What is the downside of a tankless water heater?
Tankless water heaters have pros and cons. Comparing the advantages and disadvantages of a tankless water heater can help you decide if buying the best tankless water heater brands are worth the investment.
What is a Tankless Water Heater, and How Does it Work?
A tankless water heater is a water heater without a tank. Whereas a tank water heater works off of capacity, a tankless water heater works on demand. Knowing how a tankless water heats, especially in comparison to a traditional water heater, can help you decide if it's right for you.
A tank water heater holds between 40-50 gallons of water at a time. A tankless heater doesn't have a storage tank, which means it doesn't hold hot water. Instead, it heats the water after you turn on the knob.
A regular water heater is continually heating water, so when you turn on the shower or sink, it's able to supply you with hot water. However, if you keep the water running, the hot water will eventually run out.
A tankless water heater works by heating the water to the desired temperature and then supplying it to the faucet only after you request it. Once you turn off the faucet, the water heater also turns off the heater. The water stored sits there until you're ready to heat it again.
Tankless water heaters are more efficient than regular heaters, but there's much more to consider when it comes to deciding if it's right for you.
Is a Tankless Water Heater Worth It?
The investment in an electric tankless water heater is a big one. This means it's important to consider the pros and cons before buying one.
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Pros of a Tankless Water Heater
Some tankless water heater pros include:
They Use Less Energy
Perhaps the biggest benefit of a tankless heater is its energy efficiency.
When compared to a traditional water heater, tankless water heaters use less energy. A storage tank water heater has to maintain a warm temperature of anywhere between 40-50 gallons of water. A traditional water heater continually runs, meaning it's always using energy.
A tankless water heater only uses energy when you turn it on. A tankless heater works on demand. Demand-type water heaters can save money because you don't pay to heat them until you run a hot shower or need hot water for another purpose.
In addition to using less energy, this leads to lower energy costs. You may notice that your energy and water bill go down after switching to a tankless water heater.
The specific energy savings depend on many factors, including how much water you use and how hot of showers you take. The energy efficiency of your current setup also makes a difference. But, in general, traditional water heaters cost more than instant water heaters.
They Offer an Endless Supply of Hot Water
One of the biggest benefits of a tankless water heater is that there's no limit to how much hot water you can access. You can run out of hot water with a traditional water heater, leaving you with a cold water shower.
A tank-style heater only offers so much hot water. If you have a large family, it's likely that someone will be left with not only a cold shower but also a reduced flow rate.
While it's possible to run out of hot water with a tankless model, it's less likley as long as you are within the tankless system's flow rate. Of course, if you have a larger family, you'll want to consider tankless models with a maximum flow rate.
They Take Up Less Space
Removing the tank means that the tankless water heater is smaller. If you have a small home, a tankless water heater may be the way to go. A tankless system can be as much as half the size of traditional water heaters.
Most households place their tank-style heaters in the basement. Installing a tankless unit takes up less floor space, giving you more room in your basement for other purposes.
Low Risk of Water Leaks
Tankless water heaters don't have a tank, which means there's no risk of floods. Storage tank water heaters can become clogged over time because of hard water and mineral build-up.
This can eventually corrode your storage water heater, and if not taken care of, it can lead to leaks and even flooding.
Cleaning up water damage in the home can be expensive and inconvenient. Without a tank in tankless units, there's no risk of floods. The same mineral build-up can also eventually break free and flow into your hot water supply.
This could potentially expose you and your family to harmful toxins.
No Risk of Dangerous Explosions
Most people aren't aware that a storage water heater can explode until it happens. Tank-style water heaters have a pressure relief valve that can reduce the potential of an explosion. However, if this valve gets clogged from hard water or mineral buildup, it can lead to a dangerous situation.
Routine maintenance is important to prevent this from happening. Because a tankless unit doesn't have a tank, there's no risk of dangerous explosions.
Tankless water heaters are also at a reduced risk of burns and exposure to toxic metals. You have more control over the temperature of the water flowing from tankless units, meaning severe burns are less likely.
Without a tank, there's also nowhere for the minerals to stick.
They Last a Long Time
Another pro of tankless water heaters is that they last a long time. A tankless water heater can last over 20 years easily. Of course, routine maintenance and choosing the right water heaters will help your unit last longer.
