Tankless water heaters: Pros and cons

Tankless water heaters are often go-to replacements for traditional water heaters, and there are a number of factors to consider before making the switch.

Tankless water heater

As the name implies, tankless water heaters heat water without storing it in a large tank. When a hot water tap is opened in your home, a sensor on the tankless water heater is triggered. The unit heats the water with an electric element or gas burner and then pushes the water to where it’s needed. When the faucet or shower is turned off, the tankless water heater senses that no more hot water is needed, and turns off the heating element.

Advantages of tankless water heater

  • No more cold showers. Since there’s no tank to hold water, you don’t have to worry about being the last one to shower. How water is sufficiently supplied.
  • No floor space needed. Tankless water heaters are mounted on the wall, typically within a storage closet, making them great for saving space.
  • Call for less energy. The U.S. Department of Energy says roughly 30 percent of a family’s energy bill is heating water. A tankless system reduces that cost, and according to Energy Star, can reduce energy costs by about $100 each year.
  • No flooding if it fails. The tankless systems won’t flood your home, basement or garage if a failure occurs.
  • Longer lasting. Tankless water heaters last about two decades – nearly twice that of conventional water heaters.

Disadvantages of tankless water heaters

  • More expensive.A tankless water heater costs roughly $500 to $700, while a gas model ranges from $1,000 to $1,200. The cost to install the system runs almost $2,000, and a gas unit requires additional installation of a safe vent to prevent carbon monoxide from leaking into your home. Pipes often need to be relocated or extended to make the system operational. All things considered, you could pay up to $5,000 for a new system.
  • No faster. A tankless water heater doesn’t supply hot water immediately. In fact, many systems don’t offer it any faster than a traditional water heater.
  • Limited flow. Many tankless hot water heaters don’t have the capacity to heat and supply water to multiple sources at once. So, jumping in the shower after loading laundry in the washer could stretch the unit to its max capacity for water flow. Tankless water heaters have an average flow rate of 2 to 5 gallons per minute, so a home with several occupants may need several tankless units installed, increasing the costs.
  • No power, no hot water. A power outage means you’re taking a cold shower.
  • Hard water is problematic. Tankless water heaters have difficulty processing hard water. The units will need to be flushed on a regular basis, the entire system drained and filters replaced monthly. Failure to maintain the systems could cause system failures within just a couple years.

Whether you opt for a tankless water heater or go the traditional route, follow the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance routine. Consider a warranty for your system and have the system inspected by a certified plumber if you feel it isn’t working properly.

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