If you’re building a new house, or if it’s time to replace your old hot water tank, you may want to consider looking at a tankless water heater system. These are sometimes called “instantaneous” or “on-demand” water heaters. Instead of constantly heating water and storing it in a tank, these appliances heat up the water only as you need it. They have been common in Europe and Asia for years, but are still fairly new in North America.
It’s important to know the pros and cons of a tankless hot water heater before deciding if one is right for your home. Some of the benefits are:
Tankless water heaters are, however, more expensive than a hot water tank; up to 3 times as much. They also tend to have a lot more working parts, which could mean more things could possibly go wrong. If you’re looking at an electric tankless water heater, you may need to hire an electrician to ensure you have the right voltage, amperage, and circuit breaker. If you’re looking at a gas model, venting is a concern.
We’re all accustomed to seeing the big hot water tank, usually located in the basement. A tankless system looks quite different. They’re small and usually hang on a wall. They come in a couple of different varieties; you can get one that heats all the water for the entire house, or you can get smaller ones at the point of use, for instance, one under the kitchen sink, and one in the bathroom.
With the tank system, a great deal of energy is wasted keeping the water at a constant temperature. This is called “standby heat loss.” You can avoid this with a tankless system.
With a tankless system, the water is heated by a heat exchanger. It uses electric coils or a gas burner to heat the water. As soon as you turn on your hot water tap, the flow of water turns on the heat exchanger, and the water heats up to the temperature you’ve pre-selected. If you’re using a point-of-use system (the small one under the sink); you’ll get hot water immediately. If you’re using a whole house unit, there can be some lag time, as the hot water has to travel a further distance to the faucet.
Tankless heaters can be fueled by electricity, propane, or natural gas. It’s more common to see whole house models fired by gas, with point-of-use models using electricity.
Before you decide to go tankless, you’ll need to consider a few things:
The U.S. Department of Energy’s website has an infographic that lists some things to consider when deciding which type of water heater you want to install. And, if you decide to purchase, Tankless Reviews does a good job reviewing different options and prices.
Here are some common issues with tankless hot water heaters and tips to resolve them:
Sometimes problems can be caused by improper installation:
A qualified professional contractor can help you determine the right size and the right location for your tankless water heater.
One thing most experts agree on is that these heaters need to be flushed once a year. You can call a qualified technician to conduct an annual servicing of your tankless water heater.
If your water is quite hard, you might want to install a water softener to help prevent a buildup of calcium. Calcium can reduce water flow, and make your heater less efficient, as well as cause damage to the unit.
If you want to see how a qualified technician can flush a tankless water heater, here is a video by a contractor based in Austin, Texas. This particular unit is installed outside the house, which is unlikely to happen in Canada, but the flushing principle would be similar. Here is another video by the same contractor, on a different make of tankless heater located in a crawl space inside the house.
Because there is no storage tank, and less risk of corrosion, the life expectancy of a tankless water heater is much greater than that of a regular hot water tank. In general, they last 5 to 10 years longer than a standard hot water tank. If properly maintained, 20 to 25 years is often considered the life span of tankless water heaters.
Home insurance providers will want to know the type of water heater you have as well as the age. They may also want to know if it was professionally installed, or if there are any signs of leakage or rust.
Water damage is the cause of many home insurance claims, so insurance providers are understandably concerned about older water heaters. With the storage tank type, there is always the risk of leaking, or even rupturing, causing significant water damage. With a tankless model, there is much less chance of water damage occurring. But of course, even tankless models have a risk of some leakage especially once they pass their life expectancy.
When you’re shopping for home insurance, be sure you know the type, age, and condition of your water heating system. This will help you get a speedy and accurate quote, as rates may vary based on these factors. For more information, or to get a quote on your home insurance, contact Square One at 1.855.331.6933.
Even when you take precautions, accidents can happen. Home insurance is one way to protect your family against financial losses from accidents. And, home insurance can start from as little as $12/month.