We all love hot water; it’s great for a hot shower or a nice cup of tea. And the only way we can consistently and reliably get hot water in our homes is through our hot water heaters. But not all water heaters are created equally. So let’s talk about tankless water heaters.
What makes tankless water heaters so special? That’s right, you guessed it…they don’t have a tank! Traditional water heaters are equipped with a storage tank. These tanks keep the water being stored in them on average a minimum of 120°F, 24 hrs a day, 365 days a year, to avoid bacteria growth such as legionnaire’s disease. So even when left unused, the burner inside will be coming on and off to always maintain the temperature. When a hot water tap would be turned on, water would flow through the pipes and into the tank, and the water that has been stored will then flow to your fixtures. You are limited to only what you have inside the tank and could potentially run out of hot water if the tank does not have enough to keep up with your demand. Instead, with a tankless system, the water would simply flow into the unit and a gas or electric burner would heat the water instantly to the desired temperature.
A major plus of the tankless systems is that they produce no standby energy loss associated with storing or heating large storage tanks. They also have the ability to heat on demand, hence their nicknames being demand-type or instantaneous water heaters.
A typical tankless system can produce from 2 to 5 gallons of hot water per minute depending on your location and the incoming ground water temperature. Tankless water heaters, because they raise the temperature from the incoming ground water temperature to the desired out-going temperature instantaneously, are limited on their number of gallons per minute based on this factor. One downside of these systems is the potential for decreased flow rate so that the unit can keep up with the demand. Gas-fired heaters would have a higher flow rate than electric ones, though. Yet, even the best of systems cannot always supply enough hot water for simultaneously uses in a large home. This is where a standard tanked system would actually be more beneficial. Alternatively, you could install multiple tankless heaters, or even have designated ones for certain household appliances that use a lot of hot water.
Tankless water heaters are on average more efficient and effective than standard systems. According to the Department of Energy, “for homes that use 41 gallons or less of hot water daily, demand water heaters can be 24%-34% more efficient than conventional storage tank water heaters. They can be 8%-14% more energy efficient for homes that use a lot of hot water—around 86 gallons per day.” They also advise that you can save “27%-50% if you install a demand water heater at each hot water outlet.”
Yet, no system is perfect. Even though tankless models are more energy efficient, they can still have their problems, just like any system. If their pilot light is continuously burning, for example, then they would be wasting energy instead of conserving it.
Finally, down to the cost. Tankless heaters are going to cost more upfront than a conventional tanked system. But the savings you accrue will add up over the years. Tankless systems typically have a longer lifespan—on average over 20 years—as well as lower operating and energy costs, offsetting its higher initial purchase price. Not to mention easily replaceable parts that extends their life even longer. On the contrary, conventional systems only last 10-15 years.
Now that you know a little more about tankless water heaters, it’s time to look at your options! Rheem makes tankless water heaters easy and SupplyHouse.com has a huge variety of tankless water heater options, as well as tons of replacement parts.