Most homes have conventional tank water heaters, which store dozens of gallons of hot water and maintain a steady temperature so the water is ready when you need it. But there is another type of water heater — tankless – which heats water directly and on demand as it flows through your pipes.
Tankless water heaters offer several benefits, but it’s not the perfect fit for every home or situation. Read more to learn whether upgrading to a tankless water heater makes sense for you and your family.
The Pros of a Tankless Water Heater
The primary advantage of tankless over traditional water heaters is that they’re generally more energy efficient. If you compare Energy Guide stickers of the two types when shopping, or if you browse the data for models that have been certified by Energy Star, you’ll see the difference in estimated energy consumption.
Various models of tankless heaters have their own energy-saving features, but all of them save energy by not storing hot water. With a conventional water heater, stored hot water is constantly cooling which requires frequent re-heating. A tankless heater uses virtually no energy when hot water isn’t being used. And those energy savings could make a big difference in your monthly utility bills.
Tankless heaters also offer these benefits:
- Their compact size. Tankless heaters are about the size of a briefcase, expanding your range of installation locations and freeing up storage space.
- Longer lifespan. With the proper maintenance, many tankless water heaters can last up to 20 years.
- Home value. If you sell your home, the savings potential of a tankless water heater can boost your asking price.
When is Tankless a Bad Fit?
Tankless water heaters will save you money over the long haul, but the upfront cost is quite a bit higher than most conventional water heaters. Not only is the heater itself more expensive, the installation process is typically more as well. And, installing a tankless water heater is not a Do-It-Yourself project. If you’re considering upgrading to a tankless water heater, get an accurate quote so you can calculate whether the long-term savings justify the higher upfront costs.
Just like conventional water heaters, tankless heaters should be sized to the water needs of the household. Each tankless installation should be sized based on the number of fixtures in the house (which use hot water) and the number of occupants can sometimes be a factor. Incoming water temperature should also be considered when choosing the type and number of tankless units which may be required. Each tankless has a specific amount of hot water which it can supply. In the winter the incoming water is colder, which means the tankless will have to raise the temperature more than it would in the summer. Therefore the amount of hot water it can provide will be decreased. Make sure that the tankless water heater or heaters have been properly sized.
Another similarity between the two water heaters is that it always takes at least a few seconds for hot water to reach the faucet. However, with tankless heaters, this delay can be a little longer, resulting in more water waste. This will depend on how close the heater is to the hot water faucet — if your kitchen and master bath are located close together, you’ll ideally install the tankless heater in that area. Some tankless models also offer circulating systems which will decrease wait time.