There are several different types of water heaters, each with their with their own benefits and drawbacks. Conventional water heaters store water ahead of time, and use your home’s electricity or gas power to heat somewhere between 30 and 50 gallons of water. When you read the terms, “electric water heater” or “gas water heater,” they’re often referring to conventional gas and electric heaters. Conventional heaters have a fairly long life span of around 10–11 years.
Tankless water heaters store no water ahead of time, heating water as you and your family need it. Tankless heaters also run off of your home’s power (usually gas or electric), but can save you lots of money on utility bills: since you aren’t heating any water ahead of time, no hot water goes to waste! That being said, tankless heaters are also initially costlier, which for some is too much of a trade-off for the cheaper utility bills. With a 15- to 20-year lifespan, however, the tankless heater is always a viable option.
Of course, there are always options involving alternative sources of energy. Natural gas can be used to power both conventional and tankless heaters, geothermal energy is available to those with a geothermal heat pump, and solar power is becoming more and more prominent. If you’re interested in any of these, call your local authorities to see which options are available and meet the plumbing codes in your area. You may also want to compare the fuel costs for these different energy sources before deciding which one to purchase.