When you picture a traditional water heater, the first thing you probably think of is its tank. A conventional water heater consists of a storage tank that holds its heating components and a reservoir of hot water for when you need it. The tank is the part of the fixture that needs the most maintenance. If your water heater breaks down, chances are the tank is the problem. A water heater’s tank even defines the life expectancy of the fixture; generally, when the tank goes, the heater goes.
So, given how important a water heater tank is, how do tankless water heaters even work? How could you be sure you’d get hot water on demand? Tankless water heaters sound like a strange concept, which is why we put together this FAQ blog. Here’s your guide to everything you should know about tankless water heaters for the next time you need to replace an old tank.
What is a Tankless Water Heater?
Tankless water heaters are a type of water heater designed to provide hot water without needing a large storage tank. They’re also referred to as a “hot water on demand system” or “instantaneous” water heaters as well. You can think of a tankless water heater as a water heater that never gets cold!
Conventional water heaters use their tanks to heat up water in advance and reserve it in a storage tank for when you need it. Tankless water heaters only heat water as necessary. They don’t need to “reserve” hot water in advance, which means they don’t need a tank.
How Do Tankless Water Heaters Work?
When you turn on a hot water tap, cold water from your home’s water supply flows into the tankless heater on its way to you. When the heater senses water pass through it, it activates either a natural gas burner or an electric element in the unit itself.
The gas or electric element heats the cold water directly as it passes through the unit. When the water reaches you, it’s just as hot as it would be if it had been heated by a conventional unit. When you turn the hot water tap off, cold water stops flowing through the tankless water heater, and the element shuts off.
Pros and Cons of a Tankless Water Heater?
This all sounds great, but you might be wondering about the pros and cons of an on demand water system. Let’s start with the pros.
Whereas conventional heaters need to heat reserve water, tankless water heaters only activate when you need them. They’re active for considerably less time than conventional water heaters, which makes them cost-effective and great for energy savings. According to energy.gov, tankless water heaters are 24-34% more energy efficient than conventional water heaters in homes that use 41 gallons of water or less per day. The average homeowner would save more than $100 a year if they switched to a tankless water heater.
All traditional water heaters experience problems when they get old enough, no matter how well taken care of they are. Most last between 8-12 years before they need to be replaced because of corrosion, rust, or leaking. Tankless water heaters don’t have tank problems, and they don’t strain under continuous operation, which means a longer life expectancy. Tankless water heaters often last 20 years or more.
Do Tankless Water Heaters Run Out of Hot Water?
There must be a catch right? At this point you might be thinking tankless water heaters sound too good to be true, which begs the question, do tankless water heaters ever run out of hot water? The short answer is, no! Unless the tankless system is being overwhelmed by demand, such as multiple hot water systems in use at the same time, the on demand hot water system will provide you with instant hot water from your cold water system whenever you need it.
How Hot Does a Tankless Water Heater Get?
A fair question, will my tankless water heater get as warm and toasty as the traditional reserve I’m used to? Depending on the make and model, a majority of tankless water heaters have an adjustable temperature setting and will provide you with water around 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Tankless models can get as hot as 140 degrees though, which is generally much hotter than you want for any relaxing shower or bath.
How Long Does a Tankless Water Heater Last?
Today’s tankless water heaters can last up to 25 years. The absence of a tank, which is prone to corrosion and other unavoidable maintenance issues, extends the life expectancy of a tankless variety by nearly double. Many people find the slightly higher cost of installation for tankless water heaters to be worth it for this reason alone.
Is a Tankless Water Heater Right for Me?
Tankless water heaters tend to be most effective in smaller households. Most tankless water heaters are capable of supplying around 2-5 gallons of hot water per minute. If you’re using more than 2-5 gallons of hot water per minute, a tankless water heater my have trouble keeping pace.
Conventional water heaters may more effectively produce hot water for everyone in households where a lot of people live. Tankless water heaters also cost a little more to purchase and install than conventional heaters. They’re a popular choice for apartments or single residences, where owners doesn’t want to deal with water tanks.
Tankless water heaters may not be the perfect solution for everyone, but they are an exciting development in making everyday household functions more efficient and effective.
If you’re interested in learning more about or installing a tankless water heater, Mike Diamond can help you find the right one for you. All you have to do is call today to ask questions or schedule an appointment, and our smell-good experts will make sure you come away happy, and–most importantly–with plenty of warm water.