The first-ever tankless water heater was introduced to the world in 1889, and almost 125 years later, the demand for these superior water heaters is continually rising.
If you’ve ever wondered what’s so special about propane tankless water heaters, then you are at the right place to learn more about them.
By the time you’re done reading this article, you should’ve learned about:
- What propane tankless water heaters are
- How they work
- The advantages of using propane tankless water heaters over storage tank water heaters
- What to consider when buying one.
- The 4 industry best propane tankless water heaters to buy in 2021
- How to take care of your water heater
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about tankless water heaters
Propane Tankless Water Heaters: What Are They?
Tankless water heaters are also popularly known as instantaneous or demand-type water heaters. Their key function is to provide hot water only whenever you need it and turn on the faucet.
They are smaller in size and can save you a lot of space and money when you install them in place of the conventional big storage tanks in your basement.
Since you only get hot water from the heater on-demand, you don’t need to worry much about standby energy losses. They stop using energy immediately you turn off the taps and thus saving much on the electricity bill.
While they are not already the leading water heating option yet, propane tankless water heaters quickly become a key consideration to many homeowners.
A 2020 report suggests that the global tankless water heater market is growing at a compounding rate of 7.5% per annum. This means, sooner all modern homes will be using propane tankless water heaters for their water-heating needs.
If you are yet to get one, you're missing out on numerous benefits
But before you get deep into the purchasing decision, get to know how these on-demand water heaters work.
How a Tankless Water Heater Works
Just like their name suggests, tankless water heaters heat your water without having to store it in tanks. The water is efficiently heated whenever it passes through the unit and later delivered to your faucet for use.
A tankless water heating unit is fitted with a heat exchanger system that helps heat cold water passing through the unit.
When you turn on the hot water tap, cold water travels to the unit through a pipe. The gas burner, fueled by propane gas, will heat the water in the system fast enough to flow out of the hot water tap as hot as you need it.
The unit only heats water as long as the hot water tap is on and running. Once you close it, the heating process stops, and no hot water is stored in the unit.
Due to the size of a tankless water heater, the flow rate is always limited by its output.
It is best to minimize the number of hot water taps you open at ago when using a tankless water heater. This way, you won’t stretch it to the limits, especially if you live in a large household.
For propane tankless water heaters, the flow rate is much higher than electric ones. You get to enjoy a flow rate of five gallons per minute with the water heater when you use it efficiently.
One water heater can be insufficient for your household, especially in winter when hot water demands are high. You can consider installing extra units connected in parallel to meet your simultaneous water demands.
Installing and using a water heater shouldn’t be a daunting task if you understand how to run them and choose the best options in the market.
Advantages of using a Propane Tankless Water Heater over a Storage Tank Water Heater
Since its inception, propane tankless water heaters have been used widely to help meet various residential water-heating needs.
The reasons behind their increasing popularity over the years have been the timely benefits they tag along into modern homes.
Here are some of the reasons you should consider using a propane tankless water heater over a storage-tank water heater.
1. They Are Energy Efficient
Since water heating alone accounts for about 18% of your home’s energy consumption, you might want to find and install energy-efficient water heaters.
Using a propane tankless water heater helps you save energy consumption by about 8% to 50% of your normal energy consumption rates.
If you are using about 41 gallons of hot water in a day, you can save up to 34% of energy when heating up with a propane tankless water heater.
However, the percentages drop when your household uses more hot water in a day. It can
get to as low as 8% efficiency depending on the number of hot water taps open in a day.
To achieve maximum efficiency, you will need to install on-demand water heaters at every hot water outlet in your house. This way, you can enjoy high-energy efficiency levels of up to 50%.
2. They Are Cost-Efficient
Despite having a high initial cost when buying them, propane tankless water heaters are more durable than conventional storage tanks.
They are also less demanding in terms of maintenance and repair. Since they are smaller in size and can fit safer spaces inside your home, they won’t be exposed to hazards that would corrode them faster.
In the long run, it is cheaper to have a propane tankless water heater as their low maintenance and operation costs offset the initial higher asking price.
In the event of a breakdown or need for repair, their spare parts are more readily available than storage tanks.
You should expect a propane tankless water heater to serve you for up to 20 years effectively with proper care. On the other hand, storage water heaters will only serve you for about 10 – 15 years.
3. There’s No Standby Heat Loss to worry about
Standby heat loss is one of the main concerns for those using conventional storage water heaters. However, that’s not always the case when using a tankless water heater.
When using a propane tankless water heater, water is heated in the unit anytime it passes through. This means you’ll only heat and use all the water you need for a given time.
However, propane tankless water heaters can also waste energy if they have a constantly burning pilot light. You should check the model you are buying to settle for one that’s fitted with an excellent pilot light.
Ask the salesperson how much gas the pilot light uses for the model choice you intend to buy.
A model that uses a standing pilot light makes it possible for you to turn it off when not in use so you can save energy.
You can also go for models with an intermittent ignition device (IID) that works as great as the spark ignition devices on some ovens or gas kitchen devices.
