Solar vs. tankless hot water heaters

| by Heather Ferrier Laminack
Solar vs. tankless hot water heaters

As a result of their performance & affordability/shorter payback periods, our clients generally opt for either a tankless water heater or a solar hot water system. The decision between the two typically comes down to two factors: budget constraints and desired payback periods.

Following is an overview of the pros and cons of each of the units. See which one you would pick if you were installing a new hot water system:

Tankless Water Heaters


  • Continuous supply of hot water on demand
  • Does not unnecessarily heat a full tank of water at all times as regular tank-type heaters
  • Compact design
  • More affordable than solar
  • Comes in gas or electric unitsHigh efficiency factor
  • Plumbing is no different than a conventional tank type
  • Normally saves +/- 40 percent of energy used by traditional tank type water heater


  • If an electric unit is used, it will most likely require an upgrade to electrical panel to compensate for additional amps needed. In new homes or major remodels this is typically not a problem as you can account for the increase in amps when designing the electrical load/upgrading the service.
  • Requires more of an upfront investment than regular tank-type heaters
  • Electric is a great choice where gas is not available, although you are drawing from a non-renewable source (unless your electricity is produced with renewable energy)

Solar Water Heaters


  • Draws energy for renewable resource
  • Federal tax credit helps offset upfront costs by 30 percent
  • High efficiency factor
  • Least costly way to heat water
  • Simple system to install & maintain


  • More of an upfront investment = longer payback period
  • Drain-back and storage tanks require more storage space than tankless
  • More parts involved = more opportunity for repair

Rheem has a solar water heating calculator available online to show how much you would save by going with solar.

See the full feature article on ProudGreenHome to read more about hot water heater options.

Topics: Cost of Ownership

Heather Ferrier Laminack
Representing the fourth generation of the Ferrier Companies, Heather Ferrier Laminack functions as the marketing manager for Texas-based green home builder Ferrier Custom Homes, utilizing her passion for sustainable building practices and her first-hand experience of green building techniques. View Heather Ferrier Laminack's profile on LinkedIn

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