In This Guide
So, let’s be realistic about something for a second, shall we? If those of you reading this are homeowners, there is a very good chance that within the next five to ten years — depending on when you bought the last one — that you will be replacing your current water heating system that provides hot water to you and all of the other residents of your home. Now, if you are anything like me (before my latest replacement) and most of the current societal demographic, you currently own a traditional, storage-tank-style hot water tank that is sitting in a storage closet or a basement taking up quite a bit of space and electricity to provide the hot water needs of your family. Well, hopefully like I did this last time around, you will gladly consider changing over to the newest, most efficient type of water heating system to hit the market in the last 50 or so years — the tankless water heater.
So, you may or may not have heard of this new type of technology, to put it quite simply — a tankless water heater is just that — a water heater without a tank. The system itself is generally a small box that hangs on the wall with the internal components necessary to heat water on-demand as it passes through the system. With one of these heaters installed, gone are the days of sitting around for 20-30 minutes while your storage tank fills up and then is slowly heated. With these tankless systems, the water is drawn through the device, which then heat water only when needed to be used. A flow sensor turns on the gas burner or electric element after cold water is drawn up when the hot water tap is turned on. In turn, a part called a heat exchanger rapidly heats up the water to the temperature pre-set by the end user (that’s you!). Other than that, the principle by which the water is heated is actually very similar to that of a traditional storage tank heater, but again, the water is only heated by the components as it is needed. By operating in such a manner, these systems actually perform with better efficiency than traditional storage tank heaters, which will be described in great detail below. Additionally, there is a second type of tankless heater, certified by ENERGY STAR, called a “gas condensing” tankless heater that takes advantage of a second heat exchanger to pull more heat from the initial gas combustion. These “gas condensing” heaters require a little bit of an extensive undertaking, requiring a ventilation system for installation, but have benefits of their own as well, also to be described in the following sections.
As technology advances in our society, we usually see the main benefits of upgrading to this new type of technology realized as coming in the form of increased convenience, smaller size, more efficient operation, and most importantly, improved ease of use by the consumer. All of these benefits can be seen in the new tankless water heaters hitting the market versus the old storage-tank types that we all grew up with. First and foremost, the most obvious benefit to the new tankless system is going to be easily realized with the smaller size of these systems. However, there are benefits that extend far beyond the smaller size, and they can be easily summed up as followed:
Better Safety and Cleaner Water
With a tankless system, you will immediately notice a benefit of cleaner water, because as you only use the hot water as you need it, you will avoid having to use water that has been store inside of a tank that has been gathering scale and rust over the years. You will also immediately place yourself and your family at less of a chance for scalding water to make it through the pipes and faucets, thereby preventing your children from suffering from unnecessary burns.
Longer Lasting Technology
Tankless water heaters generally have a lifespan that is twice as long as traditional heaters with a storage tank. This means that your new tankless water heater may last as long as 20 years before needing replacements! Better yet, most manufacturers provide much longer warranties than they do on their storage-tank counterparts, meaning that any repairs will cost much less for a lot longer!
Energy Efficient and Environmentally Friendly
Tankless heaters not only save you space in your home, but they also save you money on your energy bill! That’s right, most households actually end up seeing a decrease in their utility bill by up to 40% of the total bill. Now, that’s money directly in your pocket, meaning more free money for the things that matter in life. Furthermore, if you are concerned about our environment like I am, you can rest assured that you are doing your fair share by buying a tankless water system, as they are up to 30% more efficient than their tanked relatives!
The Convenience of On-Demand Hot Water
Tankless systems heat the water as you need it, we have discussed that. What this also means, though, is that they also heat the water not only as you need it, but for as long as you need it! This means no more cold water in the middle of your long shower after a hard day’s work and no more waiting for another of your member of your household to get done with his/her shower before running the dishwasher or washing machine.
Now, just like a regular storage-tank heater, tankless water heaters come in gas and electric types. If you live in a home that only has the ability to run an electric type, then your decision has been made for you. However, if you live in a part of the country and in a home that uses gas as a source of energy and heating, you may be wondering what type is the best? Well, there is really no simple answer to this, as it will depend on your preferences, your current home set up, and what is important to you. Let’s look at a few of the factors that may help you determine which is best for your family:
If you are the type of person who cannot afford a large, lump-sum initial investment, then the electric type may be for you. These generally costs quite a bit less up-front ($500-700) than their gas cousins ($1,000 and above), especially when dealing with very high-quality systems.
Efficiency/Cost of Ownership
This is another area that is a huge deciding factor. Gas-type tankless heaters are about 85% efficient, while most electric tankless heaters are approximately 98% efficient or higher. Now, while the cost of natural gas may be slightly lower than electricity, this benefit is generally lost because of the better efficiency of the electric units. Also, gas prices can fluctuate at a much faster pace than electricity.
Ongoing operating costs, however, are where gas heaters win the battle. While they may lose about 10%-15% on the efficiency side of things, they can make up for this by costing about 10%-15% less to operate over the long term, taking into consideration replaceable parts and repair costs. This can also depend on whether your area is services by liquid propane gas or by natural gas.
Electric water heaters are very small with straightforward installation requirements and can be stored in a place as convenient as a closet. Gas types are slightly larger and require pretty complex combustion/venting systems and must be installed in an area suitable to both. The electric tank is definitely the winner in this category.