The lifespan of tankless water heaters is in comparison to a traditional water heater, which is around 8-12 years.
If you're moving to an area where you plan to live for many years, investing in a tankless heater may be worth it. If you plan to move soon, a tankless hot water system may not return enough on your investment.
Cons of a Tankless Water Heater
It's important to be aware of the cons of a tankless water heater, which include:
They Have a Higher Up-Front Cost
Tankless water heaters are much more expensive up-front. So, while you may save money on energy costs, you'll have to invest a lot of money at first. Everything about moving to a tankless water heater can be more expensive, including installation costs and the actual cost of the tankless water heater.
Installation costs of a tankless water heater depend on your home's setup and the average cost in your area. Of course, the tankless water heaters cost also varies, depending on the cost of the actual water heater.
Tankless water heaters range in price, depending on the model. Some tankless water heaters with certain features may also cost more, like ones that are Energy Star certified.
Tankless water heater costs are also dependent on your current plumbing setup. If the installation requires rerouting gas lines, you can expect it to cost more.
Getting a quote ahead of time can help you compare the energy savings with the high upfront cost, helping you make this decision.
They Take Longer to Produce Hot Water
Because a tankless water heater only supplies you with hot water on demand, it can take longer to get hot water. This means that you may have to let your hot water supply run longer before it's actually hot.
When you turn on the shower, the electric coils fire up and begin heating water. Slowly, the temperature rise occurs, where it then sends the hot water to you.
But, when you turn on the hot water knob, you won't get instant hot water because the stored water is stored at a lukewarm temperature.
The Water May be Inconsistent
When compared to a conventional water heater, you may get a less consistent heat and flow rate with a tankless hot water heater. Inconsistent water temperatures are even more likely when the tankless water heater is supplying multiple outlets with hot water at the same time.
This means it may not be possible or realistic for more than one person to take a shower at the same time in different rooms. Upgrading to a maximum flow may allow your household multiple showers.
Inconsistent temperatures or water flows may not only apply to multiple people taking a shower either. You may notice this when multiple water sources are in use, such as one person taking a shower and another person washing dishes.
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They Won't Heat Water During a Power Outage
If you have a tankless heater and you have a power outage, you won't be able to access hot water. Unlike tank-style heaters, tankless water heaters are powered with gas or electricity.
Even gas models require the use of electrical wiring and an electric control panel, meaning it won't work if you lose power.
If you live in an area that gets a lot of power outages, it may be worth it to consider if the benefits of a tankless water heater are worth the risk of having no water during the outages.
Getting Lukewarm Temperature May Be More Difficult
Because tankless water heaters supply hot water through the water lines as soon as you turn on the sink or shower, it may be more difficult to get warm water.
Tankless heaters require a certain amount of water flow before working, so by the time you get water, it's usually a mix of hot and cold water.
The coolest warm water that you can get with tankless water heaters isn't usually very lukewarm. So, you may find it more difficult to take a cold shower with tankless heaters.
A Cold Water Sandwich is More Likely
Tankless heaters may lead to a phenomenon known as a cold water sandwich. This occurs when you get hot water, followed by completely cold water, then followed again by hot water.
This happens when you turn off the faucet and then turn it back on again within a few moments. As you turn off the faucet, there's leftover hot water, so when you turn it back on, it flows back to you.
These inconsistent temperatures can be solved by waiting a few moments to get in the shower or wash your hands, especially if you or someone else just used the hot water.
Even though tankless water heaters offer many benefits, including the fact that they save energy, they can be pricy upfront.
While saving money may be important to you on a per month basis, it's important to note that you're unlikely to recoup your investment for many years. It may even take more than a decade to save money.
FAQ – Tankless Water Heaters
Here are some common questions you may have about tankless water heaters:
Do Tankless Water Heaters Have More Problems?
Some common problems of tankless water heaters include mineral buildup, system overloading, cold water sandwiches, a blocked air or exhaust supply, ignition failure, and flame failure.
Some of these problems can easily be fixed but may require a professional.
Tankless water heaters don't require as much maintenance as tank water heaters, but they do still require some upkeep. If you have well water, you'll need to clean out your tankless water heater often.
