Tankless water heaters, also called “on demand water heaters,” are quickly growing in popularity in North America. Common in other, densely-populated parts of the world such as much of Europe and Japan, tankless water heaters are a great alternative to the standard storage water heater.
How they work
The obvious difference between tankless and storage water heaters is the tank. Traditional water heaters use gas or electricity to warm up a large tank (25-50 gallons is common for residences) of water. The warm water can then be distributed to sinks, showers, dishwashers, washers and other outlets throughout a home. When the water runs out, there’s no more hot water until the next 25-50 gallons are warm.
The tankless water heater, on the other hand, leaves the tank behind entirely. Instead of continually warming some predetermined amount of water indefinitely, the tankless option heats only what you need when you need it.
For this reason, a hot shower could last as long as the water supply and the water heater’s power source held out. You could shower for days if you wanted.
There are other differences between the appliances too, naturally. Energy usage, size, cost, and effectiveness are all factors which must be considered when purchasing a new water heater.
Perhaps the biggest reason that the tankless water heater is gaining recognition in North America is that it is an energy-efficient appliance. Because tankless water heaters only warm water when warm water is needed, they do not waste energy needlessly.
In the age of going green, this conservation of energy is a huge perk as far as many homeowners are concerned. After all, with energy savings come cost savings. Several Energy Agencies estimate that a family with relatively low water usage (approximately 40 gallons or less) can be up to 33% more energy efficient than storage water heaters. That means money in your pocket!
The only caveat to this point is that tankless water heaters using gas as a power source will have a pilot light. The pilot light will burn continuously, whether you’re using hot water or not. This is also true for gas storage water heaters, but with those appliances, the pilot light is serves the purpose of warming the water, so the energy expended doesn’t go to waste. Plus, even for all its continual heating, traditional water heaters experience standby heating loss, which means that it’s always fighting the water’s natural inclination to cool off.
Freeing up space
You don’t realize how much room a 40-gallon tank takes up until it’s gone. Compared to a 40-gallon hot water heater, a tankless water heater is quite small.
There are two varieties and one is even smaller than the other. The first is the whole house tankless water heater system. Just as you’d suspect, it is strong enough to warm water that will pour out of any outlet in your house. The kitchen sink, the bathroom shower – it’s all covered. A whole house system can be put in a corner or hung on the wall.
The point-of-use tankless water heater is good only for one or two of those things at a time. You’d likely need multiple point-of-use heaters to satisfy the water needs for all but the smallest homes. Point-of-use heaters are so small that they can fit under a kitchen sink. Multiple point-of-use heaters are also more energy efficient than whole house systems.
Cost and installation
Price is the first real obstacle for someone considering using a tankless water heater system in their home. Although tankless options undeniably save money over the long haul, it takes a larger upfront investment to purchase and install them. It’s not uncommon to see tankless heaters going for as much as three times the cost of storage heaters.
Installation can sometimes be a bit difficult as well. Most home are designed with storage water heaters in mind. That means that finding a convenient place to install a tankless option near the point-of-us could be difficult if the piping quickly disappears behind walls and floorboards.
In large homes or homes with distant water sources, such as an isolated washroom, multiple hot water heaters are likely necessary. This obviously increases both purchasing and installation costs.
Despite being more economically efficient with energy usage, the price tag is sometimes discouraging to buyers.
Life of appliance
Storage water heaters generally have an expected lifespan of 10-15 years. It’s uncommon for one to last much longer than that.
Tankless heaters, on the other hand, generally last more than 20 years. What’s even more remarkable is that they have easily replaceable parts. When you account for the use of these parts, you can increase the expected life of a tankless heater even further. The length of time you can expect to use a tankless water heater goes a long way to make up for the initial cost. When you consider the price/year compared to a storage heater, it’s much more comparable.
Tankless water heaters are likely to continue growing in popularity as word gets around and the prices start to drop. After all, their ability to run for an extended period of time as well as their efficiency, size and expected lifespan makes them incredibly attractive for homeowners.
So, what do you think? Is a tankless water heater the option for you? Call or Contact us and let’s talk about it.