‘Tankless’ Vs ‘Storage’ Water Heater #3 – My Home; My Planet.


Tankless? Storage Tank? Which is better? In the first article of this series we looked at the economics of heating water. Number two explored how each system would perform to meet our needs. This final article will compare how ‘green’ one system is versus the other.

As I’ve mentioned, it is a ‘small world’ after all, and I think it’s important to consider the impact on the planet when choosing to install these long-term systems in our homes, especially for those of us here in the United States where we’ve been blessed with such abundance. (Personally I believe “to whom much is given; much is required”.) So which is ‘greener’? Here are the facts:

• More energy efficient – Top-selling tankless brands are typically 95% to 98% efficient. Storage Water heaters that use fossil fuels will lose 20 % to 30% of their energy up the chimney. Tankless units don’t just have excellent combustion efficiencies. They are also very efficient because they aren’t just ‘one size fits all’ like Storage Tank units. They are designed to modulate the ‘fire’ needed, either up or down, depending on the load being put on the system in real time.

• Sized and Tuned to each Job Site – Instead of a huge tank heated constantly in case there is demand, Tankless units are small, heating only what needs to be used. If the typical load is expected to be large, additional Tankless units can be installed in series, coming ‘on line’ only when needed.

• Smarter Controls & heating = longer life – I’ve been replacing hundreds of Storage Water Heaters each year for over 30-years. The average age of a tank that leaks and needs to be replaced is 9 to 10 years old. We’ve been selling and servicing Tankless Heaters for about 15-years, and I’ve yet to replace a ‘leaker’ due to age related corrosion. Of course, there have been a small number of units that leaked due to a defect, but even so, the defective units were still fewer in number than the defective Storage Tanks we see. Many Tankless Heaters have a 20-year warranty on their heat exchangers (the part of the unit that will leak first, due to the ‘fire’ being applied there)…and many in the industry predict that units will commonly last 25 to 30 years here in the U.S. just like they do in Europe and Asia.

• Heating only what you use – Even though Storage Water Heaters have greatly improved in energy efficiency because of ignition system and insulation improvements; the fact remains that every household has to keep 40 to 50 gallons of water in ‘reserve’ at all times. Currently there are over 120-million households in the U.S. If they all had Storage Water Heaters, that’s over 5,400,000,000 gallons (5 Billion, 400 Million Gallons) that is commandeered for stand-by use every day. To put that in perspective, according to the EPA, about 400 Billion Gallons of water is used (not on stand-by) every day in the U.S., (each of us use around 100 gallons a day… double what Europeans use daily). Compared to the total amount of water we use, it’s not a great deal, but as the planet’s population gets larger, fresh, clean drinking water is getting harder to find, and becoming more precious.

I’ve just given you plenty of reasons to suggest that Tankless Water Heaters generally are ‘greener’ and easier on the planet than Storage Water Heaters. But the question still remains, which is “better” for you; Tankless or Storage?

Considering all of the above and the other issues we discussed in previous articles; there is no one answer that is ‘right’. However, I do submit that it is ‘wrong’ to pretend our choices don’t make a difference and won’t impact us personally and as a community in the years to come.

Here’s hoping the things we’ve explored help you choose well…
Bruce Davis Sr.
Licensed Journeyman Plumber
Licensed Electrician, HVAC/R
Electrical Administrator, HVAC/R
Certified WA State C.E.U. Instructor

Bruce Sr is President of Day and Nite Plumbing and Heating,
a 60-year old family owned and operated plumbing and heating
business in Lynnwood, Washington.
Day and Nite Plumbing and Heating Inc.
16614 13th Ave. W.
Lynnwood, WA 98037


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