What You Need To Know About Traditional, Tankless, And Hybrid Water Heaters

Monday, 27 May 2019 07:46
What You Need To Know About Traditional, Tankless, And Hybrid Water Heaters

In the homeowner’s quest for energy efficiency, reliability, durability, and showers that don’t turn into frigid downpours the second you lather in the shampoo, finding the right water heater is critical. But there are more options than ever: traditional, tankless, and hybrid water heaters each offer their own sets f pros and cons. How do you know which is best for your home, family, needs, and budget?

The key to finding the right water heater is understanding the differences between traditional, tankless, and hybrid, their benefits, and their drawbacks. Let’s take a look:


Traditional Water Heater

What Is It?

This is your typical water heater, which has an insulated tank to store water. It heats water with gas or electricity, and a pipe on the top of the tank releases it into your plumbing system when you turn on the tap or power up your appliances. Depending on the size of your household and the number of appliances that require hot water, you’ll need to accurately gauge your needs to ensure the tank has sufficient capacity. Don’t worry; we can help you do that.


Traditional water heaters are a staple in countless houses across the country. Advantages include:

  • Much lower up-front costs (including purchase and installation).
  • High-capacity units are a good fit for large families or households that need a more significant amount of hot water stored and “ready-to-use.”
  • Very simple to maintain and repair compared to high-tech heaters.
  • Less impact from water quality issues that damage or life-limit other types of heaters.


“Traditional” is not a negative term by any means, but when it comes to water heaters, there have been great advances in technology. As a result, traditional systems:

  • Are less energy efficient.
  • May not last as long as tankless or hybrid systems.
  • Are bulky. They take up precious real estate in your basement or other space.
  • May run out of hot water. Did you lose the race to the bathroom in the morning? If you’re second or third in line for a shower, don’t expect a spa-like experience. Scrub and go because you’re going to be cold!
  • May need more than 1-heater in series to meet your needs to avoid running out.

Tankless Water Heater

Tankless water heaters are also known as “on demand” water heaters. With a traditional system, water is heated continually. Here, an electric element or a flame heated coil inside the unit heats water on demand only, and not stored. This can be a money saving device if you have limited demand and run-time.

Note: It’s important to look at the GPM, or gallons per minute your household needs during peak use. For higher needs households you will need a higher GPM solution or multiple/separate tankless units that work together to produce enough hot water.


Tankless technology delivers great benefits. They are:

  • May be more energy efficient than traditional tank-type heaters.
  • Smaller. At only about 2 x 1 foot, they can be installed in many locations.
  • Durable. Tankless systems may give you many years of service.
  • Endless hot water. These heaters will continue to produce hot water as long as there is a demand or flow through them.


Remember to weigh the cons as well:

  • They are more expensive to purchase upfront and they are typically much more expensive to install. Due to the energy demand of approx. 200,000 btu per hour on an average gas-fired unit at peak demand, the piping size must be properly designed, or the unit will not operate correctly.
  • You may need more than one unit for multi-member households and/or those that require a lot of hot water, especially in the winter months. This requires multiple electrical connections and a microprocessor to be built into the units from the factory so they can operate in tandem or separately. They will then also require even larger piping (gas units) or wiring (electric units) sized to run multiple units simultaneously.
  • If you want an electric tankless water heater, you may need to upgrade your electrical system to accommodate it. This can get pricey. A large electric tankless will need as much as 200 amps of electrical power at peak demand, which doubles the average home electrical panel and demand sizing. The wiring from the electric grid to your home may not be large enough to provide the needed power and your electric provider will have to provide larger service wiring to your home.
  • If you have water quality issues, i.e., well water with iron, hard water, sand and/or other issues, tankless units may be damaged and quickly fail. It is imperative that before a tankless unit is considered that a water sample be drawn and tested by a qualified resource to determine if it is suitable for a tankless application without a filter system to protect it.
  • May be difficult and expensive to service. These units are very high-tech and may be subject to damage or failure in the event of a power surge due to lightning or other events. In the event of freezing, the coils can be damaged or ruined beyond repair. If you have an outside unit, freeze protection is highly recommended.
  • Potential high energy use: Please be aware that in order for a tankless unit to heat the water as fast as it flows through, a tremendous amount of energy is consumed in a short period of time. If you have high demand times for extended periods, some owners are shocked to see their energy bills go up, not down. A standard gas water heater may run approx. 6 hours non-stop to use the same amount of energy a tankless gas heater may use in 1-hour.
  • Maintenance: Some tankless units require annual or more frequent servicing to prevent clogging of the heating coil which is a small diameter pipe. See manufacturer’s instructions.

Hybrid Water Heaters

An electric hybrid water heater has both a tank and a heat pump. It uses electricity to transfer heat from the air to your water. It can also heat the water directly with immersion elements during high demand times (e.g. morning showers or evening dishes/laundry/baths). They are two to three times more energy efficient than traditional electric water heaters when used in the energy saver mode.


Hybrid water heaters are attractive for a number of reasons, such as:

  • Energy efficiency. They may use far less energy than a standard electric heater, are less expensive to maintain, and are Energy Star Rated.
  • Dehumidifying action. They take moisture from the air (this is a great benefit when they’re housed in basements!) and they cool the space around them.
  • Flexible. They can adapt to meet the needs of larger households.
  • Durability. While they don’t last quite as long as tankless water heaters, hybrid units may offer about 13-15 years of useful life.
  • Less impacted by water-quality issues than tankless.


  • Hybrid units may not fit in areas with lower ceilings as the heat pump is situated at the top of the unit.
  • They are not suitable for spaces that see temperatures of less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • They need lots of air from which to draw heat. You need a space with more than 1000 cubic feet of surrounding air. In smaller spaces, they are less efficient.
  • Recovery time: If used in the energy saver mode, it will require more time to recover than a traditional heater.
  • May require 2-units in series to provide the needed storage for large homes or demand.
  • A condensate drain will be needed because as it cools and dehumidifies the surrounding air, it removes moisture from the air which must be drained away.

The best water heater depends on a variety of factors. Ask the expert team at Action Service Company for an answer that fits your home, budget, and needs. We’ll help you make the right call. Rest assured that we have experience with traditional, tankless, and hybrid units to ensure installation and maintenance are smooth and seamless.