Use the information below to help decide if a traditional water heater is right for you, and how to find the right one.
They're relatively inexpensive. Some people are surprised to find out that traditional water heaters are not the only option; there are also tankless water heaters. But traditional water heaters are less expensive than tankless water heaters, and they are cheaper to install. Expect to pay roughly $900 or so for a traditional water heater with a 40 to 50-gallon tank, including installation. For tankless water heaters, expect to pay around $3,000, including installation.
They take up a lot of space. Traditional water heaters hold 50 gallons of water or more, so they're quite large, and occupy a lot of space in a room. Outdoor placement is not an option, since these heaters are built to be kept indoors. Most people put them in garages, basements, or specially sized closets.
They consume a lot of energy. Traditional water heaters heat and reheat water based on their storage capacity, not on usage. For this reason, they consume more energy than tankless water heaters, which inflates utility costs. If the weather is cold outside, these heaters have to work harder to warm your water, consuming even more energy.
They may run out of hot water. Traditional water heaters work by warming stored water for future use. If the usage exceeds the amount of hot water stored, you'll run out of hot water (and get a nice cold shower). The bigger the water heater, the less likely this is to happen. However, a bigger water heater also means more money in energy costs.
They can accommodate heavy hot-water use. Though traditional water heaters can store only a limited amount of hot water, larger units are ideal for homes with heavy hot-water demands. A large traditional water heater can store more than 50 gallons of preheated water that’s always ready and available for use.
They have a limited life span. Traditional water heaters are built to last from 10 to 15 years, so plan on investing in a replacement every decade or so. Tankless water heaters can last twice as long. Keep in mind, though, that the quality of the water plays a huge role in the lifespan of a traditional water heater. For example, untreated well water will shorten the life of the water heater. City or county water is gentle on water heaters. If this is your primary water source, you may find that your traditional water heater soldiers on well past its expected service life.
They may run on gas or electricity. If you're looking to purchase a traditional water heater, you can choose between models that run on gas or electricity. Gas water heaters tend to have more insulation, which can make them wider in size. If you’re considering gas, check to be sure the dimensions will work for your particular situation. Since electricity usually costs more than gas, electric water heaters are typically more costly to operate.
They offer quick installation. Installing a traditional water heater takes just two to three hours. Installing a tankless heater can take as long as 10 hours.
They're best installed by a plumber. Installing a traditional water heater can be both cumbersome and dangerous. Installation is best handled by a licensed plumber.