Conventional vs Tankless Water Heater: Which Is Right For Your Wichita, KS Home?

A tankless water heater attached to the wall of a bathroom in a Wichita, KS home.
Though the traditional water heaters we know and love today were first invented in 1889, they weren’t widespread in homes across the United States until the 1940s. A few decades later, a more modern tankless water heater came onto the market. Today, both of these designs are widely used not just in North America, but across the globe.

If water heater repair in Wichita, KS just isn’t cutting it anymore and you’re ready to replace your unit, you’ll need to decide which type of water heater to go with. Although hybrid and solar heaters are options, in this article, we’ll focus on comparing the two most popular units that have the potential to be the best fit for Wichita homeowners: conventional and tankless water heaters. By the end of this post, you’ll have all the information you need to confidently make a decision between these two designs and set up an appointment with your local Wichita handyman to have it installed.

How A Hot Water Heater Works

In the most basic sense, the purpose of all hot water heaters is to take cold water entering your home and heat it up to be used in your washing machine, dishwasher, shower, bath, and hot water taps. Electric water heaters and gas water heaters are the most popular, but solar-powered heaters also exist. Older residential water heaters tend to be powered by gas, while newer homes generally have electrically powered units.

This is essentially where similarities between conventional and tankless water heaters end.

Conventional Water Heaters

The conventional or storage tank water heater design that most are familiar with today has not drastically changed from Edwin Ruud’s original design patented in 1897. When most people think about water heaters, this is the design that comes to mind. A conventional unit is composed of the following components:

  • Water tank or drum. The largest component of a conventional system is a large cylindrical drum that can hold between 40 and 60 gallons of water at a time. Drums are often covered in a shiny silver insulating cover to keep heated water warm.
  • Dip tube. When water enters your home, it enters the drum through a dip tube.
  • Heating mechanism. In electric units, an electrically powered heating element located inside of the drum heats up newly added cold water. In gas-powered units, a burner located outside of the tank with a chimney is used to heat water instead.
  • Shut-off valve. Located outside of the drum, this valve senses when your tank is full and shuts off the supply.
  • Thermostat. This device controls the water temperature inside your tank by triggering the heating mechanism to turn on or off.
  • Heat-out pipe. When heated, water exits through the top of the drum, to your pipes, and finally to your plumbing fixtures.
  • Sacrificial anode. To prevent the drum from corroding, a rod is used to attract magnesium and calcium particles in the water. Over time, this rod will corrode and require replacement.
  • Pressure relief valve. If too much water pressure builds up inside the drum, an explosion can occur. To prevent this dangerous situation, this built-in safety system opens to release the pressure that meets a certain threshold.
  • Drain valve. This valve makes it easy to clean your drum and remove any sediment.

Tankless Water Heaters

Instead of heating water in advance so that it’s ready when needed, a tankless heater does not store any water. Also known as on-demand water heaters, these units ensure there is a constant supply of hot water by heating water instantly as it passes through the unit. This continuous flow delivers about 2 to 5 gallons per minute, making it a great option for large families that require a greater supply than a conventional system can provide. Here’s how this device works:

  • Flow sensor. When you turn on your tap, cold water rushes into this system. The flow sensor recognizes this and sends a signal to a control panel.
  • Control panel. Depending on whether your unit is electric or gas, the control panel will ignite a burner or turn on a heating element.
  • Stainless steel heat exchanger. This device converts energy generated by gas or electricity into heat, which is used to instantaneously heat up the water.
  • Mixing valve. To regulate very hot water, cold water is added back in before the supply exits the system and flows out of your tap.

Tankless vs Conventional Heaters: Which Is Better?

Now you know how each system works, but how do you decide which is better? A traditional drum-style system clearly takes up more space due to its need for storage, but otherwise, the pros and cons may not be so clear. Below, we’ve broken down the five biggest factors involved in the buying process for both tank and tankless water heater units.

Energy Efficiency

Lowering your energy consumption isn’t just good for the environment—it’s also great for your wallet. By considering how energy efficient your hot water heater is, you can save money on your monthly energy bills.

Let’s look at a standard tank-type model first. Though electrically powered storage units are becoming more popular, gas-powered units tend to use less energy. There are two types of gas-powered conventional units:

  • Standard systems. In these units, approximately 15 to 20 percent of heat leaves the chimney rather than heating the water.
  • High efficiency (HE) systems. Instead of having an open flame, these units have a sealed chamber that houses the flame. This chamber prevents heat from escaping through a chimney. Some units also have a condensing coil, which further optimizes the energy produced. Non-condensing units lose only 10 percent or less energy while condensing units lose 5 percent or less.

