Tankless water heaters have come a long way in the last decade, with new innovations solving many of the problems of early models and bringing down the cost of these devices. Home and business owners looking for a new hot water heater should discuss tankless options with their local plumber to determine if this solution suits their needs.
Tankless water heaters heat water directly as it is used, rather than pre-heating water and storing it in a tank until it’s needed. When someone turns on a hot water tap, cold water travels through the pipe into the unit where either a gas burner or electric element heats it. Tankless water heaters come in two varieties, point-of-use heaters and whole-house models.
Point-of-use tankless water heaters are smaller than whole-house systems and provide hot water to just one or two outlets. For example, a point-of-use model might provide hot water to just your shower or to your kitchen sink. Whole-house systems are larger and can operate more outlets. Point-of-use systems are typically electric-powered, while whole house systems usually run off of natural gas or propane.
The first tankless water heater was invented in the 1920s by Stiebel Eltron, a German company founded by Dr. Theodor Stiebel. Stiebel, a mechanical engineer and entrepreneur, founded his company in 1924 and it remains involved in manufacturing central heating products to this day.
While quite popular in Japan and Europe, it wasn’t until the last few decades that tankless water heaters began gaining popularity over traditional water heaters in the U.S., as the technology to make them affordable and reliable took time to develop. Advances in technology have helped reduce the lag time between faucets being turned on and hot water flowing from them and other issues that have held back tankless water heaters from greater acceptance. The market for electric tankless water heaters is expected to grow by 8.7 percent between 2016 and 2024. The combined market for both gas and electric tankless water heaters is set to grow at 8.88 percent over the same time period.
Why are tankless water heaters taking up an increasing share of the water heater market? Consider these critical advantages:
- In most circumstances, tankless water heaters are more energy efficient than storage tank water heaters. Conventional storage tank water heaters must heat and store sufficient water to meet user needs. Because heated water is stored, some of the energy used to heat the water is lost. Tankless heaters only heat water as it is needed, meaning little energy is wasted. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that tankless water heaters are typically 24 to 34 percent more energy efficient than traditional storage tank water heaters. The efficiency savings are less for homes that use a lot of hot water, however. The Energy department estimates that in a home that uses around 86 gallons of hot water per day, tankless water heaters are only 8 to 14 percent more energy efficient.
- Reduced energy usage translate to lower electricity bills. The Energy Department estimates the average home will save about $100 per year in energy costs by installing a tankless water heater. Should energy prices spike, homeowners who act now by installing tankless water heaters could realize even greater savings.
- Conventional storage tank water heaters take up quite a bit of space. In urban areas or in small homes, space is at a premium. By installing a tankless water heater, valuable space that can be repurposed for closet storage or to increase the size of a room is saved. Tankless water heaters can be installed under cabinets or in small spaces within a closet. Some models can even be installed outdoors with an antifreeze kit.
- Tankless water heaters have a longer lifespan than conventional storage tank water heaters. In many cases, a tankless water heater will last five to 10 years longer than a traditional water heater. This increased longevity should be weighed when you’re considering the larger upfront cost of purchasing a tankless water heater.
- Tankless water heaters are environmentally friendly. Because they use less energy, they help overall electricity conservation efforts. Also, if you’re using an electric model, your unit will produce no greenhouse gases.
- Tankless water heaters often provide cleaner water than that supplied by conventional water heaters. Storage tanks will accumulate sediment and rust over the years which can contaminate water. Tankless heaters provide water free of these contaminants.
- Various governments offer tax incentives for consumers to purchase tankless water heaters. For example, the federal government gives a $300 tax rebate toward the purchase of most tankless units.
- With a tankless water heater, you’ll never run out of hot water. Conventional storage tank water heaters only provide the amount of hot water stored in the tank. When it runs out, users must wait for the device to heat up more hot water. Tankless water heaters provide a continuous supply of hot water. The flow of water may be lighter than that provided by a conventional storage tank heater, but the supply is constant.
Signs It’s Time For A New Water Heater
Water heaters are one of those vital household appliances that we never think about until they stop working. However, not paying attention to your water heater can cost you even if it’s still functioning. Older models often have a long decline before they finally quit working, and during that time they perform less efficiently than they did at their peak. Here are a few warning signs that your traditional water heater is getting on in years and may need replacement:
- It’s more than 10 years old – Traditional water heaters have a lifespan of a little more than 10 years. If your heater’s more than 10 years old, it may function just fine for several more years, but it is worth having it checked for leaks or decreases in efficiency.
- Noise – If your water heater makes a lot of noise, it’s often a sign of sediment build-up on the bottom of the tank. Accumulation of hardened sediment will reduce efficiency and may cause eventual leaks.
- Water around the tank – If there’s water around the tank, that’s evidence of a small leak or fracture. In time this will expand and cause more leaking, which may cause water damage to your home. If your tank is leaking, you need to replace it soon.
- Unexpected spike in hot water bills – If your hot water bills have climbed in recent months, but your usage has not and your electric or gas company have not adjusted rates, chances are that your water heater may have a problem and needs repair or replacement.
- Decrease in available hot water – If you notice that the hot water runs out quicker or that you’re getting warm water, but not hot water, this can indicate problems with your water heater that require repair or replacement.
When choosing a company to provide water heater installation or repair services, it pays to find a firm with a good local reputation and years of experience. For consumers purchasing a tankless water heater, it is certainly worthwhile to find professionals with experience in these types of water heaters, as they differ significantly from traditional water heaters.
Met Plumbing provides a full range of plumbing maintenance and repair services, including tankless water heater installation, to customers in the Houston, TX area. Property owners seeking more cost-effective, earth-friendly water heating options should contact Met Plumbing today for a consultation regarding plumbing solutions that will meet their needs and their budget.