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Question DetailsAsked on 8/22/2013

Should I get a gas or and electric storage water heater or a tankless?

I have a 1 1/2 bath house. I'm going to add 1 or 2 more full bathrooms. I currently have a small electric water heater. I am considering getting a gas storage water heater instead of an electric. I am also thinking about getting a tankless water heater, but have heard a lot of money goes into up-keep.

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Salisbury Sam must live in an area with cheap electricity. Assuming you already have gas piped to the house, and especially if already piped to the utility area for a furnace say, gas is usually about 1/4-1/3 cheaper to run than electric water heaters, and usually only about $100 difference (either way depending on area) between them in purchase cost, and installation cost essentially identical unless you have a very old house that will need code mandated safety upgrades before installing a water heater tank.

On-demand tankless electric water heaters do use less power overall (about 10% in high-demand houses, about 25% in low-demand houses) because they only heat when demanded rather than staying hot all the time, but with modern insulation the amount of energy wasted sitting idle is generally about $5/month - not a terrible amount of your total energy bill.

Also, the on-demand units still are in development stage, and tend to have no longer life (if that much) as a normal water heater but cost quite a bit more for comparable heating capacity. One factor commonly ignored by those pushing tankless units is the normal house does not have electric wiring capable of handlin the electric load, so significant wiring cost and frequently total capacity upgrades can double the net installation cost.

My recommendation - at least at the current state of development, I would stay with a conventional heater, with the least expensive energy source available at your house.

Here is a link to a consumer reports article on the issue, talking about reliability, ability to keep up with demand, life-cycle cost, etc -

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


It's not the number of bathrooms so much as the number of people using them that matters. If there are no more people increasing the demand for hot water, I'd suggest putting your money elsewhere unless the existing heater is nearing its end of life or isn't enough for current needs. If you really do need a bigger water heater, and unless your electricity rates are unusually high, you're probably better with a high quality high efficiency electric tank unit. You will save the considerable expense to plumb a gas line, venting to the outside, and the generally higher cost of a gas unit.

As to tankless, I'm not a fan unless you're running a motel. The units are expensive compared to tanks, installations are expensive and may require space that you'd rather not lose, they do require access and maintenance beyond that of a tank unit, and their operating savings will likely never offset the higher up-front costs. Their main advantage is getting hot water at the faucet very quickly. That may be more important to you than me.

Bottom line: if you need more hot water, I'd recommend an electric tank model with at least a 9-year warranty and wrap it in insulation.

Answered 6 years ago by SalisburySam

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