Tankless water heaters have been the norm in much of Europe and Japan for several years. It is only recently that this phenomenon is catching on in the United States.

One of the biggest selling points when it comes to a tankless heater is how little space they take up. In addition to being compact, are there other benefits of tankless water heaters? For example, are they able to provide water on demand for the entire home? This post will answer these questions and provide a basic understanding of how tankless water heaters work.

What Is a Tankless Water Heater?

As the name implies, a tankless water heater is a water heater that does not need a tank to store heated water. It provides hot water on demand. Tankless water heaters can be used to heat all the hot water in the house. Or they can be connected to a particular tap or appliance.

Tankless water heaters are about twice as expensive as conventional water heaters. In some areas, government tax credits and rebates from utility companies can make them less expensive. When you look at the amount of energy you save and factor in the extended life of a tankless water heater compared to a traditional model, it is possible that you will recoup your money in just a couple of years.

Tankless water heaters come in two varieties. They are electric- or gas-operated.

The Basic Operation of a Gas Tankless Water Heater

Tankless water heaters have a heat exchanger. The heat exchanger transfers the heat it absorbs from the fuel source to the water that is traveling around the heat exchanger in metal tubes.

There is no standing water in a tankless unit. There is not a bunch of water sitting around losing heat, only to be reheated again as it waits to be used. This is why tankless water heaters, be they gas or electric, are more energy-efficient than traditional water heaters.

A tankless water heater is flow controlled. This means that the system only activates when an appliance, showerhead, or tap is requesting water. When that happens, the unit produces phenomenally high amounts of heat and pulls it through the system.

If you are not using the water in your home, your tankless water heater is not active. It is basically off.

A gas tankless water heater is going to use natural gas from the county or the city to heat water as it travels through the exchanger. Some people use a propane tank stored locally on the property as a fuel source.

With a gas unit, gas is fed into the unit to a burner that produces a flame. The heat exchanger sits on top of the burner and absorbs the heat produced by the burner.

Cold water is fed in through the unit. It travels around the exterior of the heat exchanger through coils, where it is brought up to the specified temperature. From there, it travels out through your home’s plumbing system to deliver hot water throughout the house.

The Basic Operation of an Electric Tankless Water Heater

An electric tankless water heater has a flow sensor that activates when you turn on a hot water faucet. Once the tankless heater is activated, a series of heating elements heat the water and continue to heat the water until it receives information from the flow sensor that the water has stopped flowing because you have turned off the faucet or showerhead.

The heater only operates for a few minutes each day as opposed to cycling on and off all day, like a traditional tank water heater. As a result, energy costs can be reduced by up to 50%.

With a traditional water heater, the water needs to be overheated to ensure the house does not run out of hot water. However, tankless heaters can run indefinitely without ever running out of hot water. This creates additional energy savings and reduces the impact of hard water on your unit.

A Comparison of Gas and Electric Tankless Water Heaters

You can find whole house electric tankless water heaters for between $500 and $700. A comparable gas unit could cost you upwards of $1,200.

Installation costs for electric units are usually much cheaper. However, your home must be equipped with adequate electrical services. Conversely, gas units are more expensive to install because they have complicated venting requirements.

Modern gas and electric tankless units have flow rates of about eight gallons per minute. If you are in a cold climate, those flow rates drop to around 3.5 gallons per minute with an electric unit.

When it comes to operating costs, electric units are slightly more expensive to operate because electricity is slightly more expensive than natural gas. That being said, the price of electricity will rise steadily at a slower rate than that of natural gas or propane. Over the life of your unit, you will likely spend more to operate a gas unit than you would an electric unit.

From an environmental standpoint, electric tankless units produced no greenhouse gases and have a small environmental footprint. Gas units rely on greenhouse gases and fossil fuels.

From a maintenance standpoint, electric tankless units require no maintenance. Gas units require annual maintenance. Additionally, since electric tankless units require no venting, they can be installed anywhere. Gas tankless units may be difficult to install in certain areas because of a lack of venting options.

When it comes to water usage for most single-family residences and businesses, either an electric or gas unit will suffice. It is rare to run major appliances simultaneously. For example, you will rarely have your dishwasher and your washing machine requiring hot water at the same time.

Whole House or Localized Heating?

Both electric and gas tankless heaters can function as a whole-house solution or as a point-of-use solution. A small tankless heater would work perfectly for a single room, a shower, or a single appliance.

Larger and smaller tankless units work in the same way but on a different scale. Some argue that tankless systems don’t really provide instantaneous heat as the water that is already in the system has to be pushed out of the pipes before the hot water reaches the tap.

This is a frivolous argument because the same thing is true with a traditional system. If you insert a point of use model at a location, like a shower or sink, you will have the benefit of instant hot water without needing to pull water from a centralized location.

Water Heaters That Just Work

At Zest Plumbing & Drain, we have been supplying and installing water heaters for several years. We offer the best value and quality plumbing services in our area. We are proud of our unmatched customer service that exceeds expectations.

We know that other plumbers in our area try to upsell you to purchase products and services you don’t need. That is never going to happen with us. We prioritize what you need. Our work comes with a one-year warranty.

Are you looking to install a tankless water heater? Do you need help choosing the right water softener or addressing an issue with your plumbing network? Contact Zest Plumbing & Drain today. We look forward to showing you our award-winning customer care.

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