I have recently had a lot of people asking me about tankless hot water heaters. I have installed several of these systems over the years. My experience has been that a tankless water heater can cost as much as twice as much as a standard water heater but about half the cost of a high efficiency gas water heater. If those were the only facts to ponder when it comes to making a decision on what water heater to install, the decision would be easy. However, there is the issue of the labor.
Assuming that your house has the correctly sized gas supply line, the high efficiency tank would only be a few hundred dollars more to install. The tankless water heater can be as much as four times as much as a standard water heater to install because the piping generally needs to be reconfigured and there are power requirements not to mention the venting requirements. So how do you decide if a tankless hot water heater is for you?
One of the reasons for installing a tankless system is to provide you with an endless supply of hot water. If you have a big family and demand has become an issue, the surest way to make sure that no one ends up taking a cold shower is to install a tankless system. As long as there is gas, there is hot water.
The reason I like these systems is because of their efficiency. They are on average 22-30% more efficient or even more in some circumstances. Part of determining if you need a tankless system is to examine your usage. If you are a large family using a lot of water, your savings will not be as large. Smaller families or just one or two people in a house will experience higher savings. This is because the way the tankless system saves money is by not constantly maintaining a large quantity of heated water for use 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The tankless only uses gas when you need hot water. This means if your overall demand for water is low then your savings will be higher. On the lower end of the spectrum you could expect to save $80 per year. As the kids move out and your usage goes down your savings will go up. With the expected rise in gas prices the saving will also rise. My only complaint about installing a tankless hot water heater is that you do not have a tank to store solar heated hot water if you wanted. I’m sure a system could be worked out with a tank from an old hot water heater to store water from the solar water heater to pre feed the tankless system.
Installing a tankless hot water heater is one of those areas where it doesn’t pay to do the work yourself. The warranties only apply if the system is installed by a licensed and trained professional. Don’t forget when making energy efficient changes to your home to save the receipts and claim them on your taxes which will save you even more money.