Pros, Cons and Installation of Tankless Water Heaters
These days, “on-demand” is in demand, from movies and information to food and entertainment. The sentiment has also moved into the world of plumbing, where tankless water heaters have become popular for their ability to deliver hot water anytime it’s needed. Before you opt for a tankless unit, however, learn the pros, cons and installation considerations that come with these modern money-savers.
What Are The Pros and Cons?
Unlike traditional water heaters which heat water in a storage tank, tankless units provide hot water “on-demand,” or only as it’s needed. Because they heat water directly without a tank, they don’t produce the same standby energy losses associated with storage water heaters. When the hot water tap is activated, cold water travels through a pipe into the tankless unit, where either a gas or electric element delivers heat. As a result, tankless heaters are able to supply a constant stream of hot water.
While they can be much more expensive than traditional units, tankless water heaters do deliver big long-term savings. Because they use up to 30 to 50 percent less energy, tankless units can save an average family about $100 or more annually, depending on water usage.
In addition to high upfront costs, smaller tankless units don’t always deliver enough hot water to appliances and showers simultaneously. Because they have high-powered burners that require a dedicated, sealed vent system, most tankless units also require professional installation. That said, in addition to on-demand hot water and lower long-term energy costs, tankless water heaters also save space and offer longer warranties.
While it is possible to install your own tankless water heater, it’s not a job for inexperienced do-it-yourselfers. There are a number of different sizes and styles of tankless water heaters, including propane, natural gas and electric, along with single-room or whole-house sized models. Since the typical tankless heater requires more gas than the largest residential furnaces, you will need to check with your local gas company for proper sizing of your gas main. You will need to know how to shut off the gas supply to the existing water heater and disconnect the tank without releasing gas. You will also need to pay someone to dispose of the existing tank properly.
Once you’re finally ready to install the new tankless unit, you will need to install the exact type of vent that your specific model requires. You may also need to wire in the new water heater unless you’re lucky enough to have a properly sized power source nearby. This will all require wiring expertise, along with plumbing experience. You may also need to upgrade your gas lines to accommodate increased demands. Many installations also require new water lines and pressure relief valve discharge lines that require soldering. Finally, you’ll need to make sure the entire installation meets building codes and that your homeowner’s insurance will cover any damage caused by potential mistakes.
With all this in mind, it’s generally better to let an expert install your tankless water heater. Most dealers provide installation at discounted rates if you buy your unit through them. You may also be able to get an even lower price by calling professional plumbers or electricians in your area.
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