Are you considering replacing your traditional hot water heater with a tankless water heater? Tankless units are getting a lot of press these days, which has homeowners here in the Sarasota and Bradenton areas wondering if they should switch. Tankless water heaters, also known as on demand units or instantaneous water heaters, can be big energy and money savers. That, of course, doesn’t mean they’re right for every household.
The following information should help you decide if a tankless water heater is a good fit for your home:
The Plus Side of Tankless Water Heating
- Eliminate standby energy loss – A conventional water heater can provide many gallons of hot water at once because it stores a full tank at all times. Family members can generally take showers, use the dishwasher and do laundry at the same time without emptying the tank. That’s great, but it takes a lot of energy for the heater to keep its big supply of water hot constantly.
- Increase efficiency and save energy – Since a tankless water heater provides hot water only on demand, as needed, there’s no standby heat loss. When called for, as you turn on your faucet, the water is heated immediately. Cold water flows through small-diameter piping in the tankless unit and is heated with high-temperature electrical coils or a gas burner. You could reduce the water-heating portion of your energy bill by half.
- Avoid empty tank syndrome – If your family uses up the hot water supply stored in your current heater’s tank on a regular basis, you’ll need to wait a half hour or more for additional water to fill the tank and heat up. You might get an unpleasant surprise if you’re running late with no time to wait or if the supply runs out mid-shower.
- Little space is required – Tankless water heating units are about the size of a suitcase, so there are more installation and placement options.
On the Minus Side…
- There’s no tank – A tankless unit can’t give you a large amount of water at once since it doesn’t store any. This could be a liability if a few of your family members tend to use water at about the same time. Also, if you turn your hot water faucet on and off several times within a short period, you can get a shot of cold instead. The flow rate of a tankless unit is up to 5 gallons per minute (GPM), which generally covers two types of water usage at the same time, for instance the dishwasher and clothes washer. (In contrast, a traditional tank model could give you nearly 10 GPM.)
- More than one tankless unit may be needed – In order to match the water consumption needs of your home and family, a dedicated until can be installed, for example, to provide water for the laundry room. You could also opt to install tankless water heaters in a few different places in the house. This strategy could allow you to replace your old water heater and still meet all your water heating needs.
General Pricing Considerations
- Electric tankless water heaters – These are less expensive to purchase and install than gas units because they don’t require piping changes, as a gas-fired model might.
- Gas-fueled tankless water heating systems – The price can be up to double the price of a regular “tanked” water heater and a larger gas line (larger diameter) is often needed.
Determining Your Water Heating Needs
Your local HVAC and plumbing contractor will use the following information to plan your tankless water heater installation:
- Fixture flow rates
- Temperature of incoming cold water
- Typical usage patterns in your household, such as how many faucets are used at once
- Your average water usage, judging from recent water bills
- Whether your appliances need hot water. Some dishwashers and clothes washers heat their own water.
- Whether your gas and water supplies are adequate or if retrofitting with larger pipes is necessary
Your contractor can then explain any options concerning:
- Number of units needed to fulfill your home’s hot water needs
- Installation location(s) for flow needs and possible dedicated unit(s)
- Installation for proper direct venting
- Compliance with building codes
Which type of water heating system is best for your home? In the end, it’s an individualized decision that varies from one household to the next, but these considerations should help you get a general idea.
If you’re considering a tankless water heater for your home, contact Aqua Plumbing & Air for expert advice. We provide complete HVAC and plumbing services including system design, installation, repairs and maintenance services to homeowners in and around Sarasota.
Written by John Miller