There are many types of water heaters available to the consumer nowadays. From traditional to solar to tankless, there isn’t a clear-cut preference by the public to any of them. If you’re looking to replace your current heater, it’s important to know what you’re looking for and how each can benefit you. Here’s a quick look at the differences between tankless and solar water heaters.


The big difference between a traditional water heater and a tankless heater is the energy efficiency. A traditional heater continuously heats water inside of the tank, in case you should turn on something requiring hot water. Because you’re not using the hot water all day, every day, the process of keeping it warm is wasting quite a bit of energy. With a tankless water heater, there is no tank housing hot water, so it only needs to warm up water when you require warm water. This reduces the amount of energy wasted immensely. One downside to this difference is that it does take a bit longer to warm the water up initially. You may have to let the water run for a couple minutes before it reaches the desired temperature. Once it reaches this temperature, though, you will never run out of hot water, unlike a traditional heater. This can be especially handy if you have multiple family members in your home, or even guests for the holidays. Tankless water heaters also take up less space than a traditional heater, and help prevent the risk of flood in your home.


By far the greenest option among water heaters, solar water heaters derive their energy from the power of the sun. This means no harmful emissions and only clean energy is used. However, it also means that if you live in Seattle, this probably isn’t the best option for you. Depending on the amount of sunlight that you receive, switching to solar can add up to a 50%-85% reduction in monthly energy costs from your water heater. Considering the rising prices of traditional sources of energy worldwide, this reduction is likely to grow over time. A disadvantage of solar heaters is that they may require a boiler or backup heater in case of emergency. If you live in areas that are prone to consecutive cloudy days, having a backup plan will be more desirable than just rolling the dice.

Perhaps more importantly, you’ll be significantly reducing your carbon footprint on the environment by switching to a solar water heater. Fossil fuels are rapidly depleting, and any contribution we can make to preserve these irreplaceable energy sources is one we should strongly consider. By using solar power, we are tapping a resource that allows us to limit our use of electricity greatly, in turn lowering our need to burn these fossil fuels to produce that electricity. While it may be true that solar water heaters do not provide the most convenient solution to your water heating needs, it is also true that it is the most beneficial for the environment by a wide margin.

Matt Madsen writes for AO Smith about home improvement and going green. Visit AO Smith for more information.