Why Install Tankless Water Heaters?
Unlike Europe and Asia, where tankless on-demand waterheaters are common, in the USA storage type units are prevalent. This type of technology is well developed, understood by most homeowners, but really quite wasteful. In today's world more people are making an effort to preserve our natural resources and conserve energy. Conventional tank type heaters are throw way appliances and their carcasses are clogging landfills nationwide.
USA Water Heater History
The traditional residential whole house gas model tank type heater dates to 1894. The first model with 90% efficiency was produced in Kalamazoo, Michigan by a company named Humphrey. Today's tank models are only about 75% efficient. The reason is because of simple economics. The older models were made of "Monel" which was a copper-nickel alloy. Many of these that were produced in the 1940s and '50s are still in use today. These days, the primary concern for consumers and contractors is simply the lowest possible price. To be competitive in today's marketplace, tank type heaters are made from very thin metal with a glass coating. Essentially, we accept new heaters that are 20% less efficient than those of 100 years ago. The average American household spends $400 to $600 per year for water heating, making water heating the second highest energy expenditure behind furnace and air conditioner operation.
Today, after 100 years without change, North Americans are beginning to accept new water heater technology. The technology that is familiar to families in Europe, Asia, Central and South America seems new to the average American homeowner. In fact, this technology is now considered "mature".
Tankless Water Heaters
In comparison to conventional tank heaters, tankless models differ in the fact that they do not have a large water storage tank. In theory, on demand type instantaneous water heaters should be the best way to go since there is no energy wasted by heating a large tank of water for indefinite periods of time. These models supply instant hot water in a continuous supply as needed. Sensors turn on the instant heater when a hot water tap is opened, and the unit turns off when the faucet or shower head is closed and the flow of hot water stops.
No Storage = No Shortage
Tankless water heaters are capable of supplying more hot water than a tank water heater which has a stored total capacity. Exceed this capacity of stored hot water and you need to wait for another tank to heat. Depending on your model and type of tank type heater, this can take several hours. On demand means there is no energy being wasted re-heating a tank of hot water. On demand means never worrying about running out of hot water. Imagine the luxury of always having enough hot water for your showers, your hot tub and still have an endless supply of hot water for the rest of your household needs. For large homes or small businesses with greater GPM needs, tankless heaters can be joined together and work simultaneously to supply larger volumes of hot water.
A few words about water flow in gallons per minute (GPM). Tankless water heater manufacturers speak in gallons per minute, tank type manufactures speak in total gallons held in reserve in the tank. For example, a tank type heater may hold 40 gallons of hot water and a tankless heater may be capable of producing a maximum constant flow of hot water at 3.2 gallons per minute. Comparing a 3.2 Gpm tankless water heater to a 40 gallon tank type heater is in fact an interesting thing. At the flow rate of 3.2 gallons per minute, a 40 gallon tank type heater will run out of hot water in 12.5 minutes. Our 3.2 Gpm EZ Deluxe tankless heater will still be providing hot water at the same flow rate long after the 40 gallon tank heater is running cold.
In a tankless type heater, the water is heated as it passes through the unit so you will never have to use hot water that has been stored in an old rusty tank. As the years pass, a conventional tank-type water heater begins to accumulate rust and build-up scale inside the tank, which is where your hot water is being stored for use.
Tankless water heaters can be installed virtually anywhere. Compared to traditional water heaters, the most obvious difference is its small size. Our tankless water heaters mount on the wall, inside or outside.
Tankless heaters require a different concept in exhaust. Because they use a forced air duct system that has higher temperatures, stainless steel pipe designed for this purpose is an essential part of any installation of an indoor model. This special forced air exhaust pipe is unique to this technology and has sealed joints. (On this type of exhaust, the gasses are forced outside under pressure.)
In comparison, conventional gas water heaters use a draft method of exhaust. This exhaust method relies upon natural suction to draw out the gasses though a flue. These gasses contain carbon monoxide, nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, formaldehyde, respirable particulates and other harmful bi-products of combustion. These combustion products may result in eye, nose, and throat irritation; fatigue; dizziness; and nausea. With an indoor on demand tankless heater using a sealed forced air exhaust, these potentially harmful gasses are evacuated from the home through the sealed stainless steel exhaust system.
Years ago, early tankless heaters could not keep up with the demands of the typical American household and they often broke down. For this reason, they have acquired a reputation for premature failure and inadequate supply. In reality, today's models are a lot more dependable and can keep up with any household's needs if the unit being installed is properly sized. Today's tankless heaters are designed to last 15 to 25 years or more.
As with any type of water heater, the primary enemy of a tankless heater is hard and/or sediment heavy incoming water. All tankless heaters work best when used with a water softener and/or a filtered incoming water supply. As with any type of water heater, periodic flushing and internal cleaning is recommended.
Gas or Electric?
