Considering making the switch to a tankless water heater? You’re not alone. Many homeowners are making the change to a tankless system because for them, the benefits far outweigh those of a standard tank. Is a tankless water heater a worthwhile investment for you? We’ll help you answer that question by examining how these heaters work, comparing them to the standard hot water tank, and listing the benefits most enjoyed by owners of a tankless water heater.

How does a tankless water heater work

Tankless water heaters work differently from traditional tanks in a few key ways. To summarize, tankless water heaters (also called on-demand water heaters) deliver a continuous flow of hot water for as long as you need it, with no waiting around for a tank to heat more water. You may ask, how is a tankless heater able to provide all the hot water you need with no wait between uses? To get a look inside the magic, take a look inside a tankless water heater.

Inside view of NPN-U Navien tankless water heater.

The heating process begins when a hot water tap is opened. The tankless hot water heater senses the flow of water, and detects how much hot water will be needed. Next, the ignitor kicks on and the gas control valve opens to supply the right amount of gas. Then the burner ignites, producing a flame to heat the water. Then it passes to the heat exchanger. The unit adjusts the flame to heat your water to the exact output temperature that you have set on the touchscreen control panel of your unit. From there, the hot water is delivered right to your faucet—all within seconds!


Difference Between a Tank and Tankless Hot Water Heater

As you determine whether tankless water heaters are a worthwhile investment, you’re undoubtedly comparing them to the more common, traditional tank heater. Check out these statistics when doing your comparison. 

Traditional Tank Water Heaters

  • A standard 50 gallon tank will require indoor floor space (up to 16 square feet).
  • Standard tank heaters hold 50 gallons of hot water. If your hot water demand is heavier than that, you may run out of hot water for a period of time.
  • Traditional tank heaters keep the water inside hot at all times—even when hot water is not required. This means that you’re paying for its use when you’re not using it (when you’re at work, on vacation, or other cases when your home is vacant). 
  • Standard tanks have an efficiency rating of around 58%–60%. This means that 58%–60% of the energy being used to heat your water is actually converted to heat. 
  • The expected lifespan of a tank heater is around 8-12 years, sometimes reaching 10 to 15 years, if well-maintained.

Tankless Water Heaters

  • Tankless water heaters are much smaller than traditional tanks, and their design makes them able to be stored in compact locations (or even outside)!
  • The tankless water heater does not have a storage tank to continuously heat water. Since your water is heated only as it passes through the system, you are able to use as much hot water as you need at a time, all while saving on your energy bills.
  • Tankless systems have an efficiency rating of around 81%–96%. This means that 81%–96% of the energy being used to heat your water is converted to heat. 
  • The expected lifespan of a tankless water heater is 20 years or more, if well-maintained.

You may be thinking, What about the cost to install? Is it worth it? Many people view the initial cost of a tankless system as a downside. The reason that you’ll find yourself paying more for a tankless heater is because the quality and long lifespan of the unit make it inherently worth more. The price will also depend on whether the installer has to add additional gas or electric lines, venting to the outside, and if any walls need to be opened up in the process. For these reasons, your investment will be higher initially with a tankless heater. However, you can claim a variety of energy efficiency credits and rebates with the installation of a tankless system!

Benefits of a Tankless Water Heater

    1. How Long the Tankless Water Heater Will Last: A tankless hot water heater lasts around 20 years (or more), which can be two or three times longer than the lifetime of a standard tank. As with all your plumbing and HVAC equipment, the key to a long life is proper, regular maintenance.
    2. Savings on Utility Bills: Tankless water heaters do not constantly run (like standard tanks) and are found to reduce household energy bills by as much as 40%.
    3. Never Run Out of Hot Water: You’ll never have to wait for a hot water tank to fill back up before you can enjoy a long, hot shower or bath.
    4. Aesthetics: You can place a tankless heater out of sight, and it takes up none of your floor space.


Is a tankless water heater right for me?

So, is a tankless water heater right for you? Answering these questions may make the big question a little easier to answer.

How many people live in your home? How much hot water do you use? Whether you use a lot of hot water or a little hot water, you’ll still see its energy efficiency benefits.

For homes that use 41 gallons or less of hot water daily, demand water heaters can be 24%–34% more energy-efficient than conventional storage tank water heaters. They can be 8%–14% more energy efficient for homes that use a lot of hot water—around 86 gallons per day.”


Tankless heaters also work especially well for homes where the residents are not always using the appliances, such as vacation homes (or those with busy homeowners). 

As with a tank heater, if you have a large family simultaneously using water, you may run into a hiccup with your tankless system trying to keep up. To solve this problem, you may choose to in stall multiple tankless water heaters to keep up with a large home and those appliances that use a lot of hot water (like a dishwasher or laundry machine).

Does your home have limited space? If your home or basement is small, finding space for a storage type tank can be challenging. In contrast, a tankless system can be installed in a very tight space: even in a closet or outdoors!

Are you aiming to decrease your monthly bills? Without a hot water tank continuously needing to stay hot, you’ll experience less energy losses. A tankless system will only run when you need it, and you’ll notice the difference right away on your bills when you make the switch to tankless. 

Are you more focused on saving in the long term? Some people opt for the cheapest option in the short term, which costs them in the long term. If you’re open to investing in a more efficient, longer-lasting, and more costly installation, you’ll see its benefits in the long run. 


What size tankless hot water heater do I need? 

The size and number of tankless water heaters you will need depend on your answers to the above! At Blakeslee & Son, we’ll give you a hassle-free estimate tailored to your home. We install Navien tankless hot water heaters, one of the #1 selling tankless brands in North America.