Anybody who has to replace a water heater should ask one question beyond “How much will it cost me?” And that question is — drum roll please — “Are tankless water heaters worth it?”
In this post, we examine some frequently asked questions by Staten Island home and business owners wondering if they should upgrade to tankless.
Will a tankless water heater save me money on my utility bills?
The first question on the tip of everybody’s tongue. Our answer is yes, in most applications, you will see savings. As with any appliance in one’s home or business, there are variables that could reduce the amount you save.
One of those variables: Long showers and simultaneous, multiple use.
Tankless models heat water directly without the use of a storage tank. When the hot water is turned on in the shower, cold water travels through a pipe to that location. Either a gas burner or an electric elements heats the water.
As a result, tankless water heaters deliver a constant supply of hot water and you don’t need to wait for a storage tank to fill up when there’s not enough hot water.
The rub is: A tankless water heater’s output limits the flow rate. Gas-fired tankless produces higher flow rates than electric ones, but sometimes even the largest gas models cannot supply enough waterer simultaneous, multiple uses in large households.
So — finally getting to the point — longer showers and simultaneous, multiple use in large households could cut into your savings. See the next variable.
The next variable: The cost of electricity, gas, and propane in the Staten Island and New York area will impact the amount of money saved. Yet, the higher the cost for the energy used to heat your water, the quicker you will recover the higher initial cost of installing a tankless water heater. While more energy efficient, tankless are more expensive to purchase and may require additional-expense retrofitting.
Can I replace an existing tank water heater with tankless?
Yes, but there are specific requirements that will need to be addressed.
- Gas units require a larger, special vent pipe and a larger gas supply line that not only will supply the water heater, but all other appliances on that gas pipe run.
- Electric units will require larger gauge wire and breakers than most tank type water heaters.
It’s definitely advisable to consult with a Staten Island plumber or plumbing contractor experienced with tankless water heater installation.
These two conditioners are deal breakers for many people who want to upgrade from tank to tankless water heaters.
What are the positives and negatives of tankless water heaters?
- You will never run out of hot water.
- Electric tankless can be installed at the point of use. This, of course, may or may not apply to you, so it’s best to talk with a Staten Island plumber or plumbing contractor to determine if this is applicable to your needs.
- You’re not paying energy costs to heat water 24 hours a day. What most Staten Island residents and business owners don’t realize is traditional water heaters constantly use energy to heat water even when the hot water tap isn’t on. This is standby heat loss, and tankless use a demand type coil to avoid standby heat loss — and increased energy usage.
- Some Staten Island plumbers and plumbing contractors contend tankless water heaters are easy to install. Maybe. Maybe not. It all depends on your location. If you are interested in tankless, definitely call a plumber — one experienced in tankless installations — and get an assessment. Some existing infrastructure (gas lines or electrical connections) may need retrofitting and upgrading.
- Many electric tankless water heaters don’t require a T&P valve (temperature and pressure valve) because, well, there is no tank.
- Using a tankless water heater is a bonus to the environment, if that means anything to you.
- Tankless needs a minimum flow rate and pressure to turn on.
- The faster water flows through tankless, the lower the temperature rise. So, if you expect to take a shower while the washing machine is running, you will need to select a unit sized to your hot water flow requirements. Talk with a Staten Island plumber or plumbing contractor for help understanding your hot water needs and the appropriate tankless model.
- Gas tankless units need a much larger, special flue pipe and larger gas supply than a conventional water heater. Also, some manufacturers require a “special order” in the home’s natural gas configuration, which could complicate matters. It’s another reason to talk with a Staten Island plumber who is familiar with tankless water heaters, not just an everyday plumber.
- At times tankless can produce super hot water, so it’s easy to get scalded.
- With some brands, parts are hard to find. This may not be an issue if you purchase through a Staten Island plumber or plumbing contractor, but if you buy from a home improvement center this could be an issue.
How do tankless water heaters know when to turn on?
Tankless water heaters have a flow switch built. When you turn on (open) the hot side of a faucet, water then travels through the pipes. Once water is traveling at 3/4 of a gallon per minute or faster, most tankless water heater switches turn on the gas or electricity.
What’s the difference between a conventional flue and a direct vent?
A conventional flue is what most people are familiar with. It typically consists of a double-wall flue pipe going from the top of the heater through the roof, venting outside. The fixture draws its combustion air from the space around it (utility room, garage, hallway).
A direct-vent unit on the other hand, both vents and draws its combustion air through a specially designed pipe from the outside via an adjacent wall.
Conventional flues and direct vents are one element of tankless water heaters that a Staten Island plumber familiar with these installations will definitely help you understand, especially if there are “unexpected” retrofitting costs.
Can tankless water heaters be installed in an attic?
Without seeing one’s plumbing piping and overall system, it’s hard to answer a definitive “yes” or “no.” Consulting with a Staten Island plumber or plumbing contractor will determine if the attic is a viable location for installation, but if the conditions are right there is no reason why one cannot be installed in an attic.
You must be sure that a possible water siphoning condition can not be created as tankless water heaters should not have air in the lines. Water siphoning out of any brand of tankless water heater might damage the heater when there is no water (or not enough water) in the lines.
Is it possible to drain a tankless water heater to prevent freeze damage when not in use?
Yes on most brands, but it’s best to check first though with the supplier or Staten Island plumber used for installation.
Simply drain both lines ‘to’ and ‘from’ the unit. As long as there are no check valves in the way, that should drain the water from the unit.
To guarantee that there is no water in the unit, it’s often recommended to use two drain valves – one before and one after the unit – as well as blowing air through the water line.