Electric facts: Typically, electric models are used for single sink, or half bath type installations. Or for use in a workshop or cabin.* When in operation, larger whole house electric models can easily consume more electricity than the usage demands of the entire house combined. For this reason, gas models are preferred for whole house multiple bath installations. (If an adequate supply of electricity is available, whole home units can be used. - Typically, these units require 100 to 150 amps of 220V electricity on two or three independent circuit breakers with special stand-alone wiring. Some older and small rural homes are still operating on a "60 amp service." Obviously, the home would need a service upgrade just to power the electric tankless heater.)
Learn more about Gas-fired vs Electric.
Please note: Some small electric units that look like a tankless water heater are actually not. They are tank-type heaters in disguise. These models typically hold about 2.5 gallons of water and this water is constantly kept hot by an electric heating element. In reality, this type of unit is very inefficient. After the 2.5 gallons of hot water is used, it takes quite some time to reheat another tank full. These work for occasional hand washing and can supply less than 2 minutes of hot water.
EXAMPLE: This wall-mount heater is not "electric tankless" technology. It has a small tank inside and sells for $218.00 at USA Home Improvement chain stores.
If you add another bathroom near the garage, a Direct Vent tankless heater can be installed on a garage wall with a short run of plumbing to serve this area. This way, no extensive plumbing modifications or updates to your existing water system are necessary. Your original heater may remain in operation as before and still meet the needs of the remainder of the home.
If you operate a small service station, repair shop, store or cafe, the hot water for the restrooms can be supplied by a small tankless unit mounted on an interior wall in the utility room or storage space. This way, the restroom sinks have an independent and reliable supply of hot water and there is no worry about tampering of the unit. A small tankless unit can easily meet the needs of two restrooms that have no showering facilities. In this scenario, there will be a large savings in gas consumption and removing a large tank type heater will eliminate the open flame pilot light and can add additional floor space to the utility room.
Information for "Remote" Users
A lake or deep-woods cabin, campsite, workshop or outbuilding is perfect for the installation of a tankless type water heater. In rural America it is common for a homeowner to have a barn, workshop or tool shed that is some distance from the home. If cold water is plumbed to this building, a tankless unit can supply hot water for showering, cooking, washing vehicles, hand washing, and general cleaning needs. You may wish to install the unit near the sink and in this case a small unit will be perfect and economical to purchase. You may wish to use one that is fired by LP gas and a small tank can be easily installed for this purpose and may easily last the whole season or longer. Just like your outdoor barbeque, you must remember to turn off the gas valve after each use to insure that the LP does not leak away. Some people have large LP tanks for the furnace in the workshop and/or rural home. We have models for this type of gas. Additionally, in a workshop or garage installation there is no open pilot light to worry about.
In fact, we have customers with remote mountain cabins and campsites who are using our EZ-101 model with a small LP tank. Some are getting their water from a gravity feed system via a holding tank or down hill gravity fed delivery system. Some are using gasoline powered pumps to pick-up mountain stream or spring water and deliver it to the cabin via hose or plastic pipe. Our customers never cease to amaze us with their diverse and innovative ways to supply their remote locations with easy hot water for cooking, cleaning, and showering.
(With all water systems used in colder climates, if your outbuilding is not heated, you must address the possibility of freezing temperatures and drain the water system thoroughly each fall.)
NOTE: We have an interesting article about venting and freezing.
*LEGAL DISCLAIMER: We at EZTANKLESS.COM do not make spectacular claims about energy savings, our intention is to provide accurate and all-inclusive information for those who wish to gain a better understanding of this water heating technology. Certainly, a tankless heater is more energy efficient than a large tank type heater, but simple common sense tells us that the way in which each household uses hot water makes calculating actual individual savings virtually impossible. For these reasons, we assume no responsibility or liability for errors or omissions regarding statistics or statements. As with all conservation studies, the figures are only estimates, actual results will vary and may be lower or higher depending on the ways in which these products are used.
Certainly, there are companies making claims that are outrageous and spectacular. Certainly there are companies who will tell you how much you "will" or "can" save. Statements that say "as much as" are no more than hypothetical best case scenarios used to "boast their wares." We certainly accept no liability for assumptions of spectacular claims from other entities being projected onto our products or assumptions that these outside claims apply to anything that our company sells.
Persons researching tankless heaters should take the time to compare the technical specifications of the products in mind. Those which are similar but have much higher claims of savings, efficiency, or faster payback periods must be considered suspect.
Furthermore, all of the above information is based on documents and information that can be easily found within the public domain. We have organized this information on this web page for the convenience of our potential clients and those who have been looking for answers./p>
NOTE: If you are considering a purchase of a tankless water heater with the intention of taking advantage of the tax credits, please consult your accountant or inspect in detail the terms and requirements of federal tax credits. Some of this is unclear at the time of this writing as this was entirely new legislation enacted to take effect in early 2009, some of which has not been thoroughly clarified.
We cannot be held responsible for errors or misinterpreted conclusions from any of the above information.