The Pros and Cons of Tankless Water Heaters

November 27, 2007

Tankless, or demand, water heaters have long been fixtures in Europe and Japan. With the new push in the United States toward more energy efficiency, these water heaters are becoming more popular. Instead of constantly using energy to heat a large tank of water as conventional water heaters do, these tankless models heat water on demand and offer an endless supply of hot water to the home. Like most things, there are some problems with this technology, but with a little research, the tankless water heater it is a valuable option for today's household.

Most of us are familiar with the shortcomings of conventional water heaters. They use more energy in a household than anything except heat and air conditioning. By heating water 24 hours a day, whether it is being used or not, tank water heaters are a constant energy drain. In most homes, you must limit the amount of hot water-using appliances that are running at any given time. The horror of having someone turn on the dishwasher while you are in the shower is a scenario that is familiar to many. Tankless water heaters solve many, but not all, of these problems.

Many manufacturers offer tankless water heaters in either a gas or electric model. Gas models have a higher flow rate, delivering more hot water at one time, but cost more in energy to keep the pilot light lit. Both gas and electric models run the same way. Cold water is delivered through a pipe to the small, wall-mounted unit. A heating element heats the hot water as it flows through at a rate of 2-5 gallons per minute. Because there is no tank to empty, the amount of hot water flowing through the tap is limitless. Placing the unit closer to the point of use can increase both the efficiency and speed that the hot water is delivered.

Although they typically cost 2 1/2 times more than a conventional hot water heater, this cost can usually be made up in energy savings within a year or two. The average tankless user saves 30-45% in energy usage every year. Tankless water heaters last more than 20 years, which is twice as long as the average conventional water heater. Often a tax credit is available for the purchase of a tankless water heater, which can help offset the cost. Because of the calculations needed to determine which model is appropriate for your use and the difficulties involved in installation, this is not generally a do-it-yourself project. It is important to hire a qualified plumber or contractor to install your tankless heater.

Because they are small, tankless heaters save space both in the home and in the landfills when their useful life is over. They can be mounted either inside or outside the home and because the gas models are sealed, they have no open flame. This versatility comes with a price. Smaller units often cannot provide simultaneous use in larger homes. Often, a second unit is installed that is dedicated to those appliances that use the most hot water, such as dishwashers and washing machines. It can also take longer for the hot water to reach the tap, which may result in water waste. It is possible to speed this process using different models or installing a pump to assist the water as it travels. Companies that sell tankless water heaters can help you calculate your usage and install the right sized unit for your home.

It is up to the individual homeowner to decide whether a tankless water heater - or two - is the right option for their home. If energy savings is a long-term goal, the initial costs and minor problems involved in installing a tankless heater will probably be outweighed by the impressive reduction in energy needed to operate these water heaters.

Find all types of Tankless Water heaters, including electric tankless water heater and gas tankless water heater at

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