Tankless water heaters have become all the rage, but believe it or not, they can also be a “source” of rage.
A few times every year, customers call us with tales of tankless woe. The luster of the new technology they were so excited about has been tarnished by problems from day one. And they’re so fed up, that instead of asking for a fix, they simply want to revert back to the standard storage water heater. Sadly enough, in most cases the culprit was simply an unqualified installer and/or an inferior product.
Tankless water heaters for residential or commercial use actually work very well when the proper unit is installed correctly. But when corners are cut the unit can short cycle, soot up, provide inadequate heat, or simply not heat at all. If you are ready to go “tankless”, our very first recommendation is to have a licensed Plumber or HVAC technician perform the installation.
The advantages of going tankless are often discussed… but could there be a downside upgrading to this newer technology? Hopefully this penny’s worth of information will make you a pound wiser.
PROS: The most obvious benefits to a tankless water heater are energy efficiency and compactness. In addition:
- Most good quality residential units will have a 15-year heat exchanger warranty.
- Replacement is usually less labor intensive than the initial installation, so replacement cost becomes much more affordable.
- Most brands are designed to heat only when water is running through the unit, saving energy and money.
- There is no longer a tank limiting the quantity of hot water, and short showers become a thing of the past.
- Several units can be plumbed together to increase the amount of hot water required (typically beneficial for commercial installations where high volume of hot water is necessary).
CONS: In order to be an “informed” buyer, here are a few of the realities of tankless water heaters that should be considered before making a purchase:
- Tankless water heaters require power to operate the controls and gas valve.
- They usually cannot use the same vent pipe or gas pipe as the conventional water heater and will typically need to be upgraded.
- Some brands can create a “cold sandwich” effect by the way they operate when used in short spurts.
- No storage of hot water is available in case of a power or gas outage.
- Since water is heated as it passes through the unit, there are limitations to how many faucets can be in operation at once.
Most companies will give free estimates to install a tankless water heater. Since a tankless water heater is typically a more significant job than simply replacing a conventional storage water heater with the identical tank, it is best to plan this installation instead of waiting for your current water heater to leak.
Planning your tankless water heater purchase will allow time for thorough and proper installation, and help you to take advantage of all the options. It’s a much better scenario than upgrading while you’re trying to manage the emergency of getting your hot water back in service.
When comparing products and installers, be wary of the cheapest bids. This is one installation that you don’t want to cut corners on. It could ultimately cost you more money in repairs, shorten the lifetime of the unit, and/or keep the water heater from living up to its promises.
Tankless water heaters are used all over the world and can be an efficient and comfortable source of hot water. Are they worth it? We’ll leave that for you to decide.
Bruce Davis Jr.
Bruce is a second generation plumber and HVAC technician. He earned his Commercial Plumbing License and later became N.A.T.E. Certified and E.P.A. Refrigerant Certified for HVAC service and repair for commercial and residential HVAC appliances. Bruce has years of experience as an HVAC Technician, Boiler Technician, and Plumber. He is now General Manager for the company he has been with his entire career and oversees the Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning business for Day & Nite Plumbing & Heating, Inc.