Is a Tankless Water Heater Right for You?

The Pros and Cons of Installing a Tankless System

Behold the traditional water heater.

Often large, sometimes noisy, these space-consuming metal cylinders of hot water storage eat up a closet or garage corner in most American homes.

For those wanting to ditch these tanks and reclaim their space, tankless hot water heaters are a popular alternative.

They are often featured as a desirable selling point in home sales listings. Tankless water heaters are different from traditional tanks in that they don’t have to store hot water for available use. Tankless units have a flow-sensing device that activates when a hot water tap is opened. The tankless unit then heats the water flowing over it via electricity or natural gas and sends the water directly to where it is needed. Once the tap is closed, the water flow stops and the heating element is automatically turned off.

Sounds efficient and space-saving, but is it right for you?

The Pros:

  1.   Size: They are wall-mounted and much smaller than traditional hot water heater tanks. Floor space reclaimed!
  2.   Value: Very popular in smaller homes where space-friendly systems are highly valued. They are considered a plus in adding market value to a home.
  3.   Annual Cost: They are energy efficient and have been reported to save up to 50% on a home’s annual energy costs.
  4.   Flood-proof: If a tankless unit ever fails, it will not release gallons and gallons of water into your home, saving you from potentially catastrophic flood damage.
  5.   Lifespan: Tankless water heaters have a lifespan of about 20 years, which is double of traditional hot water tanks.

The Cons:

  1.   Initial Cost: Tankless units are more expensive initially. An electric model runs between $500 to $700 dollars which is comparable to a traditional tank heater. A natural gas tankless model runs $1,000 to $1,200. When installing a tankless system for the first time, there is almost always existing piping that must be extended or relocated and gas units require safe venting to prevent carbon monoxide buildup.It’s estimated that it takes about 20 years to recoup the installation cost of a tankless system through energy bill savings.
  2.   Time: Flow rate – or GPM (Gallons Per Minute)–is everything. The average GPM from a tankless unit is between two to five gallons and that may not be enough capacity if multiple people or appliances in the house are using hot water at the same time. If you feel you’ll be demanding more from your tankless unit, be sure to research higher GPM models. You may even need to install multiple tankless units, however, that can get cost prohibitive quickly.
  3.   Power Outages: If power goes out, your tankless system won’t work and there’s immediately no hot water. A traditional tank stores water, providing you a limited supply of hot water after the power goes out.
  4.   Hard Water Damage: Hard water can be taxing on any hot water heater, traditional or tankless. However, tankless units are particularly susceptible to failure due to hard water. They also need to be flushed monthly and have their filters replaced, whereas a traditional tank only needs to be flushed every one to two years.) Failure to do monthly maintenance on a tankless unit can cause it serious damage in about 24 months, depending on the water quality. It may also void any manufacturer’s warranty.

If you’ve decided tankless is the way to go, you need to decide electric or gas?

  •   Electric: It costs less both to buy and install an electric model and they are easier to maintain than a gas unit. You’ll want to be sure you’ve selected a model that can meet the GPM demand based on household occupancy and hot water usage.
  •   Gas: They are available in a large variety of models and sizes. One consideration here is that changing from an electric conventional tank water heater to a gas tankless heater may require a complicated retrofit with piping and meter. You’d also need to create a proper and safe way to vent a gas unit.

For a household of one or two people, a tankless electric unit will probably be adequate. For larger households, a gas-fired tankless water heater is probably the way to go.

Let the professionals at Ben Franklin Plumbing provide you with a free consultation to determine if a tankless hot water system is the way to go. Our monthly service and product specials can save you money!

Contact us or call our 24/7 customer service line today (704) 802-1379