Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless Water Heaters
Efficient, Yes.     Economical, Not Necessarily!

First let us say that Jet Plumbing installs tankless water heaters quite often and when installed in the proper application they are well liked and economical.  However, we would like to share some important information that may help you make a decision that on whether one is right for you and your needs.

Up to 30 percent of the average home’s energy budget is spent on heating water.  So the question is will switching to a gas-fired tankless water heater cut your energy costs in half like their manufacturer’s claim?  Possibly!  Does that mean it’s time to switch?  Again, possibly.

Unlike tank type water heaters that hold and reheat water for use when needed, gas tankless water heaters work by running water through a heat exchanger which uses high powered burners to rapidly heat the water only when there is a demand for hot water.  And although this application can be up to 22 percent more efficient than the average tank type water heater, the initial cost to install them, upgrade the venting and gas service line may take you up to 20+ years or longer to break even.  And that’s if the tankless water heater lasts 20 years.

Before we continue we would also like to mention that there are electric tankless water heaters in production.  However tests have found that many can’t produce hot water fast enough or consistently in areas that have cold groundwater.  And in areas where the incoming water is warmer, having to upgrade their home’s electrical service to accommodate the usage is not economical.  The information in this article focuses on natural gas units and their operation.

Independent testing has been performed on a couple of popular brands and here’s what was found:
Water runs hot and cold
Manufacturers advertise the biggest benefit of their products is to provide endless hot water.  But among those polled the complaint of inconsistent water temperatures was fairly common. When you turn on the faucet, tankless models feed in some cold water to gauge how big a temperature rise is needed.  If there is standing cold water in a line that is drawn between old and new hot water, this may cause what’s referred to as a “cold water sandwich” which can be very unappealing while bathing.

You still have to wait for hot water
Just like tank type water heaters, unless a hot water recirculation line and pump is installed, tankless water heaters do not deliver hot water instantaneously.  It takes time to heat the water to the target temperature and then deliver it to the fixture and just like storage water heaters, any cold water in the pipes needs to be pushed out.  Tankless models’ use electric controls which also means you’ll also lose hot water during a power outage which is not true of most tank type models.

Water may not get hot when using a small volume
When performing tasks like shaving, the demand for a small amount of hot water may not be enough to ignite the unit’s burner.

Up-front costs are high
Tankless water heaters cost $825 to $1,200 compared with $350 to $550 for the regular storage-tank types not including installation and code upgrades if any.  Tankless water heater models also need electrical outlets for their fan and electronics which may add to the cost if you are replacing a tank type water heater.

Tankless units might need more care
Regularly scheduled maintenance is important to keeping your tankless water heater operation properly.  Build up from calcium and magnesium will cause a decrease in efficiency and restrict flow through the unit.  And depending on the quality of the water in your area, many manufactures and industry professionals recommend that tankless models be serviced once a year by a qualified technician.  This involves flushing the unit with vinegar and cleaning the burners.  

Efficient storage model prices raised
As of April, 2015 new regulations set forth by the US Department of Energy have caused water heater manufactures change the way their water heater operate to meet higher efficiency standards.  And these changes have caused the costs of tank type water heaters to increase.  However there is still a fairly broad cost different between the installation costs of a tankless water heater and a tank type unit.

Jet Plumbing, Heating & Drain Services would appreciate the opportunity to discuss your needs is respect to tank type and tankless water heaters or any other plumbing repairs.