When it comes to tankless water heaters, there’s a clear advantage—they don’t store heated water. Although storage tank heaters are insulated, if you don’t use hot water for several hours, you may need to reheat the water again. This uses significantly more energy than a tankless water heater.

Though conventional HE units do extremely well when it comes to energy efficiency, when comparing the most efficient conventional system with the most conventional tankless system, the latter will win. Likewise, the least efficient tankless system will be more efficient than the least efficient conventional system.

Winner: Tankless Water Heater

Installation Cost

Many assume that installation costs are relatively similar for all types of heaters, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. If you’re replacing your current system with the same design, installation should be fairly straightforward. On the other hand, if you’re planning to switch from conventional to tankless, you can expect installation fees to be approximately double. In most cases, significant modifications will have to be made to your home to install this type of system.

Though uncommon, some homeowners choose to replace their tankless units with conventional units. This costs less than tankless installation, as it is much easier to install a conventional system that requires just a few hookups.

Winner: Conventional Water Heater

Upfront Costs

Cost varies considerably depending on the specific model you choose, but estimates for average upfront costs indicate that the initial costs associated with tankless units are higher than that of traditional units. Keep in mind that they can cost even more, depending on how efficient you want your system to be.

Additionally, as long as you get an energy-efficient unit to moderate your energy costs, conventional units could cost you less in water usage. Because a 40-gallon tank can only hold so much hot water, your showers are limited to about 20 minutes or less before it needs to refill and reheat. With a tankless water heater, you could stay in the shower for 30-plus minutes. Without realizing it, you may use more hot water than you did in the past, making cost savings associated with the greater efficiency of tankless units a moot point.

Winner: Conventional Water Heater


In addition to upfront costs and energy efficiency, you need to factor the lifespan of your system into your decision. A unit that costs less upfront but only lasts a few years before needing replacement will not give you as much bang for your buck as a system that costs a bit more but outlasts the other unit by many years.

You may be wondering how you can know in advance just how long your unit will last. The short answer? You can’t. However, tankless systems are often found to outlast conventional systems. Recent estimates find that storage units last an average of 10 to 15 years, while tankless units tend to last 20 years or longer. The amount of hot water demands you place on your system and how often you get it serviced and repaired will also influence your heater’s lifespan.

Winner: Tankless Water Heater

Ease of Repair

Though replacement can only be put off for so long, investing in water heater repair in Wichita, KS can help you get the most out of your unit. No matter which type of heater you decide to purchase, it won’t come cheap.

The first components to go on a conventional system are usually the thermostat and heating mechanism. Both of these parts can be ordered and replaced for a fairly reasonable price. More serious issues, such as a leaking tank, may be caused by corrosion of the drum. In this case, it’s better to replace the unit entirely.

Likewise, the main issue you’ll have with a tankless system is with the heating element. As long as there aren’t more major circuitry problems, a heating element for a tankless system can be repaired or replaced.

Additionally, make sure you check to see whether there are any limited warranties included with your unit. The greater the warranty, the longer your system should last. If nothing else, warranties will give you greater peace of mind.

Winner: Tie

The Final Verdict

When it comes to lifespan and energy efficiency, tankless heaters come out on top. But as far as upfront and installation costs are concerned, conventional heaters are the clear winner. Which then is the best system for your Wichita, KS home?

The answer isn’t as simple as you might like—it depends. If you choose to invest in an HE conventional system, you can achieve highly energy-efficient water heating at a reasonable price. If your Wichita home already has a conventional heater installed, you won’t have to spend much on installation by sticking with the same design, but you’ll still reap the benefits of energy bill reductions.

On the other hand, if you plan to be in your home for many years to come, it may be prudent to opt for a tankless system. As long as you pay close attention to your water usage habits, the difference in cost should be quickly made up by your monthly utility bill cost savings and the increased lifespan of this system. When perusing models, look for efficient models with an Energy Star rating.

Do You Require Conventional or Tankless Water Heater Repair in Wichita, KS? Mr. Handyman of Wichita Metro Area Can Assist You With All Your Repair, Replacement and Installation Needs!

Whether you’re ready to get a new hot water heater installed in your home or need assistance with repair and part replacement, our expert team at Mr. Handyman of Wichita Metro Area is here to help. As a locally owned and operated home service business, we take pride in providing customers in Wichita and surrounding areas such as Sedgwick, Garden Plain, and Augusta with high-quality home improvements and repairs.

To find out more about our tankless water heater repair in Wichita, KS or any of our other local services, we encourage you to give us a call to speak with one of our friendly customer service representatives today. You can also fill out our online service request form, and we’ll get back to you at our earliest convenience.