If you're tired of spending your mornings fighting other family members for the first chance at a hot bath or shower, or you find yourself frequently cutting showers short after the tap begins to run cold, you may be in the market for a new water heater. When it comes to effectiveness and efficiency, you might wonder about your options—including an on-demand or tankless hot water heater that heats only the water you use. Read on to learn more about the factors you'll want to consider when deciding whether an on-demand water heater is the right choice for your family.
What Is Your Typical Water Use Pattern?
Unlike "tanked" water heaters, which store dozens (or hundreds) of gallons of water and maintain this water at a consistent temperature, on-demand water heaters—as the name implies—only heat water as it passes through the tank on the way to a faucet or tap. Eliminating the need to keep a constant source of hot water on hand makes tankless water heaters highly efficient.
However, this efficiency can sometimes come at the cost of not having water when you need it. Each tankless water heater will have a "gallons per minute" (gpm) rating, which allows you to see exactly how many gallons of water your heater can heat at any given moment. This gpm flow rating is usually more than sufficient for baths, showers, laundry, dishes, and everything else you do that uses hot water; however, if you and your family members tend to multi-task by taking a shower while the dishwasher or washer is running or by using two bathrooms' showers at the same time, your water heater may not be able to keep up.
In most cases, this just requires a mild lifestyle adjustment; once you get used to the fact that simultaneous showers are no longer the norm, you're unlikely to miss it. In other cases, such as large families where frequent hot water use is all but necessary, a tanked water heater may be a better choice.
What Are Your Typical Utility Costs?
In some parts of the country, electricity and natural gas rates are quite high. If you live in one of these areas, converting from a tanked to a tankless water heater can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in utility costs over the course of a year. Although tankless water heaters have a higher up-front cost than many tanked water heaters, this reduction in energy use can allow you to recoup your costs within a year or two.
On the other hand, if you live in a region with low energy rates, you may not see as much of a utility bill reduction, and it may take far longer to recoup the difference in cost between a tanked and tankless water heater.