What are the Differences Between a Traditional Water Heater and a Tankless Water Heater?

When you’re from Santa Cruz, the beach is just minutes away. But even then, there’s no better feeling than stepping into a hot shower after a long day and washing away all your cares – but what’s not fun is when your water goes from hot to not. And that can indicate an issue with your water heater and potentially needing a new one. So what are your options? What types of water heaters are available? And what’s best for you? But first, let’s discuss what goes into a water heater.

The Anatomy of a Water Heater

What goes into a water heater? There are several different parts to a water heater, but the most important ones are the tank, the heating element, the thermostat, and the anode rod.

The Tank

The tank is the most important part of a water heater. It’s where the hot water is stored, and it’s usually made of steel. The size of the tank depends on the size of the water heater. Smaller water heaters have smaller tanks, and larger water heaters have larger tanks.

The Heating Element

The heating element is what actually heats the water in the tank. It’s usually made of copper or stainless steel, and it’s located in the bottom of the tank. The heating element is controlled by the thermostat.

The Thermostat

The thermostat is what controls the temperature of the water in the tank. It’s located near the top of the tank, and it has a dial that you can use to set the desired temperature.

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The Anode Rod

The anode rod is a metal rod that’s located in the tank. Its job is to protect the tank from corrosion. The anode rod needs to be replaced periodically to keep the tank in good condition.

Now that we’ve discussed the different parts of a water heater let’s dive into the two different types of water heaters.

NOTE: The anatomy of a tankless water heater has the above elements except an anode rod.

Traditional Water Heater Versus Tankless Water Heater 

There are two different types of water heaters: tankless and traditional water heaters. Both have their pros and cons, but tankless water heaters are becoming increasingly popular because of their energy efficiency and space-saving design.

Traditional Water Heater

A traditional storage tank water heater has a tank that holds a specific amount of hot water and they use either gas or electricity to heat the water. The size of the tank varies, but it typically ranges from 20 to 80 gallons. As water is used, more cold water flows into the tank and is heated. This means that there is always a supply of hot water, but it may not be enough if you have a high demand. For example, if you’re running the dishwasher and washing machine at the same time, you may run out of hot water.

The advantage of this type of water heater is that it’s less expensive up front. They’re also available in a wider range of sizes to accommodate different needs. However, tank water heaters are less efficient than tankless water heaters because they have to continuously heat the water in the tank, even when you’re not using it. This means that they’re more expensive to operate over time.

Tankless Water Heater 

A tankless water heater, also called a demand-type or on-demand water heater, doesn’t have a storage tank. Instead, it heats water as needed. When you turn on the hot water tap, cold water flows into the unit and is heated by either a gas burner or an electric element. 

The advantage of this type of heater is that it doesn’t run out of hot water. It’s more efficient because it only heats water when you need it. You’ll always have a supply as long as there’s a flow of cold water. This makes them much more efficient than traditional water heaters. In fact, here in Santa Cruz County, tankless heaters can be 24% to 34% more energy-efficient than traditional water heaters. This can save you money on your energy bill over time. 

The disadvantage is that tankless water heaters are more expensive upfront. They also require more maintenance than traditional water heaters because the heating elements need to be descaled periodically to prevent mineral buildup.

Are Tankless Water Heaters Electric?

A question we receive from our customers in Santa Cruz a lot is “Are tankless water heaters electric?” Most tankless heaters use gas, but there are also electric tankless water heaters. Electric tankless heaters are less expensive to install than gas tankless water heaters, but they’re also less efficient. That’s because electric tankless water heaters have to heat the water more slowly than gas tankless heaters. As a result, electric tankless heaters have higher operating costs.

Ready for a New Water Heater? 

The average lifespan of a water heater is about 8 to 12 years. So, if your heater is reaching the end of its life, you might be wondering whether to replace it with a traditional storage tank water heater or upgrade to a tankless model. 

If you are considering a new water heater for your home, and you’re looking at a tankless heater, tankless water heaters are efficient, and can save you money on your energy bills. They also take up less space than traditional water heaters and have a longer lifespan. Plus, they provide an endless supply of hot water. While there are pros and cons to each type of water heater, tankless water heaters are generally more efficient than traditional water heaters.

Ready to update your water tank? Or if you need tankless heater repair or tankless heater service, we’d love to help. Here at Expert Plumbing, we specialize in water heater installation and repair. We’ll help you choose the right type of water heater for your home, and we’ll make sure it’s installed properly. Give us a call today to get started.