Are tankless water heaters more efficient?

January 21, 2021

Perhaps your family has grown out of your standard water heater or you need a lot more hot water quicker than your water heater is giving it to you. There has to be a simple answer other than a larger heater. What are your options with regard to water heating components? You’ve learned that tankless water heaters are more efficient than regular water heater tanks. Are they always more efficient, and might that be a better option for your home? Here is some information to help you determine what might be the best plan of action for you.

How Tankless Water Heaters Work

To understand how tankless systems are more efficient, you need to understand how water heaters work. A traditional tanked system holds anywhere between 20 and 100 gallons. These systems heat the entire tank of water and then hold it at the right temperature until you need it.

A tankless system works a little differently in that it doesn’t store a large quantity of water and use energy to keep it hot within its tank. Rather, when you need hot water, it will heat it as it comes through the system. Be sure the flow rate of the water heater matches your output needs, though. That’s important.

The name “tankless” can actually be a little deceiving. Some tankless systems do have a small reservoir of a few gallons, but it’s nothing compared to a traditional heater.

Why People Say They Are More Efficient

From a sheer technical perspective, tankless water heaters are more energy-efficient. This added efficiency is because they don’t have to try to keep water warm when you don’t need it. Rather, it can heat the water as it is needed and then send it where it needs to go.

A traditional water heater, on the other hand, tries to maintain the water temperature so that it’s ready whenever you need it. The Department of Energy estimates that traditional water heaters are only about 60% efficient. This means that 40% of the energy used is because the water cools as it sits. It also loses some heat as it travels through your pipes to your appliances.

A natural gas tankless water heater is expected to be about 23% more efficient than traditional tanks. If you opt for an electric tankless system, it’s important to know that they are about 99% efficient. The tankless system does not lose any energy while storing the water.

Each Situation May Determine Effectiveness

As you consider efficiency, you need to consider also the effectiveness of a tankless system. It is a system that may technically be more efficient in heating water. However, if your hot water needs are greater than what the system can supply, that efficiency is moot.

You have to look at how much water you will need at any one time. Even the system with the highest flow rate supplies about 11 gallons per minute, or GPM. More common models put out between two and five GPM. I

If you need to be able to run multiple appliances simultaneously with hot water, then you may run into a supply problem. Consider how much water the following appliances use:

  • Shower: 1.5-3 GPM
  • Sink faucet: 2-3 GPM
  • Dishwasher: 2-4 GPM
  • Washing machine: 3-5 GPM

Expected Service Life

In most systems, the efficiency degrades over time, so it costs more toward the end of the service life. Knowing this as well as the expected service life of your system will help you evaluate the cost efficiency.

A traditional water heater is expected to last somewhere between six and 13 years, depending on your water quality and maintenance. According to Home Advisor, the national average for water heater installation is $1,171, including the unit and labor. This means your annual cost for the system itself is $90-$195.

Tankless water heaters, on the other hand, have an expected service life of about 20 years. Installing these systems generally runs between about $1,000 and $3,000. The cost is dependent on the type of heater you choose as well as whatever infrastructure work is needed. This equates out to somewhere between $50-$150 per year. Add on top of this the savings from the improved efficiency.

Knowing If a Tankless Water Heater Is Right for You

There are certainly advantages to a tankless system for your home. However, it is not necessarily the right option for everyone, depending on your particular needs. Consult with a professional who can evaluate your usage needs and help you determine if it is a good investment.

Comfort Masters Ltd. has been a trusted name in the Oshawa area since 2005. Our team provides expertise in both tankless water heater installation and maintenance, in addition to heating and cooling installation, repair, and maintenance. Some of our other services offered include boiler services, gas fireplaces, indoor air quality audits, and trusted solutions. Call to schedule your consultation with our team to discuss whether a tankless water heater is right for you.