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Tank or No Tank: Navigating the Sea of Hot Water Options…

Posted by: Abram Richardson on Monday, July 23, 2018

Having hot water available at any time is something we don’t even think about – until the water runs cold. Ever try to finish a shower or rinse dishes when the hot water runs out? While there are a variety of ways to ensure a steady supply of hot water for residential and business use; two of the most common methods are via tank and tankless water heaters – each with their own pros and cons.

Most people are familiar with tank type water heaters as they are common for residential use. Water stored in the tank is heated to the desired temperature* over time, and power is continuously cycled on and off, to maximize energy efficiency. While these types of systems are less expensive to purchase and install initially - and easier to repair; their operation will result in slightly higher utility bills. Plus, they occupy more space and don’t last as long as tankless systems.

Tankless water heaters have become increasingly popular over the last few years. Their size, wall-mounting feature and capability of heating water as needed (rather than by the tank full); make them appealing to property owners and architects. Tankless water heaters are more energy efficient, last longer and take up less space. These systems do however; have higher installation costs both in terms of purchase and utility service.

Both of these types of systems may be ‘output challenged’ during periods of multiple demands for hot water. A qualified building/construction industry firm providing professional mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection system design services; will assist in delivering state-of-the-art engineering in a timely and cost effective manner. The engineering team will ensure that industry & regulatory requirements are met - as well as any unique client wants or needs.


Three gas-fired tankless water heaters installed in
parallel configuration to service a restaurant.

A single tank type electric water heater
to service an office building.


There is a sea of options to navigate (sorry, pun intended) for building owners when it comes to producing hot water in their facilities. The two water heater types mentioned here are very common and popular options. However the engineering design team should consult with the building owner to determine how hot water is used in the facility, the space available for water heating equipment and the energy choices available at the site to ensure that the optimal system is installed.

*Water heaters are typically preset at the manufacturers’ factory to 120-degrees but end users can adjust this temperature setting on site to meet their specific needs. (Note: Having hot and/or tempered water in your building may be mandated by state or local codes as was noted in our December 2017 blog, Water Temperature Controls.)