Traditional water heaters also aren't without problems. Common problems with water heaters include faulty temperature and pressure relief valves, improper water pressure, overheating, and a stuck valve.
If you have problems with either your tankless or traditional water heater, you may need to call a professional.
Is It Worth Switching to a Tankless Water Heater?
Whether or not it's worth it to switch to a tankless water heater depends on many things, including:
- Budget: Installing a tankless water heater can be expensive.
- Water usage: Your water usage determines how much you can save by using a tankless water heater.
- Space: If you're limited on space, a tankless water heater can offer space savings.
- Location: If you live in an area with a lot of power outages, a tankless water heater may not be worth it.
- Current setup: You'll also want to consider the current setup of your gas lines. If you have to rearrange the gas lines, it can make installation much more expensive.
Overall, tankless water heaters are more energy-efficient than traditional water heaters. It doesn't matter if you choose electric models or one powered by natural gas, tankless water heaters are more energy-efficient.
Can You Run a Tankless Water Heater Continuously?
No, you can't run a tankless heater continuously. While a tankless heater won't run out of hot water, it can only give so much water at a time.
Do I Need Water Softener With a Tankless Water Heater?
Adding a water softener to your tankless water heater is a great idea. This can help to protect your water heater and soften your water.
Water softener removes calcium, magnesium, and other harsh minerals. This can be better on your hair and skin when showering. It can also improve the quality of your drinking water.
Should I Buy an Energy Star Water Heater?
We recommend Energy Star appliances with most types of water heaters. The cost of Energy Star electric models or gas models isn't usually that much more than a water heater that's not Energy Star.
However, you can get the maximum cost savings when you choose a more efficient water heater.
Can I Install a Tankless Heater in the Place of the Existing One?
You may or may not be able to install your new tankless heater in the place of your existing water heater. This depends on how much space there is and what the pipes look like.
A tankless heater will also take up less room, so even if you place it in the same place as your existing one, there will be more space leftover.
You'll also need free wall space to install a tankless heater. Tankless heaters are installed on the wall rather than the floor.
You'll also likely need access to an outlet.
Do I Need a Professional to Install a Tankless Water Heater?
While you may be able to install your tankless water heater yourself, this will depend on many factors. Some water heater installation projects may be more in-depth than others.
It's typically best to have a professional install any type of water heater. Installing a water heater improperly can be dangerous.
Additionally, installing your own water heater could void any manufacturer's warranties that may be available.
Do Tankless Water Heaters Use Electricity?
Yes, tankless heaters do use electricity. Most tankless heaters plug into a nearby wall outlet that supplies heat to the water. This is why if you have a power outage, you won't be able to access hot water if you have a tankless unit.
This is in comparison to a traditional heater, which is heated using gas.
Are There One-Location Tankless Heaters?
A one-location tankless heater is a heater that you install underneath a sink or in a closet. This is usually an electric model that provides hot water to parts of the house that may not be close enough to the water heater.
One-location tankless heaters are more cost-effective. But, they aren't meant to supply water to the whole house.
Do Tankless Water Heaters Really Save Money?
One of the biggest advantages that people often talk about with tankless heaters is that they save money. While this is typically true, it's important to note that this comes with a few considerations.
A tankless water heater will save you money each month. Whether the amount you save is enough to make up for the cost of the water heater and installation costs depends on your household.
A water heater is a must in most households. Without a water heater, you wouldn't be able to wash dishes, clothes, your hands, or take a shower.
But, whether or not you move to a tankless heater is up to you. As with buying any new appliance, it's important to compare the pros and cons to decide if tankless is right for you.
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Final Thoughts on Choosing a Water Heater
A tankless water heater has many pros, but it also has cons. The tankless water heater can be expensive, difficult to install, and isn't without problems.
You'll need to maintain and clean your tankless heater to ensure it works properly. You may need to consult with a professional for maintenance and repairs, regardless of which water heater you choose.
Consider your household water use needs and your monthly costs to decide if a tankless heater is right for you.
Price shopping tankless water heaters and getting an installation quo9te can also be a great way to decide if the investment of a tankless water heater is worth the cost.