Tankless water heaters first came into widespread use in Europe after the second world war. They were shunned initially in the United States as being incapable of providing sufficient volumes of hot water at high enough temperatures. They were adopted in other parts of the world though and gradually evolved into the efficient high tech models we see today. Now that energy costs have risen dramatically in the united states tankless water heaters are becoming a viable option for many households. Tankless water heaters are becoming much more popular here in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho as tec savy residents embrace the new technology.
Basically a tankless water heater consists of a coil of tubing wrapped around a copper sleeve called a heat exchanger. When a fixture is turned on the unit detects a call for heat and instantly turns on a gas burner or an electrical element which transfers its heat directly into that water via the heat exchanger.
The energy is sufficient to heat that water instantly to the desired temperature and the result is instant hot water that never runs out. Most new units are completely self sufficient and use electronic ignition to light the gas, eliminating the need for a standing pilot. Temperature is easily controlled from a digital touch pad which can be located anywhere in the house.
Tankless water heaters have many benefits. They save money on energy because they only heat water when it is needed. That hot water is made at the unit the instant you turn on a fixture and it never runs out which makes them great for filling large tubs or taking long uninterrupted showers. They are also a lot smaller than a tank type water heater and able to be mounted on a wall which can free up a lot of space in your garage or utility closet when installed. With the implementation of a touch screen you can control temperature precisely allowing you to set the temperature of the water down eliminating the need to mix overly hot water with cold water at the faucet as is the case with tank type water heaters.
Despite the benefits there are some things to consider before you decide to install a tankless water heater. Most models require at minimum a ¾ inch gas line to supply enough gas to the unit. A 7.4 gpm unit can use 199,900 BTU at peak operation as opposed to a 40 gallon tank type water heater that uses around 40,000 BTU. In some cases the gas line is not sufficient and a new dedicated line may need to be run from the meter to supply the unit which adds to the cost of installation. A tankless water heater costs about 3 times as much as a regular tank type and installation costs are higher because of the extra labor involved as well as materials. Gas fired tankless water heaters require a special sealed, stainless steel venting because they use an electric blower to force the exhaust gases outside. This means that your old venting is not able to be used at all. It does mean though that they can be vented through an outside wall instead of out the roof. If you opt for an electric model gas supply and venting problems are eliminated but if your service is not able to handle the amperage of the unit it may need to be upgraded. Also there are issues with the hardness of the water here in Rio Rancho and surrounding areas and tankless type water heaters can sometimes be prone to build up inside the heat exchanger coil. There are ways to clean and prevent this buildup but they are extra costs to consider.
A tankless water heater is not for every household but the benefits of reduced energy costs with unlimited hot water is a big draw for people. They are fairly straight forward to install and the extra cost of installation will be eventually paid back through energy savings over the years. Most models come with a 10 year warranty on the heat exchanger which exceeds that of the average tank type model. Always research before you decide to purchase to make sure the model you select is right for your situation. If you do finally decide to install a tankless water heater you can be assured of cheap unlimited hot water for many years to come.