuels
• Can be located anywhere in a home
• Works well with recirculating systems
• Standby heat loss
• Can run out of hot water
• Tanks are large and heavy
• Higher life-cycle costs
• Temperature control might not be precise
For Tank-less heaters, there’s an equally long list of good and bad:
• Lower life-cycle costs
• Endless hot water
• Runs only when needed, offering the potential to save energy
• Accurate temperature control
• Small and spacesaving; typically wall-hung
• Higher up-front costs
• Complicated installation; larger fuel lines often required
• Electricity required for most models to operate
• Untreated water can lead to scaling and reduce or halt flow
• Can suffer freeze damage if improperly installed
• Minimum hot-water flow required
• Recirculation is more difficult, with potential to compromise warranty
Of course there is another system option that we’ve considered – Solar.
Solar only works with an existing tank system, but it promises to lengthen the life of that system, as well as drastically reducing it’s operating costs. Estimates put the savings at an average of 50%.
There are options ranging from everything-you-need-in-one-box kits to instructions on building and assembling your own system. Over on Instructables, they’ve even got a handy tutorial on how to DIY this for around 5$. (WOW)
Given this option to add solar to a tank system, that might tip the scales in that direction for us. We’ll see. Either way, I’ll be sure to update when the time comes.
Have you made the switch to tankless or solar? Any words of wisdom? I’d love to hear some real-life feedback!