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If you have a large family, have hosted a lot of guests, or just enjoy a long, hot shower every once in a while, you might have run into a startling problem: suddenly you’re being pelted with freezing water because your water heater simply can’t keep up. It’s probably not until that moment that you’ve thought about where the hot water comes from in the first place because water heaters are often taken for granted.

Kinds of Water Heater

(Freeimages / David Cramer)

As underappreciated as the water heater is, it provides a luxury that most of us couldn’t live without. For that reason, it’s worth exploring the difference between the two different kinds of water heaters—tankless and traditional—to ensure that you have the best option to meet your hot water needs.

Traditional

A traditional water heater preheats and stores between 30 to 50 gallons of water in a tank. The preheated water is then supplied to someone who needs hot water in any part of the house, whether it be for a warm bath, dish washing, or laundry. When the supply of water in the tank is diminished, the tank will refill again with preheated water.

The advantage of a traditional water heater is the cost. It is initially a lot cheaper than the tankless water heater, and it is simple and easy to install, so it incurs fewer expenses in the installation process. A traditional water heater costs about half the price of a tankless water heater, and it is easy to replace in case of a breakdown.

There are disadvantages to the traditional water heater, however. It is large, so it takes more space than the tankless option. It has to be installed indoors, or at least adjacent to the house. And while the traditional water heater is cheaper than the tankless version, you will spend more in terms of heating costs. Your water bill and energy bill will go up when you use your water heater more than usual, and your traditional water heater only has a lifespan of between 10 to 15 years.

Tankless

A tankless water heater uses electricity or gas to warm up water on-demand. That means that it will not function when you do not need hot water.

Many homeowners today have made the shift from the traditional to the tankless water heater. They claim that the tankless version is a lot more efficient than the traditional one. There are other advantages to going tankless. While this type of water heater will be a larger initial expense, it will be cheaper in the long run because it uses less water and energy. It is also compact so it won’t require much space. Another high point is that its lifespan can be over 20 years, which is about double the life of the traditional water heater.

The disadvantages of this type of water heater include the initial cost, which will be somewhere between $2800 and $4500, depending on the model that you get. Also, if your house is older, a tankless water heater might require you to retrofit to accommodate the new plumbing. Retrofitting will be an additional expense to the cost of the heater itself.

As you’re deciding which type of water heater to purchase, consider your hot water usage, available space, and your budget. There isn’t a right or wrong answer for which one to choose, but make sure that you are well-informed of the pros and cons before purchasing.