A tankless water heater can also be called an on-demand water heater. Why? It can provide hot water by heating up the water only when the tap is opened. The electrical heating element in the unit will only start working once the hot water tap is turned on, and cold water or tap water runs into the heater.
Tank-style water heaters hold a finite amount of water in the tank (40 gallons or more) and heat up the water whether or not it’s needed. Tankless water heaters only start heating the water when there’s a demand for it—hence the term “on-demand.”
If you own a tankless water heater, then you probably know these seven things to be true:
Upfront Cost and Installation is Pricey
Right off the bat, the upfront cost and installation is probably the biggest downside to owning a tankless water heater. Because it’s not (yet) the norm for water heaters, the technology, and materials used to make each unit aren’t as mass-produced as the ones for regular heaters.
Tankless water heater installation isn’t as cut-and-dry as tank-style water heater installation, which is why labor costs are also quite high. You’re looking at more than a couple of thousand dollars. Moreover, only a few professionals have the knowledge and experience in installing them. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a contractor capable of installing it and willing to give a reduced price for labor.
It’s Energy Efficient and Pays for Itself in Time
The definite upside to owning a tankless water heater is that it saves you money over time. Since they don’t expend energy around the clock to maintain water temperature, and they only start heating up the water when needed—they’re more energy-efficient. This means lower utility bills. According to recent research, a family of four can save roughly $100 in energy bills every year.
Zero Risk of Tank Exploding
Another thing all tankless water heater owners know is that their units are much, much safer than regular heaters. Standard tank-style water heaters have a built-in temperature and pressure relief valve that automatically releases the pressure in the tank to keep it from exploding. However, there’s a huge risk of minerals and sediments clogging up the valve over time, preventing it from opening and releasing the pressure inside. Water heater tank explosions are very rare, but they do happen.
This can’t happen with tankless water heaters since they don’t have a tank.
It Takes Up Less Space
Lack of a tank also means these water heaters take up much less physical space than tank-style heaters. These wall-mounted units are typically just 27 inches tall and 18 inches wide.
Related Content: 4 Benefits of a Tankless Water Heater
Achieving Lukewarm Temperature is Almost Impossible
This isn’t so much a downside, but it is a fact; tankless water heaters have difficulty in attaining lukewarm temperature. Because there needs to be some water flowing before the heating mechanism kicks in, there’s a noticeable gap between cold water and hot water. Once the heat kicks in, it’ll be difficult adjusting the temperature to get that mix of hot and cold.
It’s not impossible, and most homeowners enjoy hot showers more than lukewarm ones anyway, but it’s definitely something worth noting.
It Takes Longer to Deliver Hot Water
Since tankless water heaters need a water flow before they kick in, it takes them a while to generate and deliver hot water. Tank-style water heaters don’t have this problem since they already have a couple of gallons of water heated up in the tank and ready to go. With a tankless water heater, turn the water on beforehand and wait a couple of seconds (up to a minute) for the cool water to flush out and the rest of the water to heat up.
But! Once it does…
Unlimited Hot Water Supply
… you have a near-unlimited supply of hot water to enjoy.
Tank-style water heaters only have so many gallons of heated water in the tank. Once that’s used up, the tank needs to be refilled, and the fresh water needs to be heated up again. This takes as many hours as your water heater needs to heat up the whole tank.
With a tankless water heater, however, all you need to watch is the maximum flow rate. The tankless heater can only heat up a certain amount of water flow at any given time. But as long as you’re running flows below their maximum flow rate, it can provide an almost endless supply of hot water.
Overall, a tankless water heater is definitely an investment. There are a couple of downsides, definitely, but the benefits far outweigh them. From energy efficiency to limitless hot water, it’s no surprise that so many homeowners are making the switch.