by Paul Sanders
One of the most energy efficient ways to supply your home with hot water is with a tankless water heater. Your water heater accounts for about 20 to 25 percent of your home energy costs. When it's time to replace your old water heater or choose one for a new home, make sure you know the facts. Here are some frequently asked questions about tankless water heaters to help you compare them to typical water heaters.
How do tankless water heaters work?
Rather than heating and holding hot water like a regular hot water heater, a tankless water heater only begins heating water when you turn on the faucet. Water passes through the unit, heating up rapidly, and then flows into your home. You'll find tankless options that run on gas, propane and electricity.
Are tankless water heaters more expensive?
It's hard to compare tankless water heaters with traditional models, because they differ so much in design. Prices at the low end are comparable with low-end tank heaters. The cost of a tankless unit rises with the capacity. The more gallons of water a heater can warm per minute, the more expensive it's likely to be. If your peak water usage is high, you'll need more gallons per minute. The lifetime running costs of tankless units more than offset the price difference, though.
Are they more energy efficient than regular water heaters?
The savings depends on what type of energy it uses and the utility costs for your region. All tankless heaters are more efficient than their traditional counterparts. Gas water heaters will see significant savings, but switching from regular electric water heaters to tankless will save you even more energy. Depending on the type, you can save thousands of dollars over the life of the unit.
Do they require special installation?
Tankless water heaters do require different gas and water line hookups; have a professional install the new hookups. If you're installing a heater in a new home, the costs should be no different than to install a traditional water heater. But if you're replacing an old model, you may need to retrofit your home to accept the new one.