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Standard Hot Water Heater vs Tankless Hot Water Heaters


Here at Mr. Mike’s Plumbing Company in Calgary, our main focus is your pipes and the water running through it. This month we are focusing on water heaters, and if it is time to replace your water heater, you may be considering switching to a tankless heater. We’ve tested them out against standard water heaters and we have the scoop for you below.

What’s the difference between a traditional and tankless Water Heater?

Tankless water heaters are hot right now (pun intended) because they save energy by only heating water when you need it. They work by running the water through a heat exchanger with very high-power burners. A standard tank stores water that is constantly being heated, and depending on the size, it can hold anywhere from 20 to 80 gallons at a time. Tankless heaters, since they essentially heat water on command, deliver as much hot water as you need. This means that a home would not run out of hot water if every member of the family took a shower in the morning, and you could also do things like run the dishwasher and the washing machine at the same time. Those are the main benefits of a tankless system, but it does have its drawbacks, which we will explore below.

They’re efficient, but are they efficient enough?

If you are attracted to the tankless heater for energy-saving purposes, these may be a great option for you. However, if you want to save energy and save money at the same time, tankless heaters may not be efficient enough for you. The tankless heater is about 22% more efficient than a standard heater, which translates to an average Canadian family saving about $75 per year. However, they are much more expensive up front than a standard water heater, so breaking even could take about 22 years. Unfortunately, most of these heaters have a 20-year lifespan. A standard heater has about a 10-year lifespan, so you are paying more for that longer life. Unfortunately, you are paying a lot more.

Let’s talk more about cost

Okay, we told you that tankless heaters cost more. But most energy-efficient models of any appliance are pricier. So is it worth it? We will let you decide. An upfront cost of a tankless heater has a large range, but the average model costs about $1000. An average standard heater costs about $400. We then need to add in the installation costs. You will most likely have to update your ventilation system and your gas pipes for a tankless model, which means installing your tank will likely cost over $1,000 as well, compared to about $300 for a standard tank. You then have to add in the maintenance costs. Tankless heaters do not react well to hard water, so experts recommend getting the tank serviced once a year to decrease calcium buildup. If hard water is common in your home, you may need to install a water softener. As you can see, there are quite a few extra costs to consider for a tankless water heater.


Our final thoughts: tankless water heaters do have serious benefits. They decrease energy use, they provide unlimited hot water, and they last 20 years. However, for the average American family looking for ways to save money, we still lean toward the trusty standard water heater. The initial costs plus the maintenance costs of the tankless heater don’t outweigh its benefits. We do suspect that tankless models will continue to improve and may be more cost-efficient in the future. Your trusty friends at Mr. Mike’s Plumbing Company will let you know if our thoughts change!

How to Use This Information

Here at Mr. Mike’s Plumbing Company, it is our job to take care of your home and the pipes that allow your water to reach you. We offer plumbing services to fit your needs, as well as Home Enjoyment Consultations and 6-Month Home Safety Checks. For any of our services, call Mr. Mike’s at (403) 520-2040 or contact us online!

Have you recently made a switch to a tankless system? Give us your thoughts below!