Tall Vs. Short Hot Water Heaters: What You Need to Know

tall vs short water heater

Are you shopping for a hot water heater? Is the variety of tall and short water heaters overwhelming for you?

Don’t worry; buying a hot water heater can be a daunting task.

When you go shopping, you may realize that both types operate similarly. However, they differ in their capacity and space requirements.

So, deciding which is better depends on your needs, family size, and existing plumbing connections.

In this article, we’ll dive deep into the tall vs. short water heaters comparison. Our comprehensive comparison will help you make an informed buying decision. So, read on!

Tall Water Heaters vs. Short Hot Water Heaters: A Quick Overview

The differences between tall and short water heaters go beyond their appearances. The size is indeed the main difference between them. Yet, it affects other major matters such as operating costs, efficiency, and installation requirements.

Here is a quick overview of both types:

Tall water heaters

The height of tall water heaters ranges between 46 and 76 inches. The width of a tall tank heater usually lies between 17 and 22 inches in diameter. The lowest capacity of a tall water heater is around 30 gallons. Tall water heaters with higher capacities do not exceed 100 gallons.

Most electric tall water heaters come with tanks to store hot water. However, you can find tankless gas-powered tall heaters that heat water on demand. Tall water heaters are often nicknamed tall boys.

Short water heaters

Compared to tall water heaters, most short heaters are tankless. This accommodates their compact sizes. Still, you can come across tank natural gas or electric short water heaters.

These compact heaters have the nickname of low boys, low-profile heaters.

The height of short water heaters ranges between 30 and 45 inches. Their width ranges between 23 and 37 inches. Most low-profile heaters offer a water capacity ranging from 30 to 50 gallons of water.

Pros of Tall Water Heaters

tall water heater pros and cons

Tall models of water heaters come with great advantages, especially for large households. This type of heater gives you a generous storage capacity. Also, many of them reduce the heat loss resulting from poor insulation.

So, let’s delve into the details of these advantages:

1. Consistent Water Supply

Due to their higher gallon capacity, a tall boy is generally recommended if 3 or more people live in your home. The tank acts as hot water reservoirs that fit the needs of large families. If you have a large family, the chances are higher for simultaneous hot water demand.

This characteristic gives a chance for house occupants to enjoy a relaxing hot water bath or do the dishes at the same time. You can rely on a tall water heater to provide a constant supply of hot water, regardless of sudden water shortages.

2. Increased lifespan

Tall water heaters are built to last for many years. Many of them can even last for a decade or 12 years with proper maintenance and early attention to corrosion signs. Due to their ability to accommodate large households, they successfully withstand heavy use.

3.  Improved Heat Insulation

Most tall water heaters come with improved insulation technologies or at least thicker insulation layers. This results in a significant decrease in heat dissipation. This also leads to increased energy efficiency and a gradual reduction in energy bills. This is more obvious in propane and natural gas-powered tall heaters compared to electric ones.

Cons of Tall Water Heaters

While tall water heaters offer great functionality, they are not perfect. They come with a few drawbacks that may not be suitable for some homeowners. Let’s take a closer look into the main cons of tall water heaters that you should consider before making a purchase decision.

1.  Installation Difficulties

The smallest tall water heater is around 46” in height. Such a height makes installing these heaters in small areas impractical. They fit well in attics, garages, or basements. However, they don’t fit inside closets or under sinks.

If you have limited space in your house, you might be forced to make some structural modifications to successfully install a tall water heater. These modifications may include removing a non-load-bearing wall to provide some extra vertical space.

Still, this solution comes with some complexities, such as ensuring compliance with local building codes and your building’s stability. Instead of going through all this trouble, you may want to install a short water heater.

2.  Increased Initial Cost

The added height and weight of tall water heaters contribute to their high price tag. If you have an expansive home, the high upfront cost may be justified.

Such a demanding environment requires an abundant supply of hot water, which tall heaters will efficiently provide.

That said, you should consider this upfront investment against the long-term advantages. Also, bear in mind the needs of your home and family.

3.  Potential for Overheating and Leakage

In some older models, water might occasionally become hotter than the original temperature setting. This poses a risk of overheating. However, in modern tall waters, this issue is effectively resolved.

Furthermore, the extra weight of tall heaters might exert some pressure on their tanks. This scenario may result in cracks and damages. Subsequently, you might notice water leaks from the heater.

Pros of Short Water Heaters

short water heater pros and cons

Some homeowners believe that the compact size of short water heaters is a sign of less powerful performance. But this misconception is far from reflecting the surprising effectiveness of these low-profile heaters.

The compact design is one of these heaters’ strengths. It can make your life easier on many levels.

1.  Ease of Installation

The light weight of low-profile heaters allows you to effortlessly transport and install them. Unlike tall heaters, you may not need a technician to install a short water heater. If you are DIY-savvy, you can finish this task fast and efficiently.

2.  Space Efficiency

The small size of low-profile water heaters makes them suitable for small households. You don’t need to make any changes to your kitchen or bathroom to install the unit.

Short water heaters tend to be more accommodating to existing plumbing pipes. In some households, these connecting pipes may be located under sinks. A low boy can easily fit in such areas.

3.  Energy Efficiency

The limited storage capacity is not always a drawback. This design of low-profile water heaters makes them recover quickly and heat water immediately. The quick recovery factor allows the water to heat up faster inside the unit.

4.  Reduced Costs

Buying a short water heater is a cheaper solution than a tall one. Also, they are easier and cheaper to maintain due to the less complex design. However, they may require more attentive maintenance as they tend to form sediment buildup quickly.

Moreover, the quick recovery characteristic reduces the need to heat excess water. This way, the utility bills may eventually drop.

Cons of Short Water Heaters

While the compact design and efficiency of short water heaters make them an ideal choice for many households, they are not problem-free. With the aesthetic appearance and suitability for space-constrained areas come limited storage and risk of temperature fluctuations.

1.  Decreased Storage

The nickname Low Boy describes the limited storage tank water heaters. This makes using them in a large house impractical. It is recommended to use a short heater for small families with minimal to moderate hot water needs.

2.  Risk of Sudden Temperature Fluctuation

Smaller water tanks offer less hot water. So, the heater will keep drawing more cool water to cover your hot water demand. This may lead to a sudden drop in water temperatures until the added water heats up.

Such a drop may disrupt your relaxing shower or any similar activity. This issue becomes more pressing during periods of high hot water demand. Also, when the unit has inadequate insulation, the risk of fluctuation increases.

3.  Poor Insulation

Some short water heaters have poorly insulated tanks compared to tall ones. This may result in more heat dissipation, causing unwanted energy loss. This issue becomes clearer in colder climates. Without a properly insulated tank, the consistency of the water heat supply will be affected.

Tall Water Heaters vs. Short Water Heaters: Which One is Better for You?

Now that you have an insight into the advantages and disadvantages of both tall and short water heaters, it is time to assess them both.

Weigh all the pros against the cons and compare their suitability to your hot water needs. Keep in mind your budget, available installation space, and your existing plumbing system.

Also, your personal preference plays a crucial role in making this decision. For instance, you might be accommodated to using a taller water heater in your previous home.

In this case, making a change in the heater’s size may not be comfortable for you.

The same thing applies to the type of power source. You might be more familiar with using a natural gas or propane water heater rather than an electric water heater.

If you are curious about common problems with gas or electric tankless water heaters and their troubleshooting, take a look at these blogs:



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