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Breaking Down the Benefits and Disadvantages of Tankless Water Heaters

Contributing AuthorsContributing Authors
Breaking Down the Benefits and Disadvantages of Tankless Water Heaters

tankless water heater

Home improvements and repairs can become absolute nightmares if you don’t go into a project with the right information and knowledge. While some home improvement projects, such as installing a water heater, may seem like a daunting task, there’s no need to stress over the repairs you need to make to your home. In fact, the more you know before embarking on any home improvement project, the easier it will be to achieve your desired results.

If you need to replace your old water heater and are considering making the jump to a tankless unit, there are things you need to know before deciding which model to purchase. In a standard tank water heater, you have a large tank that holds and heats your water, either through a copper coil or by burning natural gas. These models will continually heat your water in order to provide you with the hot water you need at the faucet. In this set up, the energy that’s used to keep your water hot, even if you aren’t using it, is called standby heat loss. Tankless water heaters reduce this standby loss by heating your water “on demand,” making the tankless system more energy efficient than standard tank heaters.

Now, there are two types of tankless heaters – whole-house and point-of-use – which, as you might expect, are fairly self-explanatory. Whole-house tankless systems are larger than most point-of-use heaters, and are usually powered by propane or natural gas. These systems are typically the more expensive option, as they can operate more than one faucet at a time. Point-of-use heaters, on the other hand, are significantly smaller, as they only provide hot water to one or two faucets in your home. However, these heaters are designed to fit beneath a sink, making their installation much easier.

Now, before you decide whether or not to go with a tankless water heater, here are some of the benefits to keep in mind:

  • Tankless water heaters never run out of water. As they have come to be known as “on demand” heaters, you aren’t limited to the amount of hot water in a tank. When you turn your faucet handle, your heater powers on automatically.
  • Many of today’s tankless systems are built to last up to 10 years longer than a tank water heater system.
  • If you’re tight on space, tankless heaters can be installed on interior walls, under cabinets, in closets, or outdoors, provided you use it with an anti-freezing kit.
  • Tankless water heaters can save you up to 20% from your current water heating bill.
  • Electric systems don’t produce any greenhouse gases, and gas models are more eco-friendly than their tank counterparts, as they significantly reduce gas emissions by only powering on when you need it.
  • You’ll never have to worry about flooding like you would with a tank rupturing.

With all of this in mind, there are some negatives when it comes to these tankless systems. Some of these include:

  • Tankless systems are significantly more expensive than tank heaters, costing up to three times that of a heater tank.
  • If your home isn’t equipped with a large enough gas line to supply your heater, you may need to install a larger line.
  • In order to properly vent propane and natural gas, you will need to purchase expensive steel tubing in order to ensure your family’s safety. Electric units, on the other hand, may require the installation of an additional circuit to meet the heater’s needs.
  • If you go with a gas tankless system, you will need to have it serviced at least once every 12 months, and as these units produce greenhouse gases, they are not perfect in environmental efficiency.

If you’re in the market for a new water heater and care about your impact on the environment, the tankless water heater is definitely an option worth pursuing. While the initial cost will be greater than a tank water heater system, you will save money in the long run on your utility costs to heat your water that will make up for the additional up-front costs. All you have to decide is whether an electric or a gas model is best for your home.

Rachael Jones is a blogger for DIYMother. Photo via flickr.

Greener Ideal is an independent environmental news and lifestyle publication that has been curating content since 2008 to further the green movement. The views expressed by contributing authors are their own and may not reflect those of Greener Ideal.

  • William Fraser

    I looked into getting this for my house, but decided against, because with 10 people living here, the water doesn’t spend that much time “standing by”. Of course, there’s no real way for me to check my exact situation, but what “real world scenario” studies have been done?

  • Tom Edgar

    For over sixty years I have had a fifty gallon storage unit that is heated from a “Wet Back” on my wood burning cooker (Rayburn). We’ve never run out of hot water, some of the wood we burn is actually from dead trees off our own property. My neighbour,who lives alone, seems to get by quite comfortably from a solar water heating panel connected to a forty gallon insulated drum, all self installed. My son installed a gas bottle connected water heater for his bathing but rarely used it as it was cheaper for him to pop next door (to me) using my shower with water heated for free. Oh you do have to take a little care sometimes as the water regularly boils over in the storage tank. I have that boiling overflow diverted into the roof guttering which then sends it back into the rainwater storage tanks most Australian country dwellers use.

  • MalikTous

    The best systems I have seen are based on a well-insulated water heater tank to serve the baths and showers, and usually all other domestic hot water taps as well. To start out, all hot piping and the main water heater tank should be insulated and jacketted.

    A second water heater tank with a small (less than 1 kw) heating element (or none, if your area doesn’t freeze in winter) is the heart of the best upgrade I know. Paint it black and mount it in an insulated window-front box on your equator-facing roof. Its outlet is then fed to the main heater tank. Its inlet is from the cold water main. This booster allows use of a smaller water heating tank because solar energy preheats the water; the system makes it all more stable. The small heater element in the ‘Climax’ style roof tank and the insulation in the box is to prevent freezing. A similar layout can be used to allow use of a small tank heater to upgrade a temperamental boiler-type furnace water heater coil.

    With a house where many places use hot water and aren’t close to a central heater location, ‘flash’ or ‘spot’ tankless heaters are highly effective. Not having to run water for 15 minutes just to get hot to the shower or sink is a definite savings.

    With all water heating equipment, a quarterly or monthly ‘blowdown’ is advised. Minerals precipitate out to the bottom of the tank or on the inside of the tankless heater coils. Best way to fix it on a tank is to cycle the boiler bottom drain open after attaching a hose to direct it to a suitable bucket or sink. Flush until the milky appearance of the water fades. Best results can be obtained by adding a strong magnet to the tank inlet close to the tank. For tankless heaters, isolating the water and dismounting it for a session with fruit juice powder in water (sugar free kool aid or generic equivalent) or vinegar left in overnight is generally suitable. Keep the used mild acid to soak shower heads and faucet aerators in to relieve their ‘lime encrustation’ too.

  • electric underfloor heating ro

    Nice post…………