What Good is a Tankless Water Heater?

If you own an older tank-based water heater that is on its last legs, consider replacing it with a tankless water heater. They have a number of advantages over tank heaters, though they have a few drawbacks. They are used widely in Europe and their popularity in North America is rising.

How Does a Tankless Water Heater Work?

repair thermostatA tank water heater maintains a reservoir of between 20 and 60 gallons of hot water in an insulated tank. Whether or not that water flows, the heating elements continually cycle in order to maintain the water in the tank at a constant temperature.

A tankless heater, as its name implies, has no reservoir. It operates on-demand when hot water is required. Its heating elements turn on when a tap is opened by sensing the water flow. It heats the incoming cold water instantly and turns off when the flow stops. Thus, there is no wasted energy maintaining hot water at rest in a tank.

The Benefits of Tankless Water Heaters

tankless water heaterThere are four main advantages to a tankless water heater:

  • Their nominal service life of 20 years is about twice that of tank-based heaters.
  • They are a fraction of the size of tank heaters and free up floor space when wall-mounted.
  • They reduce energy costs up to 40%, especially the heating energy is electrical.
  • Tankless water heaters can run continuously, so the supply of hot water is virtually unlimited, whereas heavy use of a tank heater causes the temperature of the tank water to drop quickly.

There is an additional advantage of tankless heaters for owners of large homes where hot water outlets may be a long distance from the hot water tank. Because tankless units are small, it is easy to install two or more of them in locations close to taps in order to reduce long waits for hot water to flow from a tap or shower head.

Tankless Water Heater Drawbacks

  • Tankless water heaters require a minimum water pressure and flow to operate correctly. If the flow is too low, the element will not turn on. This is not a common problem and is solved by increasing your home’s water supply pressure or using multiple low-flow tankless heaters.
  • If you lose electrical power or gas supply to your home, you will have no hot water. Even during power outages, a tank water heater can supply your family with hot water from its reserve tank for several hours.
  • Tankless water heaters require a large energy supply. Electric tankless heaters typically need a 220V/50A dedicated electrical circuit. Likewise, for gas tankless water heaters, the gas line must supply about three times the fuel flow that a gas-fueled tank water heater uses, albeit for a shorter time.

Cost Comparison

Water Tank MaintenaceA typical 50-gallon tank water heater costs from $300 to $500. High capacity tankless heaters may run over $1000. Smaller capacity tankless heaters are usually under $500. Since tankless heaters are fundamentally more energy efficient, they often qualify for tax rebates or subsidies, which bring the initial cost closer to that of tank heaters.

In any case, the initial cost differential is small when you consider that a tankless water heater has nearly twice the life span of a tank heater and uses fuel more efficiently.

If your tank water heater is aging rapidly, it may be time to consider switching to a tankless model. Even if your tank heater has years of service left, augmenting it with a small tankless heater can ensure fast availability of hot water and lower your utility bill.

Visit us today or get in touch with our experts over the phone to discuss whether a tankless water heater is right for your home.