Tankless Water Heater FAQ

Tankless Water Heater

If you’re considering a tankless water heater upgrade, you may have some questions you want answered before taking the plunge. Here are six frequently asked questions about tankless water heaters to set the record straight.

How does a tankless water heater work?

Also known as on-demand or instantaneous water heaters, tankless units heat water only as it’s needed. Instead of storing hot water 24/7, tankless heaters sense when you call for hot water and instantly heat the cold water as it is traveling through the unit. This reduces standby heat loss and can greatly reduce your water heating bills.

It works like this: when you open a hot water faucet, gas passes to a stainless steel burner, mixing with air and distributing the flame over a copper heat exchanger. As incoming cold water flows over the heat exchanger, it absorbs heat. The water exits the unit and makes its way through the plumbing to the faucet. When you stop the water, the tankless unit goes into standby mode and only turns back on when you call for hot water again.

Can it be installed where my old tank water heater used to be?

Tankless water heaters are small, wall-mounted units that can go in the same place as your old tank provided there’s access to proper ventilation. Ideal installation spots include the utility room, garage, basement, attic or on an exterior wall. Wherever you install it, the unit must be direlyct vented to the exterior through the roof or a wall.

Do tankless water heaters qualify for tax credits?

You may have heard that tax credits were available for energy-efficient installations, including tankless water heaters. Unfortunately, these tax credits expired at the end of 2013, but you may still be eligible for local utility rebates.

Why do tankless units cost more than storage tanks?

Newer, more advanced technology tends to cost more. When it comes to heating water, you really get what you pay for. Tankless units are made of quality stainless steel and copper. They are built to last, providing a 15- to 20-year lifespan where storage tanks typically last only 8 to 10 years.

The advanced technology also makes tankless water heating a less expensive endeavor. Once you purchase the unit, your investment starts paying you back immediately. Because of its energy efficiency, long life and low maintenance requirements, you can expect a tankless water heater to pay for itself more than once during its lifespan.

Can I use a tankless water heater with hard water?

As is the case with storage tanks, tankless water heaters tend to experience lime scale buildup when used in places with hard water. Over time, this decreases the system’s efficiency. To slow the buildup, consider installing a water softener. Then, when the scaling gets to be too much, clean the tankless water heater with vinegar. This maintenance step is like changing the oil in your car. It helps keep the unit running efficiently and may prevent problems in the future.

Can I expect instant hot water at every faucet and shower after installing a tankless water heater?

While it’s true that tankless water heaters provide hot water right when you need it, it still takes time for the water to make its way to your plumbing fixtures. In fact, because of a short delay between calling for hot water and the tankless water heater turning on, it may actually take a few extra seconds for the water to heat up at the tap.

If this is a problem, consider installing a point-of-use tankless water heater in the kitchen or master bathroom. With its close proximity to the faucets, you can expect nearly instant hot water with this type of installation.