In many homes, hot water comes from a large tank where water is heated, spent, and heated again. But one of the latest innovations of home utility comes in the form of a water heater with no tank at all.
Tankless water heaters come with many benefits and, like most appliances, a few drawbacks to keep in mind, but ultimately their use depends on how good of a fit they are for you. Learn more about these heaters so you can decide if one of them is right for you.
What Are Tankless Heaters?
With traditional water heaters, a large tank keeps a store of water and constantly heats it to a desired temperature. When you deplete the water from hot showers, baths, laundry loads, or dishwashing, the tank refills and reheats, giving you a steady supply of hot water whenever you need it.
Traditional heaters have some fallbacks, though. Because they constantly heat water, they use a lot of energy, which can increase your utility bills. Water tanks also store a limited amount of water, so if you use up all the heated water, your shower might run cold.
Tankless heaters address a few of these issues. These much smaller units don’t store any water in them. Instead, they connect to your water supply and instantly heat water when you turn the tap. The heating element can be either gas or electric, and they can provide up to five gallons of hot water per minute.
Because tankless heaters create hot water on the spot, your home spends less energy on heating. And you’ll never run out of hot water because the supply is generated instantly.
What Sets Them Apart?
If the basic function of tankless water heaters is so different from traditional tanks, what else makes them worth considering? Tankless heaters have a lot of benefits, and some of them might be more important to you than others.
If you’re concerned about your utility bills and how to lower them, a tankless water heater might be for you. Tankless water heaters are more energy-efficient, and you can see that difference right away with your bills. Especially if you make an effort to use less hot water, you’ll definitely pay less monthly in energy.
Additionally, water heaters with certain Energy Star ratings are viable for tax credits, which means if you get a tankless water heater, you’ll save money over time and even get some money back on your taxes.
Traditional water heaters can require maintenance to continue functioning properly. Once a year, you likely need a professional to come empty the tank, check all of the components, remove sediment buildup, and replace broken parts — and then fill the tank again.
Tankless heaters require different and possibly less maintenance. Manufacturers suggest an annual flushing. With no water to drain, you have no sediment to worry about. If you’re busy with work or family and often struggle to make or keep maintenance appointments, a tankless heater could be convenient.
Because tankless heaters use energy more efficiently, they run longer too. Traditional water heaters are already fairly long-lived, often lasting a decade or more with proper maintenance. But tankless heaters can last much longer than that. This saves money in the long run since you might not have to replace your heater every 10 years.
Keep in mind, though, that taking care of a tankless heater will increase its life even more.
What Are the Drawbacks?
If tankless water heaters are so great, why aren’t they the standard? Some facts about tankless heaters might not be enticing to you, so make sure you’re aware before you buy.
Tankless water heaters have a higher initial cost than traditional tank heaters. They’re newer technology and often considered a luxury, despite their money-saving benefits, which can explain the higher price tag.
Traditional water heaters can cost as little as $570 and $600 for electric and gas respectively, whereas tankless heaters can cost up to $1150 or more, plus installation fees. This costs is easily offset by the money you save on energy over time, but if your budget won’t allow such an expense, then a tankless heater might not be the right choice.
While tankless heaters can supply instant hot water, they’re not capable of making that happen for multiple sources. So if you have a washer load running with hot water, your shower might be more lukewarm than you want. This requires some planning and general smart water-use strategies, so keep in mind that your hot water might not hit the spot every single time.