Pros and Cons of Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless Water Heater

There is nothing more frustrating than stepping in the shower only to find out there’s no hot water. You’re left with a choice to either wait for more water to heat or take a cold shower. Additionally, the process of heating and reheating water occurs many times throughout the day. This wastes energy and drives up your utility bill. Both of these issues can be resolved with a tankless water heater.

What is a Tankless Water Heater?

A tankless water heater is quicker and more efficient at heating water. They employ either an electric coil or gas burner to heat water on demand as it passes through the water heater.

While this may require more power initially, as only water that is used is heated, energy and money are saved in the long run. A study done by Consumer Reports concluded that a tankless water heater is 22 percent more efficient than a standard-tank water heater.

Pros of a Tankless Water Heater

Water is Instantly Heated

A traditional water heater needs quite a bit of time to heat water. Precious time you could have spent taking a nice hot shower after a long day of work. A tankless water heater instantly starts the heating process providing you with hot water in just a few minutes.

Keep in mind though that if the need for hot water in your home is high, such as in the case of multiple bathrooms frequently used at once, then you need to consider getting a bigger unit. For smaller heaters, the demand of two people taking a hot shower at the same time may be too much.

A qualified hot water heater installer will be able to help you determine an adequately sized unit for your needs.

More Cost Efficient in the Long Run

With the help of Consumer Reports, we have already established that tankless water heaters require less energy than traditional ones. The fact that they use less energy translates to saving on your energy bill.

On average a household can save $100 annually by switching to a tankless water heater. $100 may not seem like a lot at first, but it certainly adds up given the useful life of a water system is often upwards of 20 years.

Additionally, in the US, you can even receive a 10 percent tax credit for installing or converting to a tankless water heater. These savings along with the environmental consideration of less natural-resource use are a win-win of tankless systems.

Lasts Longer

As mentioned earlier, tankless water heaters generally have a lifespan of 20 years or more as compared to standard-tank water heaters which last about a decade. This means in the lifespan of one tankless water heater you would probably end up using two traditional water heaters—saving you even more time and money.

Keep in mind that the useful life of your water system also depends on how you maintain your heater. That 20-year lifespan is assuming your system was serviced regularly and well taken care of.

An additional benefit with a tankless water heater is that they often have more extended warranties. Many manufacturers offer warranties or an option to upgrade your warranty plan for up to 20 years, which is the typically the lifespan of the product.

Compact Size

As the name states, tankless water heaters are without a tank. This saves you a lot of space in your home. For example, water heaters for large homes can often require tank sizes upwards of 50 gallons. They stand 5 to  6 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet across. In a small home, that’s a fair amount of floor space.

Tankless water heaters, on the other hand, are usually quite compact being less than a foot wide and only a few feet tall. They can easily be mounted on a wall saving you space and providing you with more convenience.

Cons of a Tankless Water Heater

Water Temperature May Fluctuate

An inconsistency of water temperature is one of the most common complaints you will find with tankless water heaters. Manufacturers will tell you that this is due to multiple individuals in the house using water.

While a tankless heater works to heat water immediately, when there is a constant flow of water all at the same time, the water temperature may fluctuate due to the excess demand.

With simultaneous use not only does the temperature fluctuate, but there may even come a point where you run out of hot water if demand far exceeds the speed at which the tank can heat water. This means that if multiple users are using hot water all at once, the water won’t be heated properly before reaching the individuals resulting in cooler water.

Initial Cost is High

Even if you opt for the cheapest tankless water heater available, it will likely cost a couple hundred dollars more than a decent traditional model. The initial cost for a tankless water heater is high. The difference is often at minimum around $400. While this may be too much for some individuals to bear, keep in mind that in the long run, you end up saving money.

Maintenance cost for tankless heaters is also higher than with standard-tank water heaters. Most manufacturers require annual maintenance and the addition of water softener, which obviously add to the cost of maintaining the heater.

Gas Models May Require Additional Piping

For models with a gas burner, there may be a need to re-route a gas line or have a new one installed. This can lead to additional cost and work, which makes the price of the initial setup go up even more.

Keep in mind that a gas system will need to be piped in regardless of the presence of a tank, but because tankless systems are often wall mounted, more black iron may be required to reach the tank.

In Conclusion

Tankless hot water heaters are a great way to live more efficiently, save money, and reduce your carbon footprint. While their initial set-up cost is often far higher than a traditional tank water heater, this cost is recouped on the long run via savings on monthly utility bills and a longer useful life. Local or federal tax rebates may also aid in reducing this cost.

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