Tankless water heaters are not only space-saving and reliable (they never run out of water), but also save a great deal of water and energy. While they cost more initially to install, the cost of ownership is typically lower compared to a conventional water heater.
Energy.gov puts it all in perspective. If your home uses 41 gallons or less of hot water each day, you can get a 24% to 34% gain in efficiency. For households using around 86 gallons per day, the efficiency gain is around 8% to 14%.
Here, we’ll discuss the pro’s and con’s of different options so you can find the best tankless water heater for your home.
How to Pick the Best Tankless Water Heater
Gas Tankless Water Heaters
- Lower Energy Costs: In most places, natural gas is cheaper than electricity. Since heating water amounts to a significant portion of home energy costs, long-term savings are possible, especially if your tankless water heater doesn’t have a continuously burning pilot light.
- Better Flow Rates: A gas tankless water heater can deliver more gallons of hot water per minute and can supply hot water to an entire household at once. Showers, dishwashers, and other hot water using fixtures and appliances can be used simultaneously.
- Power Outages Aren’t a Problem: If the power goes out, a gas water heater will still provide hot water as long as there is still a gas supply.
- Higher Running Costs: If your water heater uses a pilot light for ignition, the cost of running it will be higher.
- Safety: Combustion gases can put your safety at risk. As an alternative, you can install a condensing water heater that diverts hot gases to heat cold water that passes through coils.
- Require Ventilation: A ventilation system must be installed, if you don’t have one, to direct any combustion gases and fumes outside your home.
Electric Tankless Water Heaters
- Lower Installation Cost: An electric tankless water heater is one of the most affordable options. The amount you save depends on the size of the unit. While no ventilation is required, you may need an electrical upgrade (although this is uncommon with water heaters).
- Safety: Electric models do not rely on a combustion process to heat water. There’s no risk of a gas leak and no additional service is needed for your gas line.
- Efficiency: Electric tankless water heaters generally have a higher energy factor (EF) rating than gas models (up to 0.9 compared to 0.5 to 0.7).
- Availability: Most homes have electricity, and that’s all you need for this type of tankless water heater. Plus, you can improve efficiency even more by using renewable energy options.
- Heating Water Takes Longer: Heat is generated more rapidly with combustion, so electric models are more sluggish in terms of hot water delivery. They also don’t respond as well to high demand.
- Higher Operating Cost: While prices vary by region, electricity is generally more expensive than natural gas, so having an electric tankless water heater may reflect on your energy bill.
- No Power, No Hot Water: If you lose electricity due to a grid outage or storm, you won’t get any hot water (some gas units use an electrical ignition system, so they too can be affected by outages).
Indoor vs. Outdoor Tankless Water Heaters
You also have the option of indoor and outdoor tankless water heaters. If you have an indoor water heater, the perks include:
- It Works in Cold Weather: Since the water heater is inside your home, it is not affected by sub-freezing temperatures.
- Flexibility When Building a Home: You can pick a location for the unit during construction and, for gas-powered units, install ventilation and piping without any demolition.
However, indoor models have downsides, such as:
- Condensation/Leaks: If your water heater leaks or condensation accumulates, water damage can occur and mold and bacteria can grow.
- Noise: Some tankless water heaters can make noise, so it may be best to not install one near a bedroom.
- Carbon Monoxide Risk: If your indoor tankless water heater requires a gas connection, it must be properly ventilated and maintained; a leak can expose your household to deadly carbon monoxide.
An outdoor tankless water heater is another option. It has several advantages, including:
- Suitability for Warm Climates: If it rarely gets below freezing in your area, an outdoor unit can serve your needs. While weatherproof, it is vulnerable if cold conditions occur.
- No Storage Space Is Needed: The water heater sits outside, so there’s no need to free up indoor storage space, which is ideal if your living quarters are small.
- No Carbon Monoxide Risk: An outdoor gas model won’t release carbon monoxide in your home, plus you don’t have to worry about leaks or condensation.
The con’s of having an outdoor tankless water heater are:
- Power Outage Risk: A winter storm can easily knock out power. When this happens, your water heater may lose its freeze protection, increasing the risk of damage.
- Security: A burglar can see an outdoor tankless water heater as a valuable prize. It can be removed with basic tools; to protect your unit, store it behind a fence or other barrier.
Contact Sky Heating & Air Conditioning
Our plumbing and electrical technicians install gas, electric, and indoor and outdoor tankless water heaters. If modifications to your plumbing, electrical system, or gas lines are needed, you can count on Sky to get it done. We provide repairs as well. But if you need assistance finding the best tankless water heater for your home, our knowledgeable and experienced team can assess your needs and make recommendations. Call 503-744-5851 to get started.