Tankless water heaters are a popular choice for homeowners seeking an alternative to the classic tank-style heater, which has been around in one form or another for over a hundred years. Homeowners who are looking for increased energy efficiency in their homes are increasingly choosing to upgrade to a tankless heater.
Tankless heaters are an on-demand style of water heater that will supply hot water constantly by heating cool water as it flows through the unit. These are much smaller than large tank-style heaters and are typically wall-mounted or in a cabinet under a sink. These are powered by gas, propane, or electricity.
When a plumbing fixture is turned on in the home, a flow sensor in the tankless water heater activates the heating element and a heat exchanger warms the water as it flows into the home’s piping and toward your faucet. Tankless water heaters have been a standard feature in a lot of smaller homes and apartments in Europe and Asia for decades, with many of these homes having point-of-use dedicated heaters for the kitchen and bathrooms. These highly efficient little units save space and energy in a smaller home.
THE BENEFITS OF A TANKLESS WATER HEATER:
Tankless water heaters tend to last longer, usually between 15-20 years. A tank-style water heater starts becoming a risk right between 8-10 years and sooner if the home is located in an area with hard water. In the event they do malfunction, the risk of water damage to the house is much lower. The mechanics of tank heaters have not changed much over the years. For the homeowners who may have experienced what it is like for a tank heater to go out and flood a garage and areas adjacent to it, the idea of not keeping a 40 or more gallon tank full of water around is attractive. While any plumbing system could cause damaged or be compromised, a tankless heater poses less of a risk of catastrophic flooding.
While the initial installation may cost more for a tankless heater, the long-term energy savings will likely make up for the cost. A tankless unit is an investment for long-term savings, convenience, and a longer lifespan. Tankless water heater installation is not a DIY project, and you will want a licensed professional to do the work. Tankless water heaters that utilize combustion to heat the water may require specialized venting, and some electrical heaters may need an upgraded outlet or power source. Natural gas burners may require a larger dimension of a gas line. An improper installation has the potential to cause problems down the road.
The most significant benefit to a tankless water heater is the energy savings realized. When not paying to keep a 50-gallon tank of water hot day and night, most homeowners’ energy bills go down. There is also a considerable advantage to not having to hear every noise a tank-style heater makes once it turns eight years old and has begun to enter the twilight zone where most water heaters are at risk of failing. As tank-style heater ages, it becomes less and less efficient.
Tankless water heaters can help add to the value of a home you’re selling. In today’s market, homebuyers are increasingly looking for ways to make their homes more energy-efficient, and smart features and appliances are popular.
Provided your household isn’t running multiple appliances while somebody is showering, most tankless heaters can provide a constant supply of water- up to 5 gallons per minute. Large homes with more than one bathroom may opt for multiple tankless heaters to keep up with the demand. If only one fixture in the home is using hot water, most heaters can keep up, making them ideal for hot tubs, large whirlpools, or soaking tubs that need a lot of water. If you’ve filled one of these up realizing the hot water ran out before it was full, you’ll know the limitations of a tank-style water heater.
A tankless water heater might seem to be the perfect alternative to keeping a giant tankful of water heated and ready, but there are many pros and cons for both styles.
THE DISADVANTAGES OF TANKLESS WATER HEATERS:
For many homeowners, the high price tag upfront for a tankless water heater and installation can be cost-prohibitive. The smaller the unit, the less of the household it can serve. Multiple point-of-service units can be expensive. In some areas, installing a tankless water heater may qualify the homeowner for incentives and even a tax rebate. Most tankless water heaters do not qualify for energy star ratings, but there are newer and slightly pricier models of traditional tank-style heaters that do.
When considering the installation for a new tankless heater, there may be high costs involved if your home has to have gas lines re-routed or sealed venting installed. If the house can accommodate it, the electrical option for a heater could help eliminate that problem- but the heater may still need a unique electrical outlet to accommodate it. Some tankless water heaters require a water softener if the water is hard. A water softener system can be costly and take up even more space.
There is a slight delay when initiating the hot water supply using a tankless heater. A delay may not be a deal-breaker for most homeowners the first time they turn the water on. However, a repeated delay that occurs every time water is turned on and off intermittently can become annoying.
While many tankless water heater manufacturers tout an “endless” supply of water, these units may not be able to keep up with more than one person using hot water in the home at once. A decent-sized tank-style water heater could supply to a dishwasher and somebody taking a shower, for example, without much trouble.
When looking at the options for your home, there are plenty of pros and cons for types of water heater. Ultimately, the type and size of the house, water source, financial investment, and other factors should be carefully weighed to decide what option would work best for the household. A professional can help you assess your options and choose what water heating solution would work best for you long-term.