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Should I Buy a Tank Water Heater or Tankless Water Heater?

Water heaters come in a variety of sizes and styles, but the two most common models in American homes are conventional tank heaters and tankless heaters. While both may potentially meet your hot water needs, they operate in different ways. We’ll explain the distinctions below to help you select the one that's best for your home.


Here is some basic information you’ll need to know about tank water heaters and tankless water heaters.

How Tank Water Heaters Operate

You're probably already familiar with tank heaters since this is the most common water heater type in most households. This big, cylindrical appliance stands in your garage, basement, or utility room, and keeps the temperature of your water at a steady, predetermined temperature.

Tank water heaters can be powered by oil, gas, electricity, or propane. They function by heating the cold water that reaches your house to the temperature on the thermostat and storing it until it is needed. They are operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week, ensuring you will always have hot water available.

How Tankless Water Heaters Operate

Tankless water heaters can also be located in garages, basements, and utility closets, but due to their small size, some can even fit inside cabinets, in shower stalls, and underneath sinks. Why are tankless water heaters so small? Because they aren’t designed to store water.

Instead, the water supply pipes flow through the heater, which automatically heats the water flowing through the tank. They are usually powered by propane or gas, although some versions are powered by electricity. When there is no water flowing through them, they go in standby mode, consuming no power.


When deciding between a tank and tankless water heater, these are factors you’ll need to consider.

Advantages of Tank Water Heater

  • Lower initial cost.

  • Operate more simply than tankless models, resulting in less expensive maintenance and repairs.

Disadvantages of Tank Water Heater

  • Higher utility bills.

  • Takes up more space.

  • Shorter lifespan (expected lifespan is about 10 years).

  • Refills slower when hot water is low.

Advantages of Tankless Water Heater

  • Saves you money over time via lower utility bills.

  • Longer lifespan than tank storage water heaters (expected lifespan is 25+ years).

  • Take up less space.

  • Don’t have to wait for tank to refill if hot water gets used up.

Disadvantages of Tankless Water Heater

  • Higher upfront cost compared to tank water heaters

  • May need more than one tankless water heater for households that use a lot of hot water at the same time (ex. showering and washing dishes in hot water simultaneously)

If your budget can handle the higher initial cost of a tankless water heater, you can save more money in the long run by going tankless. On the other hand, a tank water heater may make more sense if you are on a fixed, modest salary. To choose the best match for your household, talk to a qualified contractor about these two kinds of water heaters.

Contact Michael's Plumbing Service for reliable water heater repair and replacement services in Nashville: (615) 645-2322.
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