Most of us grew up with hot water from a traditional hot water tank. Though they are still the most common way to heat water, particularly for homes, other methods are gaining in popularity. Compact residential boilers, solar water heating, and, most notably, instant or on-demand water heaters are more and more common.
Still The Most Popular
Although the traditional hot water tank remains the cheapest water heater to buy, it doesn’t make it the most economical choice for the long run. Smaller hot water storage tanks can be had for as little as $200 while a 40-gallon Rheem hot water tank starts at about $300 in Canada. You can also pay several times that amount for other tanks from Rheem or other manufacturers, such as Bradford White.
More expensive tanks are more robustly-constructed, have increased capacity and water heating speed as well as longer warranties.
How Long do Hot Water Tanks Last?
Many factors contribute to the life expectancy of a hot water tank, including the quality of the product. Other factors affecting the lifespan of a hot water tank include:
- How much it is used
- The quality of the water supply
Hot Water Tank Maintenance
Water isn’t pure, and lime and mineral sediments will shorten the tank’s life. Unless you have a self-cleaning tank, having it flushed every year or two will make it last longer. And if your water is from a private well, a water softener is an absolute must to preserve the tank and plumbing components throughout your home.
Typically, an electric hot water tank will last for about 10 years while gas-fired ones fail sooner due to combustion.
On-Demand Water Heaters
Also known as tankless or instant water heaters, these have been popular in Europe for decades, primarily because they take up so little space. Though they produce hot water within a couple of seconds, calling them “instant” can be misleading, particularly if they aren’t located right next to the faucet the hot water is coming out of.
On-demand water heaters (sometimes called ‘point-of-use’ heaters) are available from many manufacturers, including Rheem, Stiebel, Ecosmart and Rinnai.
- Fuel savings: more efficient than traditional hot water tanks
- Lower water use because you don’t have to run water as long
- Unlimited hot water. Hot water tanks cool down as you draw water from them
- Less space required
- Safety: water temperature is more precisely controlled, eliminating temperature fluctuations and spikes
- Capacity is never reduced by sediment build-up, as in a traditional hot water tank
- More expensive to buy, though energy savings will eventually offset the difference
- Flow-dependent temperature; adjusting shower temperatures may take a little practice
- Water flow from a single tank-less water heater may not be enough to take a shower while your dishwasher is running. However, smaller, point-of-use heaters in each location where hot water is needed solves this issue
- No hot water during electricity outages
Are On-Demand Heaters Maintenance-Free?
The short answer is: no, they are not. Though they are not susceptible to sediment build-up as a hot water tank is, scale build-up inside pipes may be a concern. Talk to your local supplier of on-demand water heaters to see if they are right for you.
For people living in the Vancouver area, we offer full sales and service for both traditional hot water tanks and on-demand water heater. Call us for answers to all your questions about heating water for residential and commercial applications.