We have that huge cylinder we call water heater in our homes.
It’s big, it consumes energy constantly to heat stored water, even when all taps are closed.
When the stored water cools down, to maintain the preset temperature the heater starts heating.
And the cycle goes on and on!
Enter tankless heaters.
Tankless water heaters are very popular in Europe and Asia, but for some reason have not caught on as much in the US.
As people are starting to hear more about them, they have a lot of questions, naturally.
One thing that people wonder about the most is if it will save money to switch to a tankless water heater.
The answer is that in many cases it does.
Since you aren’t heating water when you aren’t using it, you end up using less electricity.
Water heater and A/C are the two biggest consumers of electricity in your home.
Though when you are enjoying unlimited hot showers you’re likely using more water!
There are some pros and cons with using a tankless, of course, so let’s go over some of the benefits and how they can save you money.
Types of tankless heaters
There are two main types of tankless water heaters. Electric and gas-powered.
Which type you should go for depends on a few factors.
Electric ones are small and can be combined so you can use them at the point of use instead of for the whole house.
This is going to make sure you get the proper gallons per minute water flow rate to get you hot water at the temperature you want.
Gas ones can heat the water more effectively so they are capable of higher gallons per minute.
If you want one heater for the whole house then you will want a gas one.
Your choices are either propane or natural gas.
If you are off-grid then a propane one will give you plenty of options since it will work off of a tank if you have one on your property.
Definitely tankless systems cost more.
While a high-end traditional system with energy star certification costs around $500, the tankless systems cost more than $1,000!
Energy star states that a tankless water heater could save a family of 4, $95 per year!
So to recover the cost, you need to operate your tankless systems for 5 or more years, at least!
This may vary based on your family’s water consumption.
Add to that the coil replacement cost and other expenses towards professional installation, etc.
One of the downsides of tankless water heaters is that when there is no electricity, they won’t work.
So, in the event of a power outage, you’ll need a battery backup connected to your tankless heater.
This includes gas ones as the ignition needs electricity as does the computer controls inside.
A traditional tank-style water heater can keep the water hot for some time.
So, you do have some leeway when it comes to power outages.
Less GPM in cold climates
A tankless water heater heats the water as it enters the unit.
If the water is cold as it comes in then it takes more to heat it.
This impacts the gallons per minute (GPM) which means that you get less the colder your incoming water is.
Living in a cold climate means you may need multiple units to give you the proper temperature if you use a few fixtures at the same time.
In our home, we are living for more than 6 years now.
We never had to do any maintenance to the water heater.
But, a tankless system requires regular maintenance. Coils need to be cleaned or replaced every few months.
This comes via a reader comment below:
”tankless is a very complicated piece of equipment and requires specially trained technicians to repair them and when they do break parts can be hard to get and often require them to be ordered from the manufacturer or a warehouse in some far off place, so days without hot water. Not very pleasant.”
In many cases, you are going to save money with a tankless heater.
If you are tired of wasting gas by heating water that doesn’t get used, then a tankless is the way to go.
Especially if it is used in a vacation home or RV.
If you have an electric traditional water heater then you can expect to save up to 30% on your electricity bill by switching to tankless.
But when things go wrong with the system, you could end up without hot water for days.
Randy Perry says
You need a little more info then this to make a accurate statement of savings and cons.
First of all is the cost of the unit and longevity of the unit compared to a traditional water heater.
A water can be drained wice a year to extend the life of it a tankless cannot in hard water area’s that matter’s.
Large homes have recirculating pumps on them to get hot water very quickly all over the house, tankless do not have that option.
I want you to write more in-depth in this to save me my money, thanks
My dad was the sole supplier of tankless gas water heaters in North America for 20 years. He ran that business out of our garage at first, I remember as a kid unloading trucks of these units and stacking them in our garage, seperating them by LPG and Natural gas. You can still use a a large tank with your tankless water heater if you wish, it just holds the hot water that comes out of the unit, it doesnt’t heat it. My dad was a big believer in gas appliances. We had a gas clothes dryer, water heater and stove always.
Mike Bruce says
There are hybrid water heaters that use far less energy and when combined with a circulating hot to the faucets hot water is always available. Easy to build in a new home , more expensive to convert an older one but efficient and convienent . Understand this is competitive.
This post is a completely useless exercise. Nothing of value was addressed; just some gibberish that was poorly written and would no Chelonia anyone make a decision.
Thanks for reading! Hope to improve this article further
You’re correct about America being oblivious to tankless heaters. Summer of the reasons against tankless heaters are; too much sophistication with electronics requiring knowledge of a homeowner to learn how to read error codes and relate them to a list, horror stories of diyers and unscrupulous plumbers incorrectly installing tankless units without due diligence to correct installation procedures, zero knowledge of servicing tankless units, and more. Those with tankless installations some correctly are rewarded with lower heating costs immediately since a large water tank isn’t heated anymore. Tankless technology is proven in Europe and Asia except here in the USA, starting from plumbing companies slow to adopt it as well as teething pains during the learning phase including servicing. I made the switch several years ago and have seen lower costs immediately although the initial investment was steep with a conversion from the old 40 gallon boiler/water heater requiring new plumbing for a three zone hydronic system.
