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Are Tankless Water Heaters a Good Investment for YOU?
In response to a reader's question...
What do you think about tankless water heaters? I love the idea. When you
turn on your hot water knob, the unit heats water as it enters your house. There
is no tank to collect sediment, or constantly heat water you may not use. Do you
recommend them? Have they been on the market long enough to be proven reliable?
My local Home Depot doesn't carry them -who would I call- a plumber? Can you
recommend any particular brands?
MD from Venice, FL
I think tankless water heaters are great, but have some limitations that make
them unsuitable for some users. They were originally designed to be used in
situations where a tank is undesirable and/or inefficient, such as a building
with very minimal hot water demand. They are more commonly used overseas than in
the US, probably because we are not as attuned to the economy and space saving
attributes of these water heaters.
Since the water is heated as needed, there can be tremendous savings over
tank units that by design keep the water hot all day, every day. And there are
other more conventional alternatives that may be as good or better. For example,
the energy (and
dollar) savings are diminished or even nonexistent if the alternative is a hot
water system integrated into your gas or oil heating system. If the price of gas
or oil is especially low in your area, a standalone tank unit using these fuels
may be competitive if you take the extra effort to superinsulate the tank (via
wrapping the tank with insulation) and keep the temperature down to under 120
There is a tradeoff you must understand before making a purchase decision on a
tankless water heater. Tank-type water heaters can supply enough hot water to
run multiple hot water appliances or showers at the same time, provided you buy
a unit with sufficient tank size for your projected usage and the size of your
household. Of course, they can run out of heated water, since they have a
Tankless heaters, on the other hand, have large drop-offs in water
temperature as the water flow through them increases. The elements in a tankless
water heater heat the water up to an adjustable maximum temperature. As the
incoming water temperature drops, or as the volume of water moving through the
heater increases, the temperature of the heated water will correspondingly
decrease. Of course, this negative feature can be overcome by changing your hot
water usage habits... for example only using one hot water appliance at a time,
scheduling showers at different times than other members of your family, etc.
You may even install more than one tankless water heater in your home to serve
One the positive side, with a tankless unit you never run out of hot water,
since it heats on demand. We all know the frustration of having the stinking hot
water tank run out of heated water during that critical final rinse! You know...
the one that really counts!
There are a number of companies online that sell these units. I cannot give a
product recommendation, but I suggest that you get the written manufacturer's
performance statistics on a number of them before making a purchase
decision. Another possible source of information would be a
"hardcore" plumbing supply house, rather than a home store.
For more information, please read the EREN article on tankless water heaters by clicking
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Written by Jerry Alonzy
Jerry Alonzy, a.k.a. the Natural Handyman, has been an active handyman for over 30 years with experience in most areas of home repair and renovation.
As a do-it-yourself author and web developer since 1995, he has been featured in USA Today, the Today Show and on radio shows, magazines, newspapers and websites. His material appears widely on the web, but primarily on his website... The Natural Handyman. You can also find him on Google+.