If you’ve been looking at an energy-saving replacement for your current tank water heater, you’ve no doubt heard some buzz about tankless water heaters. Already popular in Europe and Asia, tankless water heaters are touted as being compact, water-smart, and energy-efficient. But how do they help you save money, and, more importantly, are they right for your home?
Here are some things to consider when switching from a tank to a tankless water heater.
If You Want a Tankless Water Heater, Here’s Why You Should Want One
Tankless (or on-demand) water heaters provide hot water more efficiently and at a lower cost than tank water heaters. How do they achieve this?
- A tankless water heater only heats water at the moment you need hot water (and it does it very quickly). A tank water heater stores water in a tank and continually heats that water over and over, which requires more energy.
Has this actually been put to the test? Yes. In tests performed by Consumer Reports, the results showed that tankless water heaters ran more efficiently than storage tank models of the same fuel type.
What You Can Expect In Terms of Upfront Cost and Lifespan
One of the drawbacks to installing a tankless water heater is that it has a significantly higher upfront cost than a tank water heater. That being said, tankless water heaters are expected to last double the lifespan of the average tank water heater, while also costing you lower energy bills.
According to the National Association of Home Builders, electric or gas tank water heaters have a life expectancy of about 10 years, whereas tankless water heaters last more than 20 years. Keep in mind, a tankless water heater needs to be flushed periodically (similarly to a tank water heater) to get rid of limescale. That will ensure the highest efficiency and longest lifespan possible.
Tankless Water Heater Limitations
When considering sizing, rather than just looking at gallons, for a tankless water heater you must consider the flow rate (gallons per minute or GPM). If you intend to use a lot of water throughout your home simultaneously (ex. washing dishes, taking a shower, and running a load of laundry at the same time), a tankless water heater’s flow rate might not be able to keep up.
In this scenario, you have a couple of options. You can adjust your household activities to match your water heater’s capacity, or you can install more than one tankless water heater. Some homes have one water heater dedicated to appliances while the other is dedicated to sinks, showers, and baths.