If your existing water heater has reached the end of its life and needs to be replaced, a tankless water heater can be a fantastic option. Tankless water heaters have a number of important advantages over traditional tank-type units as they require less maintenance, are less prone to leaking and use less energy. To help you understand why tankless water heaters can be such a great choice, here is a complete guide on how they work as well as what types of units are available and what benefits a tankless unit can provide.

Tankless vs. Tank-Type Water Heaters

Traditional or tank-type water heaters use either a gas burner or electric heating elements to heat water inside of a large storage tank. As the name suggests, tankless water heaters don’t have a storage tank and instead instantly heat water as it flows through the unit. Tankless water heaters are often referred to as on-demand water heaters as they will only ever heat when hot water is currently being called for. For instance, as soon as you turn the hot water on in your shower, the unit will immediately turn on and water will start flowing through it.

All tankless water heaters use a heat exchanger to transfer heat energy and instantly raise the temperature of the water as it flows through the unit. The process for heating up the heat exchanger depends on the type of unit. Gas units have a burner, and the flames from the burner transfer heat to the metal heat exchanger. Electric units have an electric resistance coil, which almost instantly becomes red hot whenever electricity flows through the coil. Whenever the unit turns on, the burner or resistance coil transfers heat to the heat exchanger, and this heat then flows out into the water as it moves over the heat exchanger.

Tankless water heaters are extremely efficient and can raise the water temperature to the desired level within a few seconds of the unit turning on. However, it is important to understand that you will still have a slightly longer lag time when using a tankless unit. Lag time is how long it takes from when you turn the shower or faucet on until hot water actually starts flowing out of the fixture. The lag time with tank-type units is always slightly lower since the water inside the unit is already at the desired temperature.

The lag time for tankless units can vary from as little as 15 seconds to as long as several minutes. Plumbing fixtures that are further from the tankless water heater will always have a longer lag time. Not only does the hot water have to travel a longer distance, but it will also slightly cool off when it first travels through the pipes until the pipe itself heats up. Lag times will typically also be slightly longer during the winter. This is because both the water coming into your home and your pipes will always be colder in the winter.

Types of Tankless Water Heaters

When opting for a tankless water heater, you can choose between either a gas-burning or an electric unit. You also have the option to choose either a whole-home or a point-of-use unit. Whole-home units obviously supply hot water to all of the home’s plumbing fixtures, whereas a point-of-use unit only supplies hot water to one fixture or one room such as a kitchen sink or the shower and sink in a bathroom.

Gas units are almost always whole-home, whereas electric units can be either whole-home or point-of-use. A point-of-use unit is a great option for providing hot water to a shed, detached garage or any other building, room or area that doesn’t have an existing hot water supply. If you have any area that doesn’t have a hot water supply, installing a point-of-use water heater will typically always be far easier and cheaper than running new hot water lines to that area.

Point-of-use units can also be a great option for supplementing your existing hot water supply. Let’s say that you often have issues where your tank water heater runs out of hot water after one or two showers. In the past, the only way to prevent and overcome this problem was to install a new water heater with a much larger storage tank. Installing a point-of-use unit in your bathroom can be a good solution to this problem as it will provide an endless supply of hot water to your shower while also saving the hot water in your tank unit for all of your other needs.

The choice between a gas and an electric tankless water heater typically doesn’t matter that much. Electric units typically heat a bit quicker and thus have slightly shorter lag times. Electric units are also a bit more energy efficient and less expensive to purchase. Despite being slightly less efficient, a gas tankless unit will almost always cost you less to operate each month. The reason for this is simply that natural gas rates are usually lower than the cost of electricity. The one exception is if your home runs on propane and not natural gas. In this case, an electric unit will likely cost you less per month due to the higher price of propane.

Advantages of Installing a Tankless Water Heater

One important thing to consider when choosing a new water heater is that a tankless unit will typically have far fewer maintenance requirements and last much longer when compared with any tank-type unit. The average lifespan for tank water heaters is typically somewhere between eight and 15 years at the very most. On the other hand, a new tankless water heater should last for 20 or possibly even 30 years. This longer lifespan can go a long way towards offsetting the higher cost of a tankless unit.

A tankless water heater will typically always be the most cost-effective option in the long run. This is partly due to the increased life expectancy but also because tankless units are much more energy efficient and don’t suffer the same energy waste issues that tank-type units do. Tank water heaters always waste quite a bit of energy since they always have to keep the water inside the tank fully heated to the desired temperature. As a result, the unit will need to run multiple times throughout the day even no matter whether any hot water has been used recently or not.

On average, a tankless water heater will use anywhere from 10 to 40% less energy than a tank-type unit. Exactly how much energy you can save with a tankless unit depends primarily on how much hot water your home typically uses in a day. The energy savings will always be highest when the home uses less than 40 gallons of hot water on the average day. Still, even if you normally use well over 80 gallons of hot water per day, a tankless unit will still help to lower your monthly energy bills.

Since tankless units don’t store water, you also never need to worry about the unit suddenly springing a major leak as you do with tank units. A tankless water heater can still leak, but the problem will generally never be as severe and also be easier to fix than if you have a leaking tank water heater.

At Home Service Heroes, we are your local water heater experts and our team specializes in installing and repairing tank-type and tankless units. We can also take care of all of your other plumbing needs or if you need any HVAC or electrical services in the Tampa area. Contact us today if you have any questions about tankless water heaters or if you need to schedule a service appointment.

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