What to Consider When Buying a Propane Tankless Water Heater
Whether you’re just getting started with water heaters or are shifting from storage water heaters to the new system, the process will always prove challenging.
However, with the help of these buying guides below, you shouldn’t face such a big challenge.
Here’s what to consider when buying your next propane tankless water heater.
· The Flow Rate in Gallons per Minute (GPM)
One of the most crucial factors to consider when buying propane tankless water heaters is their flow rate.
A water heater with a high flow rate means it will deliver more hot water per minute to your hot water outlets, including showers and sinks.
Flow rate is measured in gallons per minute in most of the models in the market today. However, some European models measure flow rate in liters per minute, so you have to check and choose a model that works best for you.
When you add together everything in your house that uses hot water simultaneously, you can accurately estimate the flow rate that’s enough for you.
But since you are unlikely to use all your showers, faucets, washing machines, and tubs simultaneously, a unit with a 5 GPM flow rate should suffice for your small home.
If you have a bigger home with more people, you may consider a unit with a flow rate of 7 to 10 GPM. Anything more than that means you need to consider installing multiple propane tankless heaters.
While flow rates can be high during purchase, various factors can affect or reduce them.
Small or large homes with numerous showers and water with shallow temperatures tend to lower the flow rate. This is because it takes more time to heat the water to desired temperatures.
It would help if you always considered these factors when choosing a suitable flow rate.
· Whether you want to use it indoors or outdoors
Propane tankless water heaters come as either indoor or outdoor models. Depending on the amount of space you have inside your house, you can choose to settle for either option.
Indoor tankless water heaters are more compact and can easily fit into smaller spaces. However, you have to consider how you will obtain the gas supply from outside, mostly stored, to your indoor water heater unit.
Rinnai Indoor Propane Tankless Hot Water Heater
If you’re considering buying tankless water heaters for your home and company use, the Rinnai indoor propane water heater is the best choice to consider.
With a maximum flow rate of 7.5 GPM and a heating power of 180,000 BTU, you can comfortably connect this water heater to two or three bathrooms at the same time.
Its effective temperature settings hit a maximum of 140oF for residential settings while 1600F for commercial settings. However, you have to purchase an additional controller to achieve the super-hot temperatures of 1600F.
It has a water heater has an efficiency rating of 0.81, measured by UEF standards. You can trust it to give you the best heating results at minimum use of gas.
Its horizontal and vertical ventilation options make it an excellent model for your indoor water heating endeavors. It can fit into a setup that perfectly works for your available space.
The water heater also gives you two fuel options to choose from. You can either fuel it using propane or natural gas. While propane is more expensive than natural gas, it is more efficient as it has double the BTU rating. It can therefore be a more efficient fuel option to choose in the long run.
It comes with two outstanding monitoring sensors, which along with others, ensure it works safely inside your house.
The first sensor is the temperature lock system that prevents accidental fluctuations in the water temperature.
The second sensor is the unique inbuilt scale detection system that shows you when there’s a buildup of scale. It is an ideal tool to check when maintenance is required and helps keep your heater working for a long time.
· Comes with temperature lock safety feature
· Durable modern design
· Easy to maintain with the help of a scale detection system
· You have to buy a ventilation kit separately
If you love the great outdoor but unwilling to put up with cold showers, then Eccotemp L5 is your water heater to pick.
It is currently the only legal CSA-certified portable water heater legally sold in the US and Canadian markets.
It is lightweight and compact for easy portability and the ideal choice for camping, RV’s, tiny homes, poolside, greenhouses, and anywhere else out of the home where you need an endless and reliable warm water supply.
Despite having an electronic ignition powered by 2 D-cell batteries, the water heater isn’t powered electronically. It is fueled by a 20-pound liquid propane tank that you can easily carry with you to your outdoor events.
It has a flow rate of 1.5 GPM, which is just enough for basic needs and your daily outdoor needs. With a heating power of 37,500 BTU, you can be sure to get enough hot water with temperatures ranging from 50-1400F for your daily outdoor use.
Its gas regulator helps you to adjust the gas flow for your varying temperature needs easily.
With full control of water flow and heat regulations, you can conserve both water and propane. Even at the lowest flow and lowest heat controls, you can still enjoy warm water that comes out pretty fast.
· Compact design that’s easily portable
· Easy to operate; it comes when ready to use. Just add water and propane.
· Comes with includes accessories and fittings
· You need to take great care of the fittings and accessories it comes with. Finding the correct spare fittings in local shops is its main drawback.
Rinnai did an excellent job with this powerful V65iP tankless heater. It features a powerful flow rate of 6.5 GPM and premium quality fittings that fall under an affordable price tag.
Its compact design, and size of a large suitcase, allowing you to effortlessly install it in compact spaces that you would otherwise struggle to achieve if it were other models.
Every component of the Rinnai V65iP water heater is individually replaceable, making it easy to fix individual problems when they occur. You don’t have to budget for a new unit when a component fails.
The Rinnai technical team has installed a Wi-Fi monitoring system to enable them to keep up with updates on your water heater’s progress. With this system in place, the Rinnai team will most likely know when your heater is faulty and help you solve it on time.
