Going Tank-less – Investing In A Tank-less Water Heater

Posted on: December 17, 2013
By: Alan O'Neill
Posted in: Plumbing

There comes a time when your appliances come to the end of their life. Once a water heater has bitten the dust, homeowners then have to make quick decision for a replacement. If you have done your research ahead of time, you may find some really energy efficient options. It can be cost-effective to switch from your traditional tank heating system.

How They Work

Tank-less water heaters heat water directly without using a storage tank. When a hot water tap is turned on, cold water travels through a pipe into the unit. Then a gas burner or an electric element heats the water and it flows to the tap. As a result, tank-less water heaters can deliver a constant supply of hot water. Without continually re-heating the water in a storage tank, you save a substantial amount of money every year on your monthly bills and you conserve natural gas.

However, it still takes a bit of time to heat the water. A tank-less water heater’s output is determined by the flow rate. Typically, a tank-less water heater provides hot water at a rate of 2 to 5 gallons per minute. Heaters with a gas-fired burner produce a higher flow rate than ones with electric elements. Even the largest gas-fired model has a limit for supplying enough hot water for multiple uses in large simultaneously. To remedy this, you might install two or more tank-less water heaters and connect them for simultaneous demands of hot water or you can install separate units for appliances or areas of your home.

Tank-less systems come in two varieties: point-of-use heaters and whole-house heaters. Point-of-use systems are small and heat water for one or two outlets like the bathroom sink and shower. They are usually quite small and fit under a cabinet or in a closet. Since they’re close to the tap, they lose less water due to lag time. Lag time is the amount of time it takes for the hot water to reach your faucet. A long lag time means that your wasting more water waiting for the hot water to arrive at the faucet. Whole-house systems are larger and can operate more than one appliance and/or area at a time.

You can also choose between electric, propane or natural gas models. Point-of-use models are generally electric. Whole-house systems are usually powered by either natural gas or propane.

Recently new types of tank-lees heaters, like those made by Rinnai have been developed and have reduced the cost of water heater installation significantly. The hybrid tank-less water heaters are gas-fired heaters that have a small buffer tank, which is kept hot. The advantages of a buffer tank eliminates potential for someone taking a shower suddenly getting a shot of cold water and it allows hot water to be delivered with even tiny amounts. Most tank-less water heaters don’t activate the burner unless the hot water flow exceeds 0.6 gallons per minute. The other new development is a water heater that uses condensing combustion technology to exceed 90% efficiency. Both products have electronic ignition rather than a standing pilot light to increase efficiency. . Electric models are generally cheaper to install than gas. Gas powered systems often require costly upgrades to your natural gas line and an expensive venting system like stainless steel tubing and annual maintenance. If you choose an electric model, you may have to upgrade your circuits. 

Tank-less heaters have a longer life span – about 5 to 10 years longer than a tank heater. They also take up much less space, are environmentally friendly, and provide you with an unlimited amount of hot water. Tank-less water heaters are energy efficient. They can be 24%–34% more energy efficient than conventional storage tank water heaters for homes that use 41 gallons or less of hot water daily. They can save 8%–14% more energy in homes that use a lot of hot water (about 86 gallons per day). You can create greater energy savings (27%–50%!) if you install a demand water heater at each hot water outlet. ENERGY STAR® estimates that an average family can save over $100 per year with an ENERGY STAR qualified tank-less water heater. Depending on your choice of heating system, you may also qualify for tax rebates.

You may also want to consider the environmental impact. Gas-powered units produce greenhouse gases. Electric models require a lot of energy. Energy usage for heating water accounts for about 20 percent of your home energy budget. Natural gas is less expensive now, but expected to surpass electricity in the future.

In addition to these considerations, call your certified plumber about your options. They can explain the differences between systems and will help you determine which system is best for you. They may have discounts or rebates from the manufacturers. Your certified plumber may have additional suggestions and may have specials on equipment or other services. They may also have service plans, like The Abacus Club, that can help save you money on service calls and provide annual plumbing tune-ups.

You can call Abacus Plumbing & Air Conditioning in Houston 24/7 at 713-812-7070 or visit www.AbacusPlumbingAC.com for questions and scheduling information. Or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abacusplumbing

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