Solar Water Heaters

Water Heater 101: Traditional, Tankless, and Solar

Traditional Storage Tank Water Heaters

The Essentials

For years there was only one option for a residential water heater— the traditional storage tank. These systems heat water and store them for later use. Usually, tanks are anywhere from 20 to 80 gallons. This is plenty of water for most situations, and it will be waiting for you whenever you need it.

The Pros

A traditional storage tank unit is an excellent option if you need a new water heater for a lower installation price. You won’t be too worried about long-term savings if you aren’t planning on staying in your home in the long-term. The other most efficient systems all require years of use before they pay for themselves.

The Cons

Traditional storage tanks have one consistent flaw—standby heat loss. As we mentioned earlier, tank water heaters warm the water and store it for when you need it. Unfortunately, the water cools down while it sits there. When it cools down, it needs to be reheated, and that is a terrible waste of energy. It’s estimated by the U.S. Department of Energy that by switching to a tankless on-demand heater and eliminating standby heat loss can be 25% more efficient. This is what makes a tank storage system more expensive in the long run when compared to most other systems.

Tankless Water Heaters

The Essentials

A tankless water heater cuts out the middleman in the water heating equation. Instead of wasting energy on storing water, the system heats water on-demand. When you turn your hot water faucet, water flows into the unit and is heated by coils.

There are two main types of tankless water heater—point-of-use and whole-home. The point-of-use unit is smaller and is installed very close to where you need the hot water. For example, you could place one near your shower or laundry machine. This takes one appliance off the board, allowing your existing water heater system to take care of the rest. These typically are electric, which only makes them even more efficient.

The other choice is a whole-home system. Some of these can use electricity, while others require fossil fuels to keep up with the heating demand. It mostly depends on the size of the system that you need. As the name suggests, this type of unit serves the entire home and is much bigger.

The Pros

Tankless systems are more efficient. What does that mean for you? It means lower utility bills and a smaller carbon footprint. Tankless systems can do this because they heat water on demand. The lack of storage means that standby heat loss is no longer a concern!

Tankless systems are also extremely flexible. Units can be small and serve a single appliance in conjunction with a storage tank system, or they can heat water for your entire home.

The Cons

There is a tradeoff when it comes to alternative water heater systems. That tradeoff is long-term savings versus installation cost. Storage tank systems are so ubiquitous that they are cheaper to install. If you are planning to stay in your home for years to come, your tankless system will pay for that difference in cost. However, if you are planning on moving in the next few years, you may not get to that point.

Solar Water Heaters

The Essentials

The term “solar water heater” applies to multiple types of units that utilize energy from the sun to function. They typically use a storage tank and can use a back-up heater when needed, such as during times of high demand. Since solar energy costs nothing, this will make your system much more efficient every month.

The Pros

Again this is very similar to tankless, but the savings can be even more significant. You don’t pay anything for the sun’s energy, which completely cuts off fuel costs. Nothing more efficient than that! When you do have to use a gas or electric back-up, you’ll be using a minimal amount and will keep costs low. A solar water heater is an overall excellent investment in your future.

The Cons

Again the disadvantages are much the same as tankless. Installation prices are steep, but solar water heaters are truly an investment in the future of your home and may be worth it to you.

J&M Plumbing can set you up with any of these systems if you are interested. Give us a call at (215) 987-4607 or fill out an online contact form!