Plumbing in the Home/Tankless hot water heater

Advertisement


Question
We currently have a 50 gallon hot water heater which we have set on a timer so it only goes on for an hour in the morning and in the evening to save on electricity.  My husband thinks a tankless hot water heater would save us money in the long run.  In the articles I have come across, they don't seem all that great and you'd need to use it for many years to begin saving money.  In your experience, are tankless hot water heaters better than a traditional electric hot water heaters?  Thanks for your expert opinion!

Answer
Nancy, I have had countless discussions with manufacturers reps, salesmen and customers about the tankless versus conventional heaters. To answer your question as to whether they are better or not...the consensus is yes and no.  I'll explain.  

Tankless heater are basically a coil type heater. Water flows through a copper or stainless coil of tubing that is over a high output burner. As the water flows through, it is heated and sent directly to the fixture. The key here is the high output burner. A standard water heater uses a 30,000 btu burner whereas a tankless, depending on the size may have a 200,00 400,00 btu burner. That translates to a lot of fuel for a short period of time. Only when hot water is called for. With that being said, the real issue is with tankless heaters is the temp. of the incoming water. The colder the water coming into the heat the greater the reduction in savings and efficiency and output. If you look at the output curve on a graph you will see a drastic reduction in usable water but not in fuel consumption. Colder water takes longer to heat! Soooo.. if you live in the northeast in the winter your savings go out the window or rather up the chimney. To sum it up, because I can go on and on, tankless heaters in the south east and west and any moderate to tropical climate is a great idea, anywhere there are cold winters like NY and PA where we live, the payback  in savings is most times non-existent.
One other thing, if you can get rid of the electric heater , do so even if you have to go to propane. resistance heating is the most costly of any heat source.

Plumbing in the Home

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Jay Nicholas

Expertise

Plumbing & Heating (warm air, hot water & steam heat)

Experience

40 years in the business, 35 years as a lic. master plumber in NY State. Retired

Education/Credentials
Graduated Magna cum laude at the School of Hard Knocks

Past/Present Clients
Commercial, residential and light industrial. You name it ...I have probably worked on it

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.