If you’re building a new home in the Milwaukee area or looking to replace an existing water heater, you’re likely wondering about the difference between a storage-tank water heater and a tankless water heater. While both options will provide you with a nice hot shower, there are distinct differences between the two.

To help you decide which water heater is right for your home, we’ve broken down the differences between the two units. We’ll walk you through the pros and cons by addressing the four main key factors: initial investment and repairs, lifespan expectancy, general design, performance, and energy efficiency.

Storage Tank Water Heater

What is a Storage Tank Water Heater?

Most people are familiar with the traditional style of a storage-tank water heater. These large, insulated storage tanks stand at least four feet tall and nearly two feet wide. The tanks come in varying sizes and can store between 30 and 60 gallons of water, depending on the size of your household and your hot water needs.

Inside the tank, water is stored and continuously heated by electricity, gas, or propane before dispersing throughout the house as needed.


Tank-style water heaters have a lower purchase price than tankless options and are relatively easy to install. They are also simpler in design, requiring little maintenance and (usually) low-cost repairs.


Although the initial investment is lower, a storage-tank water heater will only last 10 to 15 years. Due to the nature of the tank, there is the risk of mineral build-up and deterioration, which can result in the tank bursting or leaking.


Homeowners with a basement do not usually mind the large size of storage tank water heaters. However, if you don’t have a basement, you will need to find space for the water heater in a large closet or utility room. Homes that are especially low on storage space may find that they do not have adequate room for a large water heater.


Depending on the size of the unit, only so many gallons of hot water can be available at a time. As water is used, the tank will need recovery time to refill and reheat water before it can deliver a steady supply again. If your storage tank is smaller, you won’t want to be the last one to take a shower.


While storage tank water heaters have come a long way in terms of energy efficiency, they are still no match for the tankless variety. Because the water in the storage tank is continuously heated to have it available when needed, these water heaters tend to result in higher utility bills, especially during cold Wisconsin winters.

Tankless Water Heater

What is a Tankless Water Heater?

Tankless water heaters (aka on-demand water heaters) have become more popular in recent years. As you’ve probably guessed, these water heaters have no tank. The units vary in size but are usually about two feet tall and one foot wide.

These water heaters can be powered by gas or electricity. Inside of the unit, super-heated coils flash-heat the water as it passes through and supplies water to the whole house.


Compared to storage tank water heaters, tankless models cost more and are more difficult to install. You can also expect additional installation costs if you are retrofitting a tankless water heater in place of a storage tank. While most units come with a limited warranty, repairs tend to be fairly pricy as the units are more complex.


Many homeowners are able to justify the higher price point of a tankless water heater because they have a longer life expectancy of 20 or more years. This is nearly double what you might find with a storage tank unit.


Spatially challenged homes will definitely prefer the small design of a tankless water heater. The units are about the size of a carry-on suitcase and can be easily mounted on the inside wall of a closet, saving floor space for other storage.


Tankless water heaters boast the ability to provide endless amounts of hot water. Because the water is heated on-demand, even the 3rd or 4th person to shower can expect nice, hot water.


Tankless water heaters are more energy-efficient than storage tank varieties. By heating water only as needed, you eliminate the need to continuously burn energy while heating the storage tank. Because of this, homeowners can expect to save over $100 per year in energy costs.

Contact Us Today To Learn More About Water Heater Options

At Flow-Rite Plumbing, our plumbers have extensive experience repairing and installing tank and tankless water heaters from all major manufacturers and brands. We have also been accurately and safely diagnosing water heater problems for over 25 years.

If you’re ready to install a new water heater or replace an old one, our professional plumbers can recommend the right size, model, and style to suit your needs.

Call 414-405-8866 or contact us today to learn more.