AccuServ Heating and Air Conditioning

Why conventional water heaters are a bad Idea

January 6, 2020

In this article, you will learn why conventional water heater is the inferior choice when it comes to choosing a water heater for your home.

Before we dig into the weaknesses of the conventional water heater, let us define the term. A conventional water heater is tank that heats the water stored in it, using a burner located at the bottom; because of its efficiency, it does not need a power motor. The hot water you use for washing, bathing, and cooking comes from the water stored in the tank. The alternative choice is a tankless water heaterwhich we discuss in another article.[1]

Supply Cons

While their cons are plentiful, conventional water heaters primarily fail to meet homeowners’ needs because of one main supply reason: The hot water stored in the tank can run out. You might have experienced this while showering: The shower water suddenly runs cold when you (or the person showering before you) have used up the hot water in the tank.

Thus, conventional water heaters are occasionally inconvenient because of the lag time between heating water and having hot water when you’ve already used up your hot water reserve. That is, a conventional water heater must heat the water to store in the tank, forcing you to wait for hot water. So, if you want immediate hot water on a freezing Toronto winter day, you are out of luck for a while with a conventional heater if you’ve already used up your hot water reserve.

Economic Cons

With a conventional water heater, you pay less money upfront for the unit but end up paying more money over time due to the higher energy costs associated with running a conventional water heater. A gas-fired conventional water heater costs an average of $70 to $80 more per year – according to Consumer Reports – to run as compared to its tankless counterpart.[2] With conventional water heaters having an average life expectancy of 10 to 15 years, this equates to paying $1,500 over the lifetime of the heater.[3]

Also, keep in mind that a conventional water heater’s life expectancy is 25% to 50% shorter than the tankless alternative. This means you will have to replace your conventional heater sooner, leading to an even bigger financial hit. The cost savings you receive by avoiding conventional water heaters can alone convince you to choose another type of water heater.

Storage Cons

Conventional heaters are bulky contraptions. This is bad for the homeowner’s in terms of storage space and bad for the environment in terms of landfill space. Homeowners concerned with either space savings or environmental issues – or both – often choose to forego the conventional heater in favor of a modern alternative.

Repair Cons

Conventional water heaters typically have shorter warranties – often half the length of tankless heaters – because when a conventional water heater’s tank breaks it is irreplaceable. The storage tank is susceptible to multiple corrosive factors, such as oxidization. Essentially, the water inside the tank corrodes the tank from the inside-out. Conventional water heater manufacturers attempt to reduce corrosion by adding a “sacrificial” anode inside the tank. This anode is an aluminum or magnesium rod that makes itself a target of the corrosion, thereby saving your tank. However, eventually the anode rod will itself completely corrode, leaving the tank susceptible to direct corrosion. You can extend your conventional water heater’s life by replacing the anode rod every three or four years.

For example, the fact that a conventional water heater comes with both a tank and a heater means that a breakdown requires the inspection of each part separately. In addition, a conventional water heater’s tank breakdown can be extremely troublesome with the homeowner, as the water from the tank can possibly leak throughout – or even flood – your basement, damaging anything stored there.

Safety Cons

Few will deny that more important than convenience and cost is safety. A homeowner choosing a conventional water heater literally buys a ticking time bomb. If your conventional water heater is not properly maintained and regularly inspected, you and your family are exposed to serious dangers, such as leaks.

A leak can cost you many times more than the water heater itself if it results in the flooding. But why is a leak dangerous? Because leaks are sometimes associated with broken pressure relief valves, which can cause a conventional water heater to literally explode.[4]

But other dangers are present. For example conventional water heaters are susceptible to backdrafts, which draw back exhaust gasses into the home. Sometimes the air pressure inside the room with the conventional water heater is much lower than the air pressure outside, where the flue is sent, resulting in the flue being pulled back inside the home. When flue gasses are pulled back into the water heater, the combustion processes is affected, primarily due to the burner lacking sufficient oxygen. The result is incomplete combustion, which in turn produces significant amounts of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide filling the house can result in sickness and death.

In addition, conventional water heaters use a natural draft so that the burner can use “make up air” for combustion. The combustion chamber therefore has openings to draw in make up air. However, if these openings become blocked, air builds up inside the tank, resulting in bubbles; these bubbles not only bring offensive odors into the home but carry unhealthy chemicals along with them.