Are Tankless water heaters worth it?

23 Aug 2015

Are Tankless water heaters worth it?

Are tank-less water heaters worth it?
Well the answer is complicated: yes, yes and yes. I have been a fan of tank-less water heaters sense my first one in 2007.

Lifestyle?

The first scenario, your 50 gallon water heater went out on your main home and flooded your laundry room now do you buy the same old thing that left your laundry room in an inch of water or do you get the new thingy they call a tank-less (by the way they have been around for nearly 50 years) lets look at the 2 scenarios.

  1. You buy the same old thing, you have 4 kids and a needy life partner. This means every morning, your household needs: 3 showers, to run the dish washer once, to run the sink for a few minutes, to run 1 to 2 loads of clothes, well even with 50 gallons of hot water, you will only get you through half of that then your water is almost cold already. Now its time for the evening rush which is close to the same water use as the morning IF everything goes as planned……, but what about the days where all of the kids need showers at night like after soccer practice, or what about returning from the beach trip, everyone needs a shower, now who gets to sit around the house for an hour covered in sand while the water heats back up….
  2. Well you sprung for a tank-less water heater, your daily routine is different, you finish dinner, throw the dishes in the dish washer, throw the cloths in the washer, the kids hop in the showers and you run to your retreat and put on a bath. Hours ahead of schedule and plenty of hot water to go around, the hot water never stops nor does it cool down. Now in the morning, does anyone need to take a shower? everyone had there showers last night, no need for someone to schedule a shower in the morning, well unless they really want to.

Winner: Tank-less hot water heater

Water Heater Life?

Lets look at the second factor, the life of the water heater, regular tank water heaters have a life span of 7 to 10 years, sure you might get 11 to 15, I have even see one that was 25 years old but the efficiency is so bad it should have been replaced 15 years ago and it probably cost nearly double or triple a year in gas. The expected  life of a tank-less water heater  is 25+ years.

Why such a difference in the life expectancy?

Well lets first look at the tank water heater. You fill it up, all of the sediment settles to the bottom of the tank, you empty all the water out, then fill it up again and the sediment collects at the bottom again and again leading to pounds and pounds  (i have seen nearly 100 lbs in a heater before) your tank shrinks in size from it and the heater needs to heat through all of the sediment. In addition, it is ALWAYS on, ALWAYS, burring a little bit of gas, ALWAYS hot, ALWAYS leaking heat out of it, ALWAYS turning on and off to maintaining enough hot water to get things almost done, if you hurry.

Lets look at the tank-less water heater, you turn the water on and the water flows through the heater just like a water pipe. When you are not using it, it is off, very off, no gas is being burnt, well it might be using as much electricity as your cell phone charger while it is just sitting there, but it stays off, it doesn’t turn on, wasting its life on an empty house.  With heat a little bit of minerals do stick to the inside, with a little maintenance every 5 years, it is completely cleaned out remaining at peak efficiency its entire life.

You will need to buy 3 tank water heaters or 1 tank-less water heater.

Winner: Tank-less hot water heater

Now let’s talk cost.

You will need to  buy and reinstall 3 regular tank water heaters to equal the life of 1 thankless water heater. Regular water heaters can run around $1200 each install depending on the location in your home. So you end up spending  $3600 for tanks. 95% of tank-less water heater installs, including the retrofit of gas and water lines, are less then the cost of the 3 tanks, in fact, often they can be 2/3 the total cost.

The efficiency of a regular tank water heater is .60 to .69 efficiency rating which means for every dollar you spend only 60 to 69 cents worth of gas is converted into heat that makes it into the water. In addition there is a loss of heat from hot water just sitting around. You also have to take into mind that efficiency number slowly get lower every time the tank fills.   A tank-less water heater will save you around $100 to $200 a year or more depending on your hot water use and efficiency rating of the unit, we mostly install .93 to .98 efficiency rated tank-less water heaters. That equates to $2,500 to $5,000 savings over the 25 year life of the tank-less water heater. You may be able to save in gas the cost of a tank less water heater.

There are also energy rebates and special financing such as the hero financing program that make tank-less water heaters even more attractive.

Tank water heater cost(25 Year): $1200 every 7 years; Energy Savings $0; Total 25 year cost $3600

Tank-less water heater (25 year): one time $2400-3600; Energy Savings $2,500 to $5,000; Total 25 year cost : $1,100 to -$2,600 (that is right a negative number you can put up to $2,600 back in your pocket with the energy savings) 

Winner: tank-less water heater

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Nick Mendoza

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