Is a Tankless Water Heater Right for Your Home?

While tankless water heaters are commonly found throughout the rest of the world, they’ve only recently started gaining ground in the United States. The benefits of tankless water heaters, including energy efficiency and cost savings, have more and more homeowners looking to make the switch. But, despite the attractive perks, a tankless heater might not be the right choice for everyone. This article will help you answer the key question of if a tankless water heater would be a good fit for your home.

Tankless water heaters: How they work

Tankless water heaters provide hot water on demand, instead of continually heating water and storing it in a tank. When you turn on the hot water tap, the incoming water circulates through an activated heating element, which heats the cold water to the designated temperature. Once the tap is turned off, the heater senses that the flow of water has stopped and shuts off the heating element.

Gas vs electric tankless water heaters

Tankless water heaters are available in both gas powered and electric models. Other than their power source, the main difference between the two comes down to efficiency. Electric heaters are typically more efficient than gas ones; however, gas heaters have lower operating costs.

Pros of tankless water heaters

From saving space to saving money, tankless water heaters have their fair share of pros. If energy efficiency is something you’re looking to invest in, choosing a tankless heater over a traditional one is an appealing choice. The top advantages of tankless water heaters include:

Energy efficiency

Since they only heat water when you need it, tankless water heaters are exceptionally energy efficient. According to, tankless water heaters can be anywhere from 24-34% more energy efficient than traditional water heaters in homes that use 41 or fewer gallons of hot water per day.

Tankless water heaters eliminate standby heat losses, a common problem with traditional water heaters. Standby heat losses occur when a traditional heater continually heats water, even when no one in the home is using it. Since tankless heaters lack the traditional storage tank mechanism, no standby heat losses occur.

Utility bill savings

One of the more appealing benefits of a tankless water heater is the prospect of saving money on monthly energy and water bills. estimates that the average family can save at least $100 dollars a year with an ENERGY STAR certified tankless water heater.

Compact size

With no large storage tank to account for, a tankless water heater is small enough to mount on the wall in a closet or the corner of a laundry room. To put it into perspective, an electric tankless water heater is usually about the size of a carry-on suitcase. Gas heaters are a bit larger, but still considerably smaller than your standard water heater, which can be several feet tall and wide. The compact size of tankless water heaters is one of the main reasons why they enjoy popularity in other parts of the world, such as Europe and Asia, where families live in smaller homes than the average American.

Longer lifespan

Tankless water heaters can last up to 20 years. That’s a significant increase from the lifespan of a traditional heater, which averages between 10 to 13 years. This helps make a tankless water heater a good investment, as you can expect to rely on it for multiple decades. The longer lifespan means longer warranty coverage as well—some warranties can run for over 20 years.

Cons of tankless water heaters

Even with all their benefits, there are several cons that might have homeowners reconsidering their decision to have a tankless water heater installed.

Initial costs

Tankless water heaters often require upgrades or modifications to your home’s natural gas line, as well as an expensive venting system. Electric models may also require an additional circuit. These costs add up quickly and make a tankless heater an investment with significant upfront costs; however, these costs pay off over time in the form of energy savings.

Complicated installation

The complexity of retrofitting your home’s existing natural gas line to accommodate a tankless heater is a barrier that discourages many homeowners from making the switch. If your home is 30 years old, for example, it’s probably not worth the costly headache of upgrading the aging gas piping, meter, and main line to accommodate a tankless heater. If you’re building a new home, installation is much easier as contractors can plan for the heater’s gas consumption during construction.

May struggle to meet demand

If you have a large family, you may find that a tankless water heater is unable to meet your day-to-day water needs. When demand is highest, for example, if you’re doing dishes and laundry at the same time, the relatively low flow rate of a tankless water heater might not be able to keep up. To solve this problem, you can install two or more tankless water heaters, but this can get very expensive.

Alternatives to tankless water heaters

If a tankless water heater isn’t right for you, consider one of the following alternatives.

Traditional water heaters

Traditional water heaters consist of a large storage tank and various components such as a drain valve, dip tube, and various pipes for hot water and pressure relief. Most homes have either a 40-gallon or 50-gallon water heater. Larger capacity tanks are generally used for commercial purposes. These tried-and-true heaters might be right for your home if:

  • You value reliability and ease of repair
  • You have a large household with a high water demands
  • You have the space to install the large storage tank

Hybrid water heaters

Just as a hybrid car combines features from gas and electric cars, a hybrid water heater combines features from tankless and storage tank water heaters. By taking the best features from both models, a hybrid water heater provides heating solutions in a new and innovative way. A hybrid water heater could be the right choice for your home if:

  • You want to save energy
  • You have an existing heat pump system
  • Your home’s appliances run on electricity, not gas
  • You can install the heater in a place where the ambient air temperature remains between 40-90 degrees year-round (such as a garage)
  • You have the space to install it (hybrid heaters are often taller than standard storage tank models, and require more room around them)


Chas Roberts: Your water heating experts

Whether we’re installing, repairing, or maintaining your hot water heater, we invite you to experience what sets Chas Roberts apart from countless others in our field. Contact us to get started with all your water heating and plumbing needs.