Everything About Tankless Water Heaters

Feb 18 2015

Your home water heater is one of the most important appliances. Water heating also represents a significant part of your home utility expenses. Tankless water heaters have become popular alternatives to large storage tank systems for their space savings and on demand heating. Tankless heaters can be a good alternative to full tank heaters, but they also carry their own set of disadvantages. Here is a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of tankless water heaters in the short and long term.

Going Tankless

Tankless water heaters are what they sound like: water heaters that don’t store water in a tank. These heaters run on gas and use high power burners to rapidly heat water on demand as it runs through the heat exchanger. Compared to gas powered storage tank heaters, these tankless models are more efficient, but the costs is higher than traditional tank heaters. One of the primary benefits of tankless heaters is that they take up less space and can be used in small rooms or apartments in lieu of large tank heaters.

The potential to instantly heat water is, of course, the central advantage to a tankless system, but tankless heaters cannot always deliver on this as advertised. Often, cold water is initially fed into the pipes to gauge the required temperature, so the water may at first be cold. This happens with tank systems as well, but tanks, by definition, store water, so they can typically heat fairly quickly. The burners in tankless heaters may also fail to ignite for small amounts of water and you may lose hot water during an outage. While tankless heaters can provide some greater efficiency, the more costly price tag could offset annual utility savings.

Installation and Maintenance

Tankless water heaters can involve higher installation and maintenance costs than tank heaters. A tankless heater requires electrical outlets for the electronic components and fan, upgraded gas pipes, and a good ventilation system. These upgrades can easily drive installation costs up into the thousands. Calcium buildup is also an ongoing maintenance concern, as this can affect the heating efficiency and water delivery. Installing a water softener can help increase the lifespan of the tankless system–though storage tanks can benefit from this as well.

The decision to go tankless is a largely a question of personal needs and space concerns. Tankless systems have a higher tag price and potential installation costs can be high, but they can provide reliable hot water quickly and help save a little on monthly utility expenses. Quality storage tank systems with a good warranty, however, can often be a better selection. Modern tank water heaters feature large burners, thick insulation, and corrosion resisting anodes that ensure efficiency and resilience. For homes with greater hot water needs, tank systems are often the best option.