Homeowner Preference and Water Usage Needs/Habits
Some people simply feel that gas is unsafe. These people who live in areas where gas is a necessity for heating during the winter may want to limit or even eliminate the need for any other gas appliances. In this case, the electric tankless heater will always be the better option. Environmentally-concerned homeowners will also go with the electric type, because even though both types of tankless systems are more eco-friendly than tank-style heaters, the electric tankless is the most eco-friendly of them all. On the other hand, while the 3-8 gallons per minute that can be supplied by electric heaters may be enough for most families, there may be some that require more than that, and in this case, they may want to opt for a larger gas system.
When it comes to tankless water heaters, like with all things, size does matter. There are a few things to consider when choosing the right size of a tankless water heater for your house or business that may not seem quite the same as when purchasing the old storage-tank type.
The first thing that you need to consider is the total number of devices that you wish to run from the system. You will also need to calculate the total “flow rate” of these devices. To do this, lets say that you are planning to run a hot water tap with a flow rate of 0.75 gallons per minute along with a shower that has an average flow of 3.5 gallons per minute. In order to calculate the demand needed, you would add up these two — meaning that you would need a system with at least 4.25 gallons per minute.
Determine your temperature rise by subtracting the incoming water temp from the output temp. If you life in a part of the country with a more arid climate, the temperature of your water will already be much higher. The majority of households will be fine with a household water temperature between 105-115 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are in an area that has an incoming water temperature of 65, then you would need a heater that will produce a rise in temperature of at least 40 degrees. You have to take into consideration the lowest that the incoming water temperature will be, though. For this information, check with your local utility company.
Running a real world example from steps 1 and 2, let’s assume that your average shower will be 105 degrees and will use 3.75 gallons of water. If you want to run two showers at once and your incoming water temp is 65 degrees, you will need to make sure that your new tankless system can produce a 40 degree rise in temperature at 7.5 gallons per minute.
Some other notes include using a reference point of 2.75 gallons per minute for a shower and around 1 gallon per minute for bathroom usage when determining your total concurrent water needs. It is very important that you do not underestimate this calculation, so going a little to the high end of your estimate would probably serve you the best benefit.
This is going to be, by far, one of the most important questions that you have while considering whether or not to switch from the antiquated storage-tank-style water heater over to the newer and more efficient and convenient tankless water heater. The good news here is that there are tankless water heaters that are very comparable to your current storage-tank heater, believe it or not. For example, while you may be able to get a budget electric tank-style heater brand-new from a major retailer for about $379.00; you can also get a pretty nice tankless system for the budget conscious consumer for only around $100 more than that. You will save that $100 in operating costs within the first couple of months, though, believe me! Now, you are not concerned about initial costs and are looking for a high-end tankless system that you will have absolutely no worries with, you can look to spend at least $700-1000 for an electric system and between $1200 to $1500 for a high-end gas tankless system. Otherwise, you can find products in between the low end of that spectrum all the way up to $2500 to $6000 or more for a fancy solar-powered type. You must take into consideration your installation costs as well, which will be more for a gas system than an electric one.
You will see a review under five stars here. Browse this group of products and you’re sure to find a new favorite that holds up to the highest standards.
This FIVE-STAR electric heater boasts whole-house heating with digital temperature control, proven reliability, and a low-profile design that will fit in your tiniest of spaces. The 24 plus offers a higher flow capacity than the 20 plus. The estimated electric bill savings for this model are between 15% to 20% per month! The manufacturer advertises this specific unit as the most technologically-advanced tankless system on the market today. If you have well water, install an inline filter before the water inlet to keep your heater working great.
This tankless gas-powered system boasts a 6.6 GPM max flow rate with a 140,000 BTU heating output. The cost for this system is very affordable, but since it is an indoor gas system, look to pay a little bit more for installation, as it does require 4-inch category III stainless steel venting for installation. Other features include inlet/outlet thermistors for constant temperature monitoring, ensuring that your water is the temperature that you want it to be, when you want it to be. Also included are a 10-year warranty on the heat exchanger and a 5-year warranty on parts.
This gas-powered heater is one of the more high-end heaters out there that is packed full of amazing features. Those who wish to purchase a top-of-the-line and sleekly designed heater will not be disappointed. It is digitally-controlled with an MC-91-1US Error Code Indicator so you do not have to guess at any problems that may arise. It has a 10,300 – 180,000 BTU heating capacity, 82% thermal efficiency, and temperature settings between 98-140 degrees for residential usage. Its water usage capacity comes in at WHOPPING 7.5 gallons per minutes, which is enough hot water that even the largest family can take simultaneous hot showers without losing hot water. Since this is an advanced gas system, installation costs will probably be a little high, but if you can afford a high-end water heater, this is probably the least of your concerns. Comes with a 12-year warranty on heat exchanger and a 5-year warranty on parts as well as a 1-year labor warranty on residential installs.
This is an outdoor natural gas tankless heater with a 6.4 gallon per minute flow capability. Obviously, this does not come with the convenience of being able to be installed inside a closet, but on the other hand, by being installed outside, the venting requirements associated with most gas-type tankless systems are not necessary with this system. Also, being installed outside means that this takes up the least amount of square footage inside your home as possible — ZERO! It comes with a remote control for temperature control and puts off fewer emissions than many other gas-powered appliances. Like the high-end systems above, it is also 82% thermally efficient with an all-copper heat exchanger. Being an outdoor model, it must be hard-wired into your electrical system much in the same way that a heat pump or air conditioner is, which means that you may pay a little bit more for installation than if it plugged into to a wall-outlet — but this cost should be highly offset by the lower cost of the unit itself. This is an amazing offering from Rheem with a more than capable flow capability that will allow for multiple simultaneous hot water applications at the same time.