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Should I Install a Tankless (Demand) Water Heater?
Tankless or “On-Demand” water heaters are a great alternative to the traditional tank type water heaters of old. They provide unlimited, continuous hot water and eliminate wasteful reheating of water stored in a tank. Tankless Water Heaters require less space, and less energy than old style tank water heaters. A tankless unit can be installed as a replacement to your old tank type water heater and are easily installed as part of a remodel or in new construction.
Whether you are considering a tankless water heater to reduce your utility bills, for environmental concerns, to provide more hot water for your family or you just want the luxury of long, long, hot showers, a tankless water heater may just be the water heater for you. Long popular in Japan and Europe, demand water heaters are gaining popularity in the U.S. Old myths are being dispelled and legions of “converts” recommend them heartitly.
A tankless water heater heats water very rapidly, on demand. When a hot water tap is turned on, water begins to flow and is detected by the flow sensor in the water heater. A water pipe winds back and forth through the heat exchanger and water quickly reaches the desired temperature. Once hot water begins flowing, it will continue until the hot water tap is turned off. This is how unlimited hot water is supplied. With a traditional tank style water heater, 40 to 50 gallons of water is kept hot until it is needed. When hot water is used, it is drawn from the storage tank. The heater also begins heating water, but it cannot heat water as quickly as it is being used. So, once the stored supply is used up, the water temperature drops dramatically. In a typical 50 gallon water heater you really only have about 35-40 gallons of usable hot water because cold water is going to the bottom of the tank and mixing with the hot water.
Save Money and Save the Environment
Because on-demand water heaters don’t heat water until water flow is detected, no energy is wasted keeping water hot. Tank style heaters store hot water and periodically fire up to reheat water, day and night. This constant reheating of water is very wasteful. A demand water heater can reduce utility bills while reducing the emission of carbon monoxide and other pollutants.
There is another consideration, if you have unlimited hot water, will you start taking longer showers? Many of us are used to taking a shower of 5 minutes or so, because after that the water starts to get cold. If you aren’t forced out by cold water, will you stay for an extra minute or two? An extra two minutes, added to a 5 minute shower, results in 40% more water usage and the energy required to heat the water. In other words, you could wipe out any utility savings just by lingering in the shower. On the other hand, heating water day and night creates a lot of waste, so a little extra time in the shower may not wipe out all the savings. Exact numbers depend on the hot water usage patterns in your home and the efficiency (or inefficiency) of your tank style water heater.
Facts and Myths about Demand Water Heaters
Old myths about tankless water heaters persist and discourage some people from ever considering one for their home. Let’s clear up some misconceptions. First, demand water heaters are sometimes called instantaneous water heaters. The name leads to a common misconception, that hot water comes out of the tap instantly. Not true. Just as with a tank water heater, hot water must travel through your home’s plumbing system before it reaches the tap. If it takes 60 seconds for hot water to reach your tap with a tank heater, it might take 70 seconds for a tankless heater. The extra few seconds is the time it takes a tankless unit to sense hot water demand, fire up the burner and bring the first bit of cold water up to the required temperature. There are ways to get instant hot, including the use a recirculation pumps, locating the water heater close to where the water will be used or with similarly named product which is typically used only with a sink.
Facts and Myths about Demand Water Heaters…continued
Another myth is that tankless water heaters cannot really supply all the hot water that they claim. This myth stems from the fact that tankless water heaters require a lot more thought when making a selection. With tank style heaters, you simply pick the tank size that most closely matches expected demand. In fact, they are often rated and selected based upon the number of people living in a household. Tankless water heaters require that other factors be considered, including the starting cold water temperature and the gallons per minute (GPM) of simultaneous demand. When the proper sized unit is selected and correctly installed, it can deliver all the continuous hot water you require.
Tankless water heaters are too expensive. While they are more expensive than tank style heaters, they also last 2 to 3 times longer than tank heaters. When you take their life span into consideration, they are actually competitive with tank heaters. Add to that reduced energy costs, the elimination of service expense to install 1 or 2 replacement tank heaters over 20 years and the all the perks of continuous hot water and they are definitely not more expensive over the long run.
Finally, tankless water heaters have a reputation that they can provide only lukewarm water to the tap at a sink. This reputation is not entirely accurate but it can be a weakness with tankless water heaters. First, let us consider how the unit works. As we explained earlier, they sense water flow and then fire up to heat the water. However, they require a minimum flow rate before they will begin heating. This is good because it means they don’t operate when a tap is dripping or someone leaves the tap on a little bit. But if you turn on the tap for just a gentle flow, it might not be enough to initiate heating. Add to this the extra few seconds it takes for the unit to fire up and produce hot water, brief use of hot water at the sink may be result in little or no hot water. The problem can be resolved by using hot water at full flow and/or by augmenting the hot water supply with a small, local heater at the sink. Hot water circulating systems also can eliminate the problem.
Choosing the Right Tankless Water Heater
If you have decided to install a tankless water heating in your home, you have some options. The best thing you can do is involve a plumber who has experience with tankless water heaters. We have over 20 years experience with tankless water heating at ABT. We are an authorized Rinnia service and installation contractor. If you run into a plumber who has nothing good to say about tankless water heaters they are either inexperienced with tankless water heaters or unqualified, in either case avoid such plumbers.
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