In the quest to save money on utility costs, many homeowners are exploring tankless water heaters as a solution. Under ideal circumstances, tankless water heaters use a fraction of the electricity or natural gas as traditional water heaters. Upgrading to a tankless system may require a significant investment, but the cost savings in utilities may be worth it.
How Does a Tankless Water Heater Work?
In traditional water heaters, a large tank is connected to a burner or electrical heating element. The tank fills with heated water, which is then distributed to the piping in the home when called upon. This style of water heater is the most common in homes around the world, and they are known for being rather energy-inefficient. The heated water in the tank must be reheated periodically to maintain the proper temperature, even when the water is not being used. Obviously, this wastes electricity or gas.
Tankless water heaters, on the other hand, have no storage tank. They are truly “on-demand” systems, heating water only when the homeowner needs it. Without a bulky storage tank, they can be installed in tight spaces, helping to save room inside the home.
What Are the Drawbacks to a Tankless System?
While tankless water heaters are gaining traction in energy-efficient homes, there are several drawbacks to be aware of:
Inconsistent temperatures – tankless heaters heat water on demand, but may struggle to supply hot water to multiple outlets at the same time. Homeowners also report that the tankless systems may not respond when the faucet is only partially opened, such as when rinsing a toothbrush. This creates insufficient water heat for the intended use.
Limited hot water supply – tankless system manufacturers like to tout their products as providing all the hot water a family needs. The truth, however, is less rosy. Typical systems can only handle a few gallons of water at a time, which is great for single users. In a household with multiple bathrooms and an active kitchen, the system may not be able to keep up with demand.
High initial costs and additional equipment – tankless systems start around $1000. A traditional tank heater system is about half of that. In addition, tankless water heaters may require equipment like water softeners to protect the equipment or booster pumps to deliver water to faucets across the home.
Tankless water heaters represent a way to save money on utility costs. The drawbacks of such systems, however, require that homeowners do their homework before upgrading to one. Primarily, homeowners should think about how they use hot water – in a busy home, tankless systems may not provide the solution needed, and a traditional system may be a better choice.