Traditional storage tank water heaters have reigned supreme over the past several generations. The design of the storage tank water heater has not changed significantly since its invention by Philadelphia native Edwin Rudd in 1899. Though the materials and heating methods have changed, and though technology has made them more energy efficient over time, the general concept of a cylindrical tank of water made warm by a heat source has remained relatively unchanged.
Enter: The Tankless Water Heater
AKA, the on-demand water heater. Rather than storing heated water, a tankless version uses sensors to determine when hot water needs to flow. Like their storage tank cousins, there are gas and electric-powered models of tankless water heaters. Both types use different heating elements to heat the water as needed. With electric models, there might be more than one heating element and with gas, the sensors detect a flow of water and ignite a burner.
Benefits of Tankless Hot Water Heaters
Unlimited Hot Water Supply - Rewind it back to your grade school years. Did you get wise to the fact that the last one up had the misfortune of taking a barely warm shower before school so you set your alarm to get up before your siblings or parents? With a tankless water heater, the early bird doesn’t catch the worm, everyone does. The last one up will no longer be impacted by a storage tank's limited water-holding capacity. As long as your water heater is sufficiently sized for the number of people and water-using appliances in your household, the hot water will always flow.
Better Efficiency - Tankless water heaters only heat the water that is needed, as its needed. Storage tank water heaters on the other hand are constantly refilling and heating water, whether or not you need it. That means you are using and paying for more energy than you necessarily need. The Uniform Energy Factor (UEF) of tankless water heaters is 98% compared to 60-70% for storage tank models. This means that 98% of the energy being used is going toward its intended purpose: heating your water.
Cost Savings - Better efficiency means savings on your energy bill. There are federal and state programs to provide funds for income-eligible households to allow them to make energy-efficient replacements. There are also rebates available for most people who make the switch to energy efficiency.
Save Space - Imagine what you could do with that corner of your basement if you were to remove that bulky 50-gallon water heater. More storage? An extra bathroom? An extra seat at your basement bar? Tankless water heaters take up to ⅓ less space than storage tank heaters and some can even be wall-mounted, leaving you with extra floor space.
Longer Lifespan - We’ve all been there. It’s dead of winter, the sun hasn’t yet come up, and a hot shower is the only thing standing between you and a good day. But the water just doesn’t seem to want to move past tepid and feeling warm becomes a thing of the past.
It’s time to replace your water heater.
Even with regular flushing and maintenance, a typical water heater will give you ten years max. With a tankless version, you get twenty. TWENTY! That’s double the lifespan.
Potential Drawbacks of Tankless Water Heaters
Installation Requirements - Switching from a storage-tank water heater to a tankless version requires additional costs and steps that may not be the most convenient when it's an emergency replacement. Tankless versions typically come with bottom-mounted water connections rather than on top, so a plumber will have to extend the existing pipes. You also may have to have exhaust ventilation installed to allow for the exhaust to ventilate. Your new tankless model might be okay with a ½ inch gas pipe, but you likely will need to replace it with a ¾ inch pipe to accommodate a more powerful burner. At Potter HVAC, we will walk through all of this with our clients who want to make the switch to tankless so that there are no surprises.
Higher Up Front Costs - As with any new installation, especially energy-efficient ones, there will be more of a cost upfront than the more standard models. Tankless heaters are slightly more expensive, plus you may have some additional installation labor and materials costs.
Insufficient Hot Water - If the size of your tankless heater does not properly account for the number of people and appliances that use hot water in your household, the unit will be unable to supply the needed volume of hot water. An experienced HVAC professional will make absolutely sure you get the right size to meet your needs, so no one is left in the cold.
At Potter HVAC, we know you need a reliable water heater, no matter which type you choose to go with. Hot showers and clean laundry and dishes are not luxuries, they are essential to the comfort and health of your family. Whether you're looking for a new water heater or need repairs for your existing one, Potter Heating, Cooling, and Plumbing is here to help. We offer a wide range of services for both tank and tankless water heaters, so we can find the perfect solution for your needs. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.