Is a Tankless Hot Water Heater Right for Your Home?

Is a Tankless Hot Water Heater Right for Your Home?

A lot of debate has surrounded whether a household should adopt and have a tankless water heater installed. You’ll hear the pros and cons but what does it all mean?

Most of the information presented to the general public is scientific in nature. Through reports, case studies or lab results.  Not to mention some great PR by the manufacturers themselves.

Are you willing to pay a much higher upfront cost hoping to save money in the long run? Or are you hoping to reduce your carbon footprint, and your decision is therefore purely environmental? These are definitely things to consider. However I prefer to ask a different set of questions in order to see if this is the right fit for your household. How big is your house?

The bigger a house is the more likely that you’ll have a larger number of plumbing fixtures that require hot water and a greater chance that they’ll be more spread out. What this means is longer wait times for your hot water. Let’s not forget that there is no hot water tank waiting in the basement to be dutifully called upon.

Once there is a demand for hot water the tankless heater fires up and begins heating incoming water. The cold water flows through a heat exchanger until it reaches a predetermined temperature. The water then flows to the desired point of use. The colder the water starts out the less flow, measured in gallons per minute (GPM), you will have. Which means our Canadian winters will have a greater affect on your water flow rate.

When tankless water heaters started becoming more popular in North America they had a misnomer attached to them. People incorrectly named them ‘instantaneous water heater’. Tankless water heaters are primarily installed in a basement and thus cannot provide ‘instant’ hot water due to the long runs of piping. In Europe this would be more feasible as they are usually installed right at the point of use and it can take only a few seconds for hot water to flow out. When I installed a tankless water heater in a bungalow for a couple in Oshawa it made sense. Their kitchen and upstairs bathroom were directly above their laundry room and downstairs bathroom. All of the piping shared one common wall and the lag time for hot water is minimal.

Conversely, a larger home in North Whitby with three bathrooms, and a soon to be added fourth, spread out across three floors did not make sense. How many people live in your household?

With this question straight numbers are not the only deciding factor. You may be a family of four or five, but how old is everyone? Do you all eat your meals at home? Are the children older and out with friends a lot? Or are they quite young and at Grandma’s house for most of the day? Do you frequent a gym and just shower there? Are you out of town on business often? Remember, your hot water tank will still come on as needed to maintain the temperature of the water whether your using that water or not.

Are you aware of the maintenance tankless water heaters require? To some this may come as a surprise. After all, a hot water tank is left to its own devices, that is until something goes wrong i.e. why do I not have hot water? This may be a simple fix like turning the On/Off switch back to On. This happened to me thanks to my wonderful three-year-old son.

Hot water tanks should be maintained for lime and scale build up, but rarely are. However, this issue will, over time, affect your tankless heater’s efficiency. A common myth is that tankless water heaters require an annual flush to remove lime and scale build up. While this is generally recommended, and considered good practice, it is not always required. How hard the water is will dictate how often you will need to flush the lines and heat exchanger.  This may be annually or every three to five years. In some cases more frequently. If this is the case a water softener may be required, but we’ll save that discussion for my next blog.

I hope I have shed some light on what else to consider besides budget or the environment when choosing between a tankless and a tank water heater. Your Whitby Plumber Thanks for reading

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