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Which is Best? Traditional Water Heater or Tankless, Gas or Electric ?

By
Real Estate Agent with Coldwell Banker Associated Brokers Realty DRE# 01392403

Pros and Cons of Tankless Water Heaters

Pros:

Energy Efficiency:  Tankless water heaters heat water on demand, reducing energy waste compared to traditional tank heaters that maintain a large volume of hot water continuously. This can lead to lower energy bills.

 Space-Saving:  These units are compact and can be installed in smaller spaces, making them ideal for homes with limited space.

 Longevity:  Tankless water heaters typically last longer than traditional tank water heaters. With proper maintenance, they can last between 15 to 20 years, whereas tank water heaters usually last about 10 years.

Endless Hot Water:  As long as the demand does not exceed the unit's capacity, tankless water heaters can provide an endless supply of hot water.

Cons:

High Initial Costs:  The upfront cost for purchasing and installing a tankless water heater is significantly higher. Installation can exceed $3,000 compared to around $900 for a traditional tank heater.

Retrofit Challenges:  Existing homes may require substantial retrofitting to accommodate a tankless water heater, including new gas lines or upgraded electrical systems, which adds to the cost.

Hot Water Delivery Delay:  Without a buffer tank or recirculation pump, tankless water heaters can take a minute or two to deliver hot water to the tap, which is a common complaint.

Maintenance Complexity:  Gas tankless water heaters, in particular, have complex heat exchangers and fuel controls, making them harder to service. Electric units are simpler to troubleshoot and repair.

Limited Hot Water Output:  During peak usage, the output of hot water may be insufficient if multiple outlets demand hot water simultaneously.

*Gas vs. Electric* Tankless Water Heaters

Gas Tankless Water Heaters:

Pro’s:  Generally have higher flow rates, making them more suitable for larger households with higher hot water demands.  Often are more cost-effective to operate if natural gas prices are low.

Cons:  Installation may be more complex due to the need for proper ventilation and gas lines.  Heat exchangers and fuel controls are complicated, making repairs and maintenance more challenging.  Safety concerns related to gas leaks and combustion byproducts.

Electric Tankless Water Heaters:

Pros:  Simpler and cheaper to install as they don’t require ventilation or gas lines.Easier to troubleshoot, diagnose, and repair due to their simpler design.No risk of gas leaks or combustion-related safety issues.

Cons:  Typically have lower flow rates compared to gas models, which can be a limitation for larger households.  They may require an electrical system upgrade to handle the increased load, adding to installation costs.  Operating costs can be higher in regions with high electricity rates.

Common Issues with Tankless Water Heaters

Delayed Hot Water:  Many users report that tankless water heaters do not provide hot water as quickly as expected. This issue is often due to the absence of a buffer tank or recirculation pump.

Power Outage Concerns:  Electric tankless water heaters will not function during a power outage, while gas models will also require electricity for ignition and operation.

Bandwidth Issues:  Tankless water heaters can struggle to meet the demand if multiple hot water outlets are used simultaneously, leading to a decrease in water temperature.

Overall, the choice between a gas and electric tankless water heater depends on individual household needs, budget constraints, and the existing infrastructure of the home. While tankless water heaters offer energy efficiency and longevity, their higher initial costs and potential for delayed hot water delivery can be drawbacks for some homeowners.

Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

An excellent overview, Denise. When our hot water tank needed replacing we looked at a tankless option... but it was too complicated and too expensive. Our gas hot water tank had lasted for 15 years... and I expect our new one will last that long as well and we don't run out of hot water.

May 20, 2024 05:08 AM
Denise Gentile

Hi Nina,  Thank you for your comment.  The reason why I decided to do a post and do research on this is because while showing New Build construction most all of the New builds had tankless.  I noticed that KB Homes had the standard water heater, and not tankless.  When I inquired with the sales rep. He said that the tankless water heater did not have sufficient bandwidth, and a standard tank is the better option.  Don't quote me on this, but it did get me to do more research.  I think for myself I would stick with the standard.  Just my opinion.  Thank you for sharing yours.

May 20, 2024 12:55 PM