Whether you are working on a commercial or a residential design project, you will at some point have to answer the question “What is better for my space? A tank storage or a tankless water heater?” For the unsuspecting business owner that already has more than enough to think about, facing yet another problem, and a technical one for that matter, may become overwhelming. To help with this, here are a few simple things to consider in your “tank storage versus tankless water heaters” internal debate.
Choosing between the two is a question of convenience, efficiency, environmental effects and cost. In other words, you must answer a few questions such as: What are your water needs? How many simultaneous uses do you need? What flow rate do you expect? How important is it for you to conserve energy if this means cutting on efficiency? And, of course, how can you work out the best cost-benefit formula, so that your choice is appropriate for both your business and your pocket?
Performance Platinum Tank Water Heater from Home Depot
Tank storage water heaters
Tank storage systems work by heating the water and storing it at a constant temperature, so that you always have hot water right when you need it. Of course, that happens only when you limit yourself to the quantity that is already heated; if you use more than the tank capacity, you are left with cold water and need to wait for the tank to heat up again.
Because water is constantly maintained at the right temperature despite standby heat loss, tank storage water heaters use more energy and emit more carbon dioxide than other alternatives. You may find the cheaper initial cost a good argument in their favor, making the subsequent energy costs less intimidating. Installing them is usually cheaper because they don’t need high-capacity gas or electric supply, while maintenance is more approachable because of their simpler construction. However, you have to consider their inconvenient large size and their significantly lower life expectancy.
EcoSmart Electric Tankless Water Heater from Home Depot
Tankless water heaters
Tankless water heaters do not have a system of preserving the hot water for immediate use. Instead, they start heating the water as soon as you need it. Even though some models come with a mini tank that give you immediate access to hot water while the heater starts working, the flow rate of up to 5 gallons a minute may be less than what you need. This is true especially if you need water simultaneously in more than one area and have access to only one heater.
The advantage of tankless systems is that, once you stopped using the water, they go into stand-by mode, conserving significant amounts of energy and saving you money. In addition, they last longer that tank storage models, even though at the expense of higher maintenance costs. Finally, even though they are more expensive and harder to install, they may be your best option if you need to feed multiple areas and can invest in multiple units. Their size and continuous flow can help you maximize the available space and provide water as needed.
What to do
When considering the virtues and shortcomings of tank storage versus tankless water heaters, start with clearly defining your needs. If you decide on the first, buy one with a capacity that is the closest to your typical water use. This way, you’ll have the water you need while wasting little heat and energy. A well-insulated tank is also a better guarantee against stand-by heat loss.
If, on the other hand, you decide on a tankless heater, remember that high water use and almost constant heating significantly add to the already higher initial cost. There is little financial incentive for buying an expensive unit if you cannot use it to save money long term.
For more information, read this wonderful summary by Ashley Hopwood Farrar Architect (Meldrum Design) about the pros and cons of tank storage versus tankless water heaters, paired with a few numbers to help you do the necessary math.
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