Toss the Tank and Save Money with a Tankless Water Heater
Whether it’s in the basement, garage, attic, or a closet, if you have a standard water heater tank, you have somewhere between 30 and 60 gallons on average of water stored. It’s being kept hot 24/7/365, whether you need it or not.
There’s another way to have that hot water when you need it, and it doesn’t require having it heated constantly when you don’t need it. The tankless, or on-demand water heater, using either gas or electricity for a heat source, only heats water as it’s called for. The heat is immediate, and hot water is provided until the flow is stopped when you turn it off at the tap. In between demands for hot water, there is no heating source necessary.
Tankless water heaters are gaining popularity as energy-savers helping with lower utility bills. Most of the major manufacturers of standard tank water heaters are also marketing on-demand water heaters. There are considerations though as to if and when you’d want to consider a replacement of a tank heater with an on-demand unit.
The Switch of a Tank to a Tankless Water Heater
Though it may seem to be a good decision to switch, the timing is a factor. Replacing a standard tank water heater with another one is relatively fast and inexpensive in labor costs, as the piping requires little or no adaptation. However, switching to a tankless water heater requires plumbing modifications, and in some cases, electrical supply work.
An electric tankless water heater pulls a high amperage draw to supply the amount of energy necessary to heat an incoming water stream to 120 to 140 degrees for normal hot water requirements. Larger supply wiring and breaker protection are necessary for the electric on-demand water heater.
Though the gas on-demand water heater doesn’t need that large electric circuit, it may require a larger gas supply line for the larger burners necessary for conversion of a flow of water when it’s required.
For both types, the cold and hot water supply plumbing is quite different for the tankless heaters, as they are much smaller than a tank heater. The costs of plumbing and electrical can make the decision to replace a working tank water heater difficult to justify with operational cost savings alone.
Purchase Costs for Tank Type and Tankless Water Heaters
A quick search on the Internet shows that today’s higher efficiency tank type water heaters are available in the home improvement stores for $400 to $600 in the 30 to 60-gallon sizes. The tankless water heaters vary in efficiency choices, but often cost between $600 and $1500 for whole-house sized models.
Coupling the higher purchase cost with higher plumbing and electrical costs for the switch can change the scheduling of the replacement of a tank type water heater. If the goal is saving on utility bills, the payback can stretch out quite far for an elective replacement. However, if your tank type water heater fails, it can be the perfect time to make the switch.
How Do They Save Money in Water Heating Costs?
The on-demand water heater holds no reserve water, as there is no tank. When you turn on a hot water tap in the home, cold water begins to flow into the inlet of the water heater. The flow activates the heating element of the on-demand heater, and the large heating contact surface is designed to maximize contact with the water to heat it quickly as it flows through the unit.
All those hours you’re not using hot water, the on-demand unit sits idle and consumes no electrical energy or gas. Only when you’re requiring hot water is it consuming energy. This can result in significant energy savings throughout the year and over the life of the unit.
Consult a professional who can do the energy cost calculations to give you a reasonable estimate of savings and the cost for replacement. It isn’t all about money though. Think about a long shower you had to end before you wanted as you ran out of hot water. With an on-demand water heater, you can spend more time enjoying a hot shower or draw more water for a hot bath.