Very misleading article, first off you need to compare the kilojoules (KJ) of energy in the different forms of energy. For instance a kilowatt of electricity has 3600 KJ’s and a cubic meter of natural gas has roughly 37,000 kj so you need roughly 10 kilo watts of electricity to have the same amount of energy ass gas, everybody’s rates are different so i will not get into which is better but usually natural gas is cheaper.
Most tankless water heater start at 180,000 btu’s and go up from there and if you live in a cold climate where your entering water temperature is 50f and you require 120f that a 70f temperature rise that puppy is running at full btu’s as long as you have a call for hot water, compare that to 40,000 btu’s for a 40 gallon tank, savings I think not.
Next the only way you can have hot water if your power goes off is with a natural draft hot water tank, power vented, electric tanks and tankless all require electricity to operate, so you are out of luck unless you have a generator and by the way a natural draft water heater has less parts to break then the others except maybe a electric tank.
Which brings me to my next point a tankless is a very complicated piece of equipment and requires specialty trained technicians to repair them and when they do break parts can be hard to get and often require them to be ordered from the manufacturer or a warehouse in some far off place, so days without hot water. Not very pleasant.
Next it is true that a tank will start up in the middle of the night to bring the tank back to temperature but will only run for maybe 5 minute because cold water is not being introduced to the tank, it is just topping up the temperature of the warm water that is in the tank. Tanks are being insulted better these days so standby looses are less and high efficient tanks are now available which save on the production of hot water. Now another point if you are a home owner and purchase a tankless you should read the manual especially the warranty section, most manufactures require you to flush the heat exchanger yearly and will require proof that you have had this done (a paid work order) or they will void your warranty so if you never flush the heat exchanger say good bye to your tankless in 10 years if you are lucky, it depends on your water quality and hardness. Oh how much does it cost to flush the heat exchanger yearly well start at $200.00 and maybe more depending on the company doing it. I would say that eats up a good portion of the savings if you had some.
Having endless hot water is not always a good thing, think about the worlds fresh water supply and the strain on the water treatment plants and sewage plants!.
Another thing to look at is installation requirements, some companies will put them in take your money and run, following the manufacturers installation requirements is key to a long lasting, reliable and efficient running unit and most times requires extra work like 3/4” copper pipes to and from the unit, most houses use 1/2” pex, you get a 3/8’ inside diameter tube, compare that to a 3/4” copper pipe, do you think the heater will give you the amount of hot water you want?
Gas pipe sizing is another restriction for the installation most units require a 3/4” black iron pipe and the further you are from the meter and the load in the house it may need to be bigger.
Did I mention vent pipe, you are looking at a 3” pipe and for a proper install 2 of them which require clearances form opening windows or doors and other intake and exhaust vents, yes some tankless can use 2” pipe but have a restriction on the distance you can run them.
Getting use to using a tankless is another thing to think about, there is a minimum flow rather required to activate the heater so if you like to dribble water out of the tap it may not activate the heater, usual minimum flow rate is .5 gallons per minute, next since there is not a tank of preheated water sitting there the tankless has to start to make hot water when you open a tap but not so fast it has to go through a pre purge before it can produce hot water, add 20 seconds to the amount of time it takes to get hot water to your tap, never mind if you shut the tap off and turn it back on.
That’s my take on them.
Good luck to you if you buy one, make sure you buy the extended warranty or go high efficient tank there is many different options out there.
Joe B Kelley says
Tank less is one word.
Well, I used tankless, but the Grammarly suggested I spaced out the words…. 🙂 Now corrected
D Kort says
Grew up with a gas tankless in both kitchen and bathroom. Imidiate hot water, for bath soakers a boon. Today i have a large electric tank which i keep turned off at the fuse. I turn on 30 mins before taking a shower and leave on for about the same once outta the shower. Leaves me with enough hot for other chores.
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How about the extra work of using a tankless system? You have to flush the coils every couple of months to prevent scale. Also, for a vacation home you can turn a tank off when not there but a tankless, while off, has far more components that leaving water sit in it, will affect the performance of. It’s a trade off but having a tankless is more work.
Cameron Eldershaw says
You’re right about America being careless in regards to tankless radiators. Summer of the reasons against tankless radiators are; an excess of advancement with gadgets requiring information on a property holder to figure out how to peruse mistake codes and relate them to a rundown, frightfulness accounts of diyers and deceitful handymen erroneously introducing tankless units without due steadiness to address establishment methods, zero information on adjusting tankless units, and that’s just the beginning. Those with tankless establishments some accurately are remunerated with lower warming expenses quickly since a huge water tank isn’t warmed any longer. Tankless innovation is demonstrated in Europe and Asia with the exception of here in the USA, beginning from plumbing organizations delayed to embrace it just as getting teeth torments during the learning stage including adjusting. I did the switch quite a long while prior and have seen lower costs quickly despite the fact that the underlying venture was steep with a transformation from the old 40 gallon evaporator/water warmer requiring new pipes for a three zone hydronic framework.