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Hot Water Heaters – Conventional or Tankless?

Hot Water Heaters – Conventional or Tankless?

Hot Water Heaters – Conventional or Tankless?

At Fry, we love helping our valued customers. This past week, I was asked about water heaters by a good friend of mine. She asked what I would recommend for her home. That’s a great question!

Everyone loves hot water, but what type of water heater is the best? Most homes still have conventional hot water tanks, but we also see a lot of people adopting tankless water heaters. Why the growing popularity for tankless? Let’s find out!

Hot Water Storage: Conventional water heaters hold a large volume of water inside a tank. Whether powered by natural gas or electricity, heating equipment inside the water heater works to keep the water in the tank hot. Typically, “hot” means a temperature between 120 and 140 degrees. If you use a lot of hot water at once, it’s possible to consume all the hot water inside the tank before the water heater can finish heating any more water. You may have had this happen when three people have taken showers in direct succession while the washing machine was on. In other words, you can run out of hot water. With conventional water heaters, that’s a fact of life.

Tankless water heaters, on the other hand, provide endless hot water. If the water heater is functioning properly, it will heat as much water as you need. That’s because tankless units heat water on demand. You turn the hot water tap, and the heater turns on to heat water as it flows through the unit. It’s not constantly running to keep a finite amount of water (like whatever is inside a water tank) hot.

If the availability of hot water is your primary concern when choosing a water heater, you can’t beat tankless units. Sure, you could always get a bigger tanked water heater, but the possibility of running out of hot water remains.

Efficiency: Tankless water heaters are more efficient than conventional water heaters because they’re not constantly firing (natural gas) or powering heating elements (conventional electric) to keep a large volume of water at 120+ degrees. They only fire on demand, so they’re significantly more efficient than conventional tanks.

Installation Cost: Conventional water heater tanks are way less expensive to install compared to tankless units. The cost of installation is the biggest barrier for many people who would otherwise want a tankless water heater.

How much more expensive is it? A tankless water heater installation is like installing a furnace and therefore costs three to four times more than installing a conventional water heater.

If you’re looking for the most affordable installation for your new water heater, you probably won’t get a tankless unit.

Water Heater Lifespan: Whether you choose a conventional tank or a tankless unit, you’re looking at roughly the same lifespan: ten to 15 years. Many factors impact how long your water heater lasts, and they range from the quality of the initial installation to the characteristics of the surrounding environment. Water heaters located inside damp crawlspaces, for example, may be more likely to rust or become havens for insects. Either of these situations could reduce the lifespan of any water heater.

On the other hand, regular maintenance – especially for tankless water heaters – can increase the lifespan of the equipment.

Maintenance: If all you’ve ever had is a conventional water heater tank, you’ve probably never needed much water heater maintenance. That’s because standard water heaters don’t have many issues! Sure, some parts can leak, elements on electric tanks can go bad or burners on gas units can rust. Still, most of these issues are minor, and many tank water heaters never have any problems until they fail completely and require replacement.

With tankless water heaters, well… more can go wrong. The most common issue is mineral buildup inside the unit, and the only way to combat the problem is to regularly flush the equipment using special chemicals. This should be done every two years for most units, but some manufacturers suggest more frequent flushing.

Tankless water heaters also have inducer fan motors, so they burn fuel like a furnace. As a result, they get dirty the same way a furnace gets dirty and need to be cleaned. We’ve even seen issues with insects, lint and other refuse getting inside tankless units’ combustion air pipes and causing performance problems.

At Fry, we have a service plan just for clients with tankless water heaters. We come by once per year and perform a comprehensive inspection of the unit, flush it out to prevent mineral buildup and verify combustion safety.

Water Heater Space: Let’s consider which unit takes up the least amount of space. There’s a pretty clear winner here. Tank water heaters, regardless of other characteristics, always require some floor space. Tankless units, on the other hand, typically mount to the wall. They require no floor space at all! Here are a few points to consider:

  • If you need a bit more space in the basement, switching to a tankless water heater may give you the extra ten or 15 square feet you need.
  • Tankless water heaters are space savers, plain and simple. Besides providing endless hot water, that’s probably their biggest advantage.


Ultimately, your choice of water heater depends on your priorities.

If you want endless hot water and more free space, tankless is the way to go. But if you’re looking to minimize installation costs, a conventional water heater tank is a better choice.

If you need help choosing the best water heater for your home, give us a call! We’ll always take the time to listen to your concerns, examine your existing water heater setup and help you select the most sensible option for your needs and your budget.


We would love to hear from you. Great companies want honest, compassionate feedback that helps them serve you better. Please tell us how we are doing and ask any question that you might want answered, reach out at AskFry@RELYonFRY.com

Your question may be the highlight of our next post!

Fry services and installs: Furnaces, Air Conditioners, Humidifiers, Dehumidifiers, Tank and Tankless hot water heaters and backup generators. We service Residential and Commercial customers.

At Fry, we are “A breath of fresh care”.

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