You don’t have to worry about residues clogging your water heater’s pipes when dealing with hard water. You can flush the unit with vinegar in a painless process every year of its lifetime.
With the help of a Control R-2.0 mobile app with timers and schedules, you can easily control the unit remotely and enter into vacation mode.
· Its a perfect choice for people in hard water areas
· Easily replaceable components
· Super compact and innovative design
· The main drawback is that it doesn’t use batteries and demands that you use an AC outlet to power the ignition and digital display switch.
You will certainly like this RL941N indoor water heater model with an efficiency rating of 0.82 if you appreciate a water heater with high efficiency.
Its high flow rate of 9.4 GPM enables it to deliver hot water to the most critical areas of large homes, giving your family a happy and satisfactory life.
It is certified for installation in both large and manufactured small homes for effective indoor use. Regardless of how much hot water you want to be warmed or heated, it will always get the job done effectively.
The optional Control Smart Wi-Fi technology allows you to respond to voice commands for remote access effectively.
With its smart operations, it can easily heat water only when needed to save up energy and offer effective results for the longest time.
It has a suitcase-sized compact design that makes it a perfect fit for the wall and other limited spaces in small homes.
It comes with a venting connection that’s easy to install and works effectively to ensure maximum airflow for maximum fresh air during CO2 combustion.
· It achieves faster flow rates. You almost immediately receive your hot water when you turn on your hot water taps.
· It runs more quietly
· Attractive and compact design for modern homes
· You have to buy a separate gas regulator if you need to attain temperatures above 1200F.
How to Take Care of Your Propane Tankless Water Heater
The buying and installation of an excellent, compact, and perfectly functioning propane tankless water heater is a daunting task. It also costs you a lot of money to buy and install such heaters.
Once you’ve installed them, you need to take great care of them to enjoy their full lifespan.
A perfectly done installation isn’t enough; you need the following care and maintenance tips for maximum satisfaction.
· Flush Your Water Heater
Flushing is ideal for removing limescale from the unit to prevent clogging and slow-down of the flow rate. It is a highly recommended care and maintenance tip for users in hard-water regions.
You should always flush every six months to two years to help keep your water heater in excellent working shape.
Doing this also helps you save money on expensive parts replacement that has been corroded away due to lime accumulation.
When flushing alone, you will need distilled vinegar, two hose pipes, water, and a sump pump.
Once you’ve unplugged the water heater from gas and water supply systems, use the sump pump to run distilled water into your water heater. Ensure the whole unit, including the valve, is clean and that every lime sediment is gone.
Use the hose pipes to run water into the water heater to rinse off any sediments that could have remained.
· Clean the Water Filter
A water filter is probably the ‘dirtiest’ part of your water heating system as it traps all manner of dirt particles and sediments that come along with the water.
You need to regularly clean it and get rid of any sediments that might have accumulated over it when the heating unit has been in action.
If your water heater has this sediment screen for tapping all the sediments that come with water into the unit, then it is prudent you know how to clean it.
Since these sediments' screens last as long as the water heater, you need to clean them for consistently excellent results constantly.
You can remove the water filter/sediments screen and soak it in vinegar before rinsing it in running water for perfectly clean results.
If you don’t know where the filter is situated in your heating device, you can use the manual or call the representatives to help you locate it. You can still get the whole cleaning process done for you by a professional plumber or handyperson.
Speaking of tankless, another article we published is on tankless toilets. You might find it interesting.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the downsides of using propane tankless water heaters?
Using propane tankless water heaters is not always a swift and satisfactory journey.
There are numerous challenges associated with these units, but they are ones you can keep up with.
Some of the key downsides of using propane tankless water heaters include:
· High upfront installation cost of the unit although, you save money in the long run.
· Inconsistent water temperature and low water pressure when using multiple hot water outlets.
· More often you have to install additional equipment for effective performance
· Hot water supply depends on the number of people using it at a time, therefore becoming limited.
· You have to wait for the water to get heated up every time you need it as there’s no stored hot water.
How does a tankless water heater heat the water in an instant?
When you open a faucet, the water flow triggers the water heater to turn on. The powerful gas burner will turn on to effectively heat the water as it passes through.
The resultant water flow at the end of your faucets is warm or hot, depending on your temperature settings.
When you turn off the water flow, the gas burner turns off, stopping the water-heating process instantly.
Can a tankless water heater fill a bathtub?
Provided your water flow into the water heater is constant, it will never run out of hot water supply. Therefore, if you aim to fill your tub with hot water, then you can trust your heater to achieve that effortlessly.
However, you have to ensure that there are no leakages in bathtub and other faucets are turned off so your tub can get full faster for you to enjoy a warm bath in cold weather more swiftly.
Whether you’re coming from a cold-weather region or a warm climate area, warm water is always necessary at home. You need to invest in reputable models of propane tankless water heaters so you can always have warm water anytime you need it at home.
Choose water heaters with a compact or sleek design so you can save on space and still get the best water-heating services at home.
Always check to ensure your water heater meets all your quality requirements before you invest in one. Also, learn all the maintenance tips so you can take great care of your unit once under your care.