Tank Vs. Tankless Water Heaters
Updated: Nov 14, 2020
A lot of customers are asking about tank-less water heaters these days. It's a question that gets asked on most water heater calls, something that didn't used to happen. With all of the consumer awareness that is now in the market, plumbers have adapted by simply picking a brand they feel comfortable with and quoting a price to get the install. Rarely do I see a customer with a tank-less water heater, properly educated in the maintenance required or the varying models designed to alleviate the common issues homeowners face with hot water comfort. That being said, most people with tank-less are left unsatisfied with their install.
On the other side of things, we have the tried and tested tanks, proven over time they have been the primary source of our hot water needs for over 100 years. But, here in California they have faced a lot of scrutiny over air quality standards and efficiency. This has resulted in improvements which have sacrificed reliability and quality, some manufacturers have done well, others have struggled.
So, what to choose?
The overall choice is to educate you, the customer. A competent plumber should make you aware of a proper maintenance schedule, water treatment requirements, installation requirements and what to expect after a few years, he should also be able to explain rebates, and any extended service plans.
While most customers wont have an issue if this laid out clearly in the beginning, some customers will find this overwhelming, and I will usually recommend they stay with a traditional tank heater to avoid later frustration. I recommend the Bradford White line of tank heaters, due to the ease of repairing if and when it does break down. The quality is high and they have a solid reputation in the industry, and in the challenging part of California that requires Ultra Low Nox.
If tank-less is the choice, then other factors are left to consider. There are many levels of quality, from builder to high end units (Pictured above) which are made of stainless steel, come with built-in pumps to circulate hot water and even connect via WiFi. These units do get quite costly, easily 3x the cost of a traditional tank (not including installation) but at this point your buying a luxury appliance and the cost should reflect that. Here, I recommend the Sensei line from Rinnai. Built from strong stainless steel, includes a built-in pump and thermal tee to reduce hot water wait times, and a WiFi module to connect it to your home. They are the only company to offer a 5 year warranty (when registered properly in the extended service plan), and repair parts are relatively easy to come by. For a few hundred less and not as feature rich, the Navien brand of tank-less is very reliable and durable, upgrade able to include the same features as the Rinnai in the future, if the customer chooses that.
I'd like to be the one to educate you and also install what suits your needs.