Should I Buy a Tankless Hot Water Heater?
Tankless hot water heaters are increasing in both availability and popularity. They are also called demand water heaters, or instant water heaters because they provide hot water only as it is needed in the amount that it is needed. This saves you money because it only heats the amount of water you need rather than an entire tank.
Conventional water heaters heat an entire tank full of water. When it begins to cool off the heat cycles back on and heats the water back up to the optimum temperature. The cost to heat that much water and then maintain the temperature is a large part of your energy bill. If you typically use less than forty gallons of water a day a tankless hot water heater can save you up to 34 percent.
If that was the entire reason for getting a tankless water heater it would be an excellent one but the truth is it isn't the only reason to buy one. An on demand heater is good for the environment and it saves space in your home. These water heaters are especially suitable for vintage homes that did not have an area provided for various types of modern technology. Often a closet or part of another room will be transformed into a storage area for various types of modern technology but then you lose space.
With the tiny tankless heater there is no need to compromise storage space or room size. It can be installed under a kitchen cabinet, along the back wall of a closet or in other out of the way places.
How to Choose a Tankless Hot Water Heater
The first choice that you have to make when you decide on an on demand heater makes all the other choices much easier. Should you choose gas or electric?
Often that choice is made for you, especially if you already own a home. Which you choose will depend largely on what you all ready have installed. If your house is not piped for gas then an electric heater is the best choice. If it is piped for gas then what you choose will depend on the size of the pipes and your budget.
Choosing an Electric Tankless Water Heater
You need to find out the electrical requirements of the heater and match it against what your house can provide. When you live in a vintage home it is important to have the wiring checked and make sure that your home and the electric tankless water heater that you have chosen are compatible in these three areas:
- Circuit breaker
Talk to a licensed electrician about your plans and discuss your choices with him. It could save you a lot of money in the long run.
Do you have natural gas or propane? It will make a difference in the water heater that you purchase. Again, it is important that you consult with a specialist before you buy.
Talk to the gas company about your existing lines. Ask if they will support your water heater. Also, have a plumber come out and check the pipes inside the house. They have to be a certain width to support the on demand heater and some older homes have pipes that are simply too narrow. It can be costly to have them changed. Where ever you choose to put your water heater you'll have to have it vented as well.
It is much easier to plan for these things before you buy!
How to Calculate Water Hot Usage
Whichever type you choose you will need to have an idea of how much hot water you will be using at any one time. Each activity uses a different amount of hot water.
Here are some examples of the number of gallons it takes to do various everyday chores:
- Washing hands and face 2
- Showering 20
- Bathing 20
- Shaving 2
- Preparing food 5
- Washing machine 32
- Hand dishwashing 4
- Dishwasher 10
So if you plan to shower while the dishwasher is being run then you will need your water heater to be able to handle 30 gallons in an hour. Different types of water heaters have different capabilities. You should figure what your largest hot water use might be and install a water heater that can handle that much hot water.
This is an easy to use online caluclator to compare the capabilites of different tankless hot water heaters.
The Top Rated Tankless Hot Water Heaters
The top five rated tankless water heaters, rated by consumer reports are:
- Kenmore Power Saver 40 gallon
- Kenmore Power Saver 50 gallon gas
- Kenmore Power Saver 40 Gallon electric
- Takagi Flash Series T -K 2
- Bosch Power Star AE 125
The Kenmores are all under $500.00 while the Bosch and Takagi are in the $600 to $1,000 range, USD. Interestingly, the Kenmores all have better ratings as well as better warranties.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Like anything else tankless water heaters have good things and bad things about them. The good stuff includes:
- Better energy usage
- Doesn't take a lot of roomG
- Great for the environment
- Lasts twice as long as a conventional water heater
You need to think about the bad stuff, too.
- Tankless hot water heaters typically have trouble heating cold water. If you live in the north and your ground water gets very cold in the winter the tankless heater may not be able to handle the load the way you want.
- Tankless heaters cost more
- Tankless heaters cost more to install
- It is difficult to retrofit a home for a tankless
So, which should you choose? That is something only you can decide. For a small family, building a new home in a mild climate a tankless is probably the perfect choice. For a large family in an old house in a cold climate the conventional tank heater may be the better choice.
Consult with your plumber and power company to find the best fit for your family.