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The Facts About Tankless Water Heaters

by VitalStorm Content on November 23, 2017

If your traditional tank-style water heater has kicked the bucket, or is near expiration, you’re probably weighing the benefits of installing a tankless (or on-demand) water heating system. In many cases, tankless water heaters can provide significant savings over time. However, the cost and installation, as well as the performance, can vary widely depending on several factors. The professionals at Blue Flame Heating & Air Conditioning have the rundown on what you’ll want to consider before purchasing your next hot water heater:

How It Works

Tank-style hot water heaters work by heating a reservoir of stored water around-the-clock. This means that the water is heated in advance (and regardless of) usage. The water can be heated from a variety of power sources, but the most common are electrical elements or a gas burner. Rather than heat and maintain the heat in a reservoir, tankless water heaters only work when the hot water is running. A sensor in the pipe detects flow, and begins heating the water.

What Tankless Does Well

According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, tankless hot water heaters perform 24-34 percent more efficiently than storage tanks for a home using less than 41 gallons of hot water each day. With heavy hot water usage—around 86 gallons—the improvement drops to 8-14 percent. With regular maintenance, most on-demand models have a life expectancy of up to 20 years, and take up a smaller footprint within your home.

The Limits of Tankless

Most people have experienced the primary limitation of a traditional reservoir water heater, which is its limited supply. (Think: “We’re out of hot water!”)  Though tankless hot water heaters can produce hot water indefinitely, they’re not limitless. The on-demand production of hot water is limited by the demand, known as the flow rate, as well as the temperature of incoming water.

In the greater Seattle area, cold tap water is about 50 degrees and is heated to 120 degrees for most residential applications. At this energy demand, the majority of tankless models supply indefinite hot water at a flow rate of 2-5 gallons per minute. Exceeding this capacity is not difficult during peak usage periods. If, for example, two showers are running in the home, or you’re attempting to wash a load of laundry while running the dishwasher, you could wind up “running out” of hot water.

The good news is that you can reduce your home’s flow rate by installing higher efficiency faucets and shower heads. Additionally, many modern dishwashers and laundry machines significantly reduce water usage compared to older models. Look for the ENERGY STAR label on such appliances for efficiency information.

Perform Your Due Diligence

Don’t stop your research here. There’s a lot to consider when shopping for a new water heater. Whatever you do, keep the following in mind:

  • Consider the installation. Keep in mind that the gas or electrical requirements for on-demand water heating are much greater than reservoir units and may require rewiring or running larger gas lines to that part of your home.
  • Tankless does not mean instant. If you place the tankless heater in the same spot your old reservoir unit was in, expect it to take the same time for hot water to reach your faucet.
  • First determine if gas or electric is best. Most tankless systems operate on gas or electricity. You’ll want to weigh the cost and availability to see which works for you, and narrow your search significantly in the beginning.

If you’re unsure how to assess your needs for a tankless system, give your water heater expert a call, and in all cases, consider having an expert install new water heating units. This not only saves you time, but can have a dramatic impact on the efficiency of your unit. When you need assistance with choosing a new water heater, contact the professionals at Blue Flame Heating & Air Conditioning. Call 206-388-5667 to schedule an assessment today!