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Is Having a Tankless Water Heater a Good Idea?

If you’re like most Americans, you probably have a traditional water heater installed in your home. You know, the one with the really big tank in the closet? Well, they’re great devices—they’ve been around for over one hundred years! However, there is another option available: tankless, on-demand water heaters installed close to your appliances or by the mainline into your home.

However, you might be wondering if they’re right for you. Here in Alaska, the temperatures are usually pretty cold—making hot water that much more important! Tankless water heaters are more energy-efficient (as they make the hot water as you need it rather than holding a reservoir of water at a certain temperature until you need it). Here’s a basic overview of the different heaters, and what it means to you.

Traditional Water Heater

This is the heater you most likely have in your own home. Even if you don’t, you’re likely to have seen one. The tanks that hide in a closet hold the water at a certain temperature, waiting for you to turn on the hot water to release it. They’re effective, to be sure, and the reservoir usually allows you to have plenty of hot water for your application, whether it’s washing dishes or taking a shower. However, this is their main limitation, as well: when the water’s gone, it’s gone. Heating more takes a while, especially if the flow into the water heater is especially cold. If you have a tank that’s too small for your home, you’ll be without water often—making certain times of the day a terrible prospect.

If you’re considering buying a new tank, remember that the lifetime of a traditional reservoir heater is less than the tankless, on-demand heaters, so you’ll be buying them more often. Also, remember that the energy cost is higher. Reservoir heaters run all day, every day, so they’re always using up electricity or gas no matter if you’re using the hot water or not. That can be a major problem for your wallet, and it is an additional cost. If you’re not concerned with that and more concerned with the initial price to your wallet, you may want the reservoir model.

The Tankless Heater

However, the tankless heater has a great advantage over the reservoir models. The unit sits closer to the fixture using the hot water—washer, dishwasher, shower, faucet—so the water gets there quicker. Also, since it is on-demand, there is no residual energy use while you’re not using it. No use, no energy spent. However, there are drawbacks here as well. The flow that these units provide is significantly fewer thanks to there not being a reservoir. The cheapest unit that we found only raises the temperature of the water by 41 degrees for a half-gallon of water at a time. That’s not good enough for a shower, only for a hand sink. The more expensive units that provide more flow (at least 5 gallons per minute) would be better for you in that circumstance.

We would be remiss to not mention that the tankless water heaters must be rated for cold weather. Take the aforementioned model that raises the temperature by 41 degrees. That might work well in tropical climates, but if the water’s only 36 degrees, that will only raise it to 77 degrees—not enough for any practical application. Make sure that your heater is not only rated for the flow you need, but the temperature rise, as well.

Overall, if you have the funds to purchase the tankless system at the temperature rise and flow you need, go for it—tankless systems last far longer and are a better investment. However, if you don’t have the initial funds or aren’t concerned about the residual energy use, a reservoir heater works just as well!

Don’t forget either that if you need help installing your water heater—reservoir or tankless—you
can call us day or night. We’re here to help!

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