20 Questions for Missoula Plumbers: Tankless vs Tank Water Heaters

If you are trying to decide what type of water heater to install in your Missoula home, you have come to the right place.  We have created a plumbing version of the game “20 Questions” to help you figure out which type of heater will work best for your situation.  Let’s do a little bit of defining before we start the game!

“Traditional” Storage Tank Water Heaters have a large reservoir that typically holds somewhere between 30 and 50 gallons.  These water heaters heat up a large amount of water and then hold it at the ready until you are ready to use it. 

Tankless Water Heaters have a relatively small unit installed right on the water line.  When the faucet is opened for hot water, the tankless heater uses a powerful heating coil to heat up water on the spot.  For larger homes with multiple bathrooms, multiple tankless heaters can be installed for multiple sections of water usage.

20 Questions for Missoula Plumbers: Tankless vs Tank Water Heaters

Which type of water heater is cheaper to purchase?

Tank water heaters tend to be much cheaper than tankless water heaters to purchase.

Which type of water heater is cheaper to install in Missoula, Montana?

Tank water heaters can cost, usually, between $400 and $1000 to install.  Tankless can cost, usually, between $1000 and $6000 to install.  Some homeowners can install a tank water heater themselves but tankless water heaters must be installed by a Missoula Plumber.

Which type of water heater is easier to install in Western Montana?

Tank water heaters are much simpler to install than tankless water heaters.

Which type of water heater is cheaper to maintain in Missoula, Montana?

Tank Water Heaters do not require much maintenance at all.  Every few years, they need to be drained to get rid of sediment build-up.  On the other hand, Tankless Water Heaters must be serviced every year to ensure all the complex internal components are functioning properly.

Which type of water heater is simpler to maintain?

Traditional Tank water heaters are much simpler in design.  They have fewer parts to go bad and are simpler to do repairs when something does wear out.

Which type of water heater is cheaper to repair?

Repairs tend to be cheaper on Tank Water Heaters for a number of reasons.  On top of needing repairs simply being cheaper, tank water heaters need repairs less often. This reduces the overall cost of repairs over the lifespan of your water heater.

Which type of water heater is simpler to repair?

With fewer moving parts and easy access, tank water heaters are much less complicated to repair than tankless water heaters.  On top of the many moving parts that can wear out on tankless water heaters, they are often installed inside walls.  This means that walls must be torn open to get to the tankless water heater before any actual repairs can happen.  Then, afterward, the wall must be closed back up and potentially repainted. 

Which type of water heater will last longer?

While tank water heaters can last 10-15 years, tankless water heaters can last over 20 years!

Which type of water heater will be cheaper to use per year in my Missoula home?

The Department of Energy estimates that homes with tankless water heaters will save about $100 per year on energy costs.

Which type of water heater is more efficient?

Tankless water heaters are much more efficient than tank water heaters.  The Department of Energy published a comparison that tankless water heaters are 8 to 34% more efficient than traditional tank water heaters.

If I have 2 showers that often are used at the same time, which heater will be most effective?

Tank water heaters can supply 2 showers with hot water most effectively.  Tankless water heaters offer an endless supply of hot water over time but if there is too much demand at one moment, it will struggle to supply all taps at the demanded level.  So, for example, if there are 2 showers running, a dishwasher, and clothes washing machine all running on the same tankless water heater, one shower might just have cold water.  To be more effective with high simultaneous use, you could install multiple tankless water heaters on opposite ends of your home.

Which type of heater will give me hot water the fastest?

This one is a tie.  Tank water heaters have immediate hot water, but you sometimes have to wait for it to run through the pipes to the location of demand.  While tankless water heaters are closer to the sink or shower, it usually takes about 15-20 seconds to heat up.  Once you balance the factors, they functionally take about the same amount of time.  

I have a limited amount of storage space, which type of heater will take up the least amount of space in my Missoula home?

Tankless water heaters require less space because they do not include a large reservoir.

Which type of water heater is safer in my Missoula home?

Any type of gas-powered water heater has the potential to leak carbon monoxide into your home.  Both tank and tankless water heaters are available using gas or electric power. Besides this equal risk, tank water heaters can crack or explode if not maintained properly.   If the tank is in a location that is easily accessible to children, this can be dangerous as its exterior can be extremely hot.  Because of these various factors, tankless water heaters have the potential to be safer.

Which type of water heater is healthier for me and my family?

Tank water heaters hold water that can dip about 15 degrees Fahrenheit below the setting.  Even if you have your water heater set to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, this is within the range of optimum bacteria growth of 41 to 135 degrees.  If water sits in the tank for any length of time, it can start growing bacteria.  Setting your tank to a higher degree setting can reduce bacteria growth.  However, with tankless water heaters, this entire problem is bypassed.  The water is heated on demand so bacteria do not have time to sit in it and multiply.  Because tankless water heaters entirely subvert this problem, they take the point of being healthier.

Would it be cheaper to replace my current tank water heater in my Missoula home with a tank or tankless water heater?

Tank water heaters are very simple and cheap to switch out for a new one.  If you are considering retrofitting your tank water heating system for a tankless, there will be a number of parts that need to be adapted, causing a high installation cost. 

Would it be better to install a tank or tankless water heater now if I plan on using a tankless water heating system later for my newly built home?

If you are building a new house near Missoula, Montana, and think you may want to use a tankless water heater in the future but not necessarily right away then you should check that your natural gas connection can handle the higher demand of a tankless system. If it is not big enough, you may have to go with a traditional tank water heater. If your natural gas connection will be able to handle a tankless water heater, you might want to go ahead with a tankless water heating system to start off with.  If you were to start with a tank system, retrofitting it to become tankless can get complicated and costly.  Many aspects of your water heating system, including the exhaust, would have to be changed.  If you want to eventually do tankless, it is better to simply start with one.

I have no natural gas hookup to my property, which type of water heater should I get for my Missoula home?

Both a tankless and tank water heater have electric options.  To answer this question, you really could go with either!  This question is a tie.

I use a boiler for my home’s heating system and want to use a combi water heater for both the boiler and my home’s hot water needs.  Should I get a tankless vs tank water heater?

Combi systems are available in both tankless and tank water heaters. You will have to use other factors, like finances, space available, and gas line hookup to decide which will be better for your situation.  Because both are available and neither is automatically better, this one is a tie!

My cousin has a tankless system and thinks it is so much better than their old tank system.  Should I take their advice and convert my home to tankless or keep my tank water heater?

The right tank for your home depends on your situation and what factors matter to you and your family.  If you have a different style or size home than your cousin, as well as a number of residents who each have different usage habits.  It is wise to seek advice but remember that your factors in deciding might be different.  This question is a tie.

Missoula Plumbers Have Your Best Interest in Mind with Hot Water Tank decisions!

The final tally is 8 points to tank water heaters and 7 points to tankless, with 4 questions being a tie. Remember that this list is just a guide to help you decide, not meant to decide for you. Garden City Plumbing and Heating offers great options for both tankless and tank water heaters, as well as all the HVAC services your home may need.  Give us a call at (407) 728-5550 or contact us online to schedule your new water heater installation today!