Oh, hot water, we adore you. The steamy showers, the sanitized dishes, the miraculously-white-again t-shirts. But here’s the deal: We’re starting to think our love is unrequited. After all, you tend to disappear quickly. Sure, we just started both the dishwasher and a load of towels—but is that really an excuse to run out on our kids’ bubble bath? Don’t their chattering teeth make you feel a tiny bit guilty? Really, hot water! What’s your problem, anyway?
OK, OK—that’s a little ridiculous. When you “run out” of hot water when you really, really, really wanted it, we’re guessing your internal dialogue sounds a bit more… heated (buh-dum-dum-tss).
If you’re that frustrated with your hot water situation, you may have been talking with Google quite a bit, trying to come up with a solution. Sooner than later, you’ll find yourself wondering about switching from a traditional tank-style water heater to a tankless water heater.
That’s a terrific “I wonder” to entertain. We’ve installed hundreds of tankless water heaters for our Amarillo plumbing customers, and they’re often (but not always) a fantastic fix. Before you start tearing out that big silver cylinder in your basement, let’s just cover some tankless water heater basics. (And, regardless, please do NOT attempt a DIY water heater removal. Way too many things can go wrong!)
How Tankless Water Heaters Work
Unlike traditional water heaters that keep many gallons of water hot at all times—even when you don’t need it—tankless models heat water on demand.
Here’s how it works: When you turn on a faucet, a sensor registers the flow of water. It responds by sending a signal to a control panel that it’s time to start pulling in and warming up some air. As water flows through the unit, a heat exchanger transfers the warmth from the air to the water. (Yes, that’s a simplified explanation, but we thought we’d spare you the mechanical engineering/thermodynamics lecture.)
Poof! Hot water—when and where you need. Sounds dreamy, right? There’s more!
Benefits of Tankless Water Heaters
Tankless water heaters have a couple of drawbacks, which we’ll get to in a minute. But first, let’s talk about why they’re great.
- Speed. Tankless units produce hot water at a rate of 2-5 gallons per minute, and the hot water never “runs out.”
- Cost-saving. Tankless water heaters are pricey (again, we’ll get to that in a minute), but over time the unit may pay for itself in energy savings. Typically, tankless units save homeowners between 8% and 24% on utility bills, according to energy.gov. You may also score a tax rebate for installing an energy-efficient appliance.
- Shelf-life. Gas-powered tankless water heaters can last up to 20 years—twice that of traditional models.
- No flooding. Tankless heaters don’t have… tanks. So, you’ll never have to worry about 50 gallons of water swallowing up your college momentos and those boxes of clothing you swear you’ll be able to get back into one of these days.
- Energy-saving. Unlike traditional water heaters, the tankless versions use energy to heat water only when you need it.
- Small footprint. Tankless units won’t gobble up a bunch of floorspace. In fact, most of them are wall-mounted.
- Smart. Newer tankless water heaters allow you to adjust water temperature via a mobile app and will notify you when they need service.
Drawbacks of Tankless Water Heaters
Tankless water heaters are a great investment for many homeowners, but there are a couple of cons to consider. And you can probably guess the first one.
- Cost. Tank-style water heaters run about $400; tankless models can be three times that. Sure, you’ll save some money on your energy bills—but it’ll take a good amount of time to recoup your investment. If you’re considering tankless to save money alone, you’ll likely be disappointed.
- Installation. Whether you’re replacing your water heater with a traditional or tankless model, you should absolutely involve a professional Amarillo plumber. Installing a tankless water heater tends to be a bit pricier, especially if you need upgraded gas or electrical connections.
- Capacity. Although you technically won’t “run out” of hot water, tankless water heaters still have some capacity considerations. They typically can’t support multiple hot water uses at once, but they’re compact enough to be installed at multiple places in your home.
- Flow rate sensitivity. If you don’t have consistent water pressure, the temperature of hot water produced by tankless units may be inconsistent.