When you’re renovating an old home or building a new one, you’ll need to choose what type of water heater you will use. A water heater typically represents almost one-quarter of a home’s energy consumption. Two technology options are propane water heaters and heat pump water heaters (HPWH). Both are generally classified as ‘green’ options and offer some advantages over traditional electric water tanks. There are certainly some pros and cons for all types of water heaters, so we compared tankless vs. heat pump water heaters to help you make a decision.

The Facts About Hot Water Heaters

There are three major areas to consider when comparing a propane water heater vs. an HPWH:

  • Flexibility — which technology suits more types of homes and requires the least space?
  • Performance — which of the two types will give you the best hot water solution?
  • Cost — which hot water system will result in lower installation and operating costs?

When it comes to tankless propane water heaters, they perform well in all three areas, making them a great choice for home and business owners.

Flexibility and Ventilation

With a tankless propane water heater, not only is the footprint of the heater itself smaller, but an HPWH must also be installed with adequate space and ventilation. This can eat up a lot of space in a new construction, and it might not be possible in an old house. Some people try to avoid this dilemma by installing an HPWH in a garage or basement, but these systems aren’t as efficient when installed in cool spaces. A tankless propane heater, on the other hand, won’t be affected by the temperature of the environment around it. It requires simpler ventilation than the HPWH system.


The tankless vs. heat pump water heater debate continues on the performance front. Propane systems have higher flow rates and no storage capacity limitations. Tankless hot water is also available when you need it, and there’s no wasted energy heating water that will be stored and cools down when no one is using it.

If you’re concerned with emissions, a tankless propane system may be the best choice. These systems produce lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than an HPWH. An added bonus? A typical propane hot water heater will easily last 20 years, while the service life of an HPWH is closer to 15.

Many different electric water heater performance ranges exist, but flow rates are generally lower and energy consumption quickly climbs with the larger units.


There are two types of costs associated with the purchase of a water heater: initial purchase and installation cost, and operating costs. In both new installations and older home retrofits, the propane system will cost you less every time. This is even more significant if your home requires significant work to accommodate the larger footprint and ventilation requirements of an HPWH.

When maintenance and service life are factored in, the operating costs of an HPWH heater compared to a tankless propane heater was an average of 15% higher for new and retrofit installations.

Choosing the Best Water Heater

Electric water heater tanks remain a popular option due to their relative ease of installation, but they still take up a large amount of space and rely on increasingly expensive electricity. A tankless propane water heater offers the best combination of advantages, and it may be the best choice for your home. Contact Foster Fuels to learn more!

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