Do tankless water heaters save money?

We all struggle with the same issue – money. Unless you’re enjoying a high-level career with a well-above-average salary, you may struggle, and quite a bit – too. When water heating issues come to play, the first thing that pops into our heads is the question – “which option is cheaper?”.

And that question can be daunting. With so many options and so many factors, it is nearly impossible to know exactly without having all the technical knowledge associated. And, let’s face it – nobody wants to study water heating systems in as great detail as plumbers – otherwise they’d just become plumbers instead. So, what have we done?

We’ve compiled a simple article explaining whether tankless water heaters save money. So, when you’re faced with the question – “should I keep my traditional tank-based water heating system or swap it out for it’s more technologically advanced, more modern, more efficient, more reliable tankless based water heating system?”, you can answer it simply. This article will cover everything you need to know and a little bit more, just in case you’re interested.

The Short Answer

Yes. They do. If you’re in a rush, they do save money, so get out and purchase one now and save your bank account for the future.

But it isn’t that simple, and it can actually serve to be more expensive than you may have initially thought, since many, many, many factors do come into play at any given time. For this reason, we do recommend that you do study this article in detail, as it lays out all the essential information that you need to know regarding this matter.

The Longer Answer

There are many, many, many factors that come into play. There’s efficiency, initial cost of the actual unit, the setup cost, and the installation costs, followed by the running costs. All of these factors can drastically affect the cost of either option, and it is unfortunate that there is no generic correct answer, as every household is different.

The cost can vary by thousands of dollars between one house and a house on the opposite side of the same cul-de-sac. But what makes these huge differences?

Well, firstly, it is important to begin with the primary, and most important reason. The upfront cost of the unit itself. These vary greatly.

When purchasing a traditional tank-based water heating unit, you will find that their cost is typically much, much, much lower than it’s tankless counterparts. Why? Well, if you think about it, it’s simply a huge tank with a gas source that ignites to warm the water. I mean, it’s not very advanced, is it?

The only issue with this is that it’s not all that efficient at all. Instead, it’s incredibly – wobbly – if you like, as it works a little bit like printer ink. If you buy a tankless water heater (think of it to be a modern day printer unit) for an incredibly low price, you will find that the cost of running it (the ink) is far, far, far more expensive. All of this is very common in the industry – and not just this industry.

Using this example of printers and printer ink, we can also infer that tank-based water heaters, whilst they are much cheaper upfront, they can cost a lot more in the long run due to inefficiencies. A lot of energy is wasted in hot water tanks, due to constant heating and re-heating.

Tankless water heaters do not have this issue. However, they are pricey upfront, especially if you do not know where to look. It is recommended that you seek out options online before heading to any stores, as you may not know exactly what you are looking for, and this gets salesmen all excited.

Researching online can give you a much better picture of what you’re looking for. Not only can you compare prices very easily without those salesy tricks, but you can also check whether your home is compatible with the heater itself very quickly and very easily.

But this step is essential – check if your home is compatible with your chosen tankless water heater. Not doing so can lead to hefty shipping fees for refunds and similar.

Tankless water heaters, on the whole, are far more efficient than their tank-based counterparts. This means they will heat more water, or make water hotter, faster than any tank-based water heating system using the exact same amount of energy. So, it’ll cost you less to use a lower volume of water in a day.

And that is fantastic. But they are more costly upfront, so remember that.

But if you’re not interested in efficiency, what other factors come into play?

Well, the most obvious one is the actual installation cost. If you live in a household that has always had a tank based, traditional, inefficient, gas powered water heater, you may find that the cost will wobble. If you’re going to purchase another tank-based water heater, then you should be set to go, and it shouldn’t cost you more than a few dollars to install it.

However, if you happen to have decided that you should like to install a more efficient, more modern, and more innovative solution – a tankless water heater – this is where things get tricky. You may not only end up paying more upfront for the unit, but the installation costs could absolutely skyrocket.

There is a small chance that you may struggle to afford the installation. Switching from a tank-based system to a tankless system is no easy process. It requires the total removal of the previous tank based system, which entails the safe disconnection, dismantling and safe removal from your property, and you will probably even have to pay for waste removal to berid yourself of it. Not only this, you will now have to probably drive to a store to select your system, and then have to pay somebody to deliver it for you – all of this costs a lot of time and money.

After all this, you’ll have to – most likely if you purchase a gas system – redo all of your gas installations at home, which is likely t o cost you thousands of dollars, and then follow this up by the actual installation of the tankless water heating system.

This hassle is typically unavoidable, unless you’re switching from a previous tankless system to a new tankless system. Usually, however, this isn’t the case.

So, in the short run, the installation of a tankless water system is indeed more expensive than the installation of a traditional tank-based water system. However, this is only the case when you’re switching from a tank-based system to a tankless system.

Are there any other factors that come into play? Yes. It’s not just efficiency and installation. There also comes maintenance and replacing your water heating system. This is a major factor for consideration that regularly goes unnoticed.

People tend to purchase any system expecting that it will last them for their whole lives. Unless you’ve only got ten years to live – in which case enjoy them – you’re going to have to be replacing your water heating system, and quite often depending on the one that you choose. For this reason, it is essential that you choose wisely. Otherwise, it is possible that you may find yourself not able to replace your water heating system at any given time due to – for example – a financial situation that came upon you suddenly, and you’ll be stuck with cold showers for an unpleasantly long duration of time.

It is essential that you study your options in this field as carefully as you possibly can. You could end up with some seriously unpleasant situations if you don’t, that you wouldn’t even wish upon your greatest, greatest enemies.

A typical, tank-based water system, while it may be cheaper – and much, much cheaper upfront, will need replacing far more often than a tankless water system. You may be incredibly surprised to hear, but a tank-based water heating system or unit needs replacing, on average, every 9 or so years. In a typical lifetime, that’s a 6-9-time replacement. That’s ridiculous!

So, you might as well save yourself some cash in the long run – provided you intend to stay at your current property for a long time – and go for the tankless option. Modern, well-designed, technologically advanced and innovative tankless solutions typically last for a minimum of 20 years, and some even boast a 30-year lifespan. That’s incredible! So not only will you save money in terms of efficiency, but you’ll also plough through with what will feel like lifetimes of hot water.

So again, the tankless option is more expensive in the short run, but when you consider that you’re likely going to be living in the same property for your entire life, that really does factor in. If you’re tight on cash at the moment, but your system is in desperate need of replacement, go for a tank system.

About the author

Steve Bates

Hi, I'm Steve and I currently reside in Chicago, Illinois. Although for most of the last 20 years I was a partner in a HVAC company down in Austin, Texas.

I understand the frustration involved with dealing with water heater repairs and replacing or upgrading to a new, more efficient model.

My aim is offer some basic advice on fixing home hot water systems. And if a repair isn't possible, then to make the process of selecting a new water heater – be it gas or electric - as simple as possible.

So that you can save money and have a safe and reliable hot water system in your home for many years to come.