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FAQ: Tankless Water Heaters

tankless water heater

Tankless water heaters, also known as on-demand water heaters, are becoming increasingly popular due in large part to their energy-efficient reputation. After all, water heating is most Americans’ 2nd largest utility expense after home heating and cooling costs. However, if you’ve never had a tankless water heater before, you undoubtedly have some pressing questions you need answered before you’re willing to make the switch from a tank-style water heater.

Below, we’ve put together some of the most frequently asked questions we get regarding tankless (on-demand) water heaters.

1. Do tankless water heaters store water?

Tankless water heaters do not store water the way that tank-style heaters do. They heat water on demand. In other words, they heat only the water you need at any given moment.

The equipment heats water instantaneously through heat exchangers and then supply that water immediately as needed. Because there’s no water storage necessary, tankless water heaters are small (comparable to the size of a carry-on suitcase) and can be installed in more compact spaces. Some can be wall-mounted.

2. How long do tankless water heaters last?

Tankless water heaters have a life expectancy of 20-plus years. With the proper maintenance and care, they far exceed the 10-15 years you can expect from traditional tank-style water heaters. Because they only operate when you need water, tankless water heaters only need to work periodically. Tank-style heaters, on the other hand, need to heat water constantly to maintain a tank of usable hot water. This puts more wear and tear on the heating elements, thermostats, ignitors, and other components.

3. Do tankless water heaters require flushing?

Tankless water heaters do require periodic flushing to keep the heaters running efficiently and optimally. Over time, sediment and limestone scale can have an adverse effect on pipes and heating elements.

The minerals separate from the water and cause a film to form wherever the water travels. As more water travels through the heater, more deposits are added to the film, causing a buildup. This can lead to decreased efficiency, which, in turn, leads to higher operating expenses. Also, the heating unit will be forced to work harder, which will cause it to wear out faster.

Luckily, flushing the tankless water heater is simple and inexpensive and usually only needs to be performed every twelve months. If the area where you live has particularly hard water, you may benefit from flushing the unit more frequently.

4. What advantages does a tankless water heater have over a tank water heater?

There are numerous advantages to owning a tankless water heater. Because it only heats the water you need, you save money by not having to continuously heat an entire tank of water throughout the day.

If you live with a large family, you also won't hear those age-old complaints we’ve all heard before: “So-and-so used all the hot water again!” With a tankless water heater, the hot water supply is always available and will not run out. With that being said, you may run into some shortage issues if multiple sources in your home need hot water at the same time, so it’s important to consider what capacity your household will need when selecting a tankless model.

The lifespan of a tankless heater is also a major benefit. If maintained consistently, your tankless unit can last nearly double the lifespan of a tank-type unit. A tankless heater also has the advantage of a smaller size, eliminating the need for a large area for installation.

A tankless water heater’s most significant advantage is its energy efficiency. The Department of Energy reports that in homes that use a lot of hot water (around 86 gallons daily), tankless water heaters are 8% to 14% more efficient than tank-style water heaters. In homes that use 41 gallons or less, tankless water heaters are 24% to 34% more efficient.

Have More Questions?

Our plumbing experts at Nuckols Plumbing, Heating & Cooling are happy to answer any further questions you have about tankless water heater installation, maintenance, and repairs. Give us a call at (804) 214-2077 or contact us online.