Tankless Water Heaters
If you already have a tankless water heater then your home was probably piped for one and it would be very expensive to convert over to a conventional tank water heater (otherwise called a storage water heater) at this point if you should decide to do so. For those people that have a conventional water heater and are thinking about converting over to a tankless water heater, I would think again before taking the leap. Take a few minutes to read this article which will explain the reasons why you may want to think twice before doing so.
A Little History About Water Heaters
Tankless water heaters originated in Europe and have been around for years. Back in 1868 in London, England, a man named Benjamin Waddy Maughan invented what was called "the geyser", the first instantaneous domestic water heater that didn't use solid fuel and of which it could be said was the first tankless water heater. His device heated cold water as it flowed downward through wires heated by hot gases generated by a burner located at the bottom and then into a tub or a sink for use. Maughan's device however was dangerous due to the gases it emitted. His work however influenced that of another man named Edwin Ruud, a Norwegian mechanical engineer who then created the first electric tank type water heater in 1889 after he immigrated to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The "Green" Thing
Most European homes have very little space to accommodate a conventional tank water heater and therefore tankless water heaters are more common in that region. Here in the States most of us have a conventional tank water heater since we do not have the same restrictions on space and therefore it is not an issue. In recent years however due to the "Green" movement, tankless water heaters have been growing in popularity because many consumers are told that they save energy and therefore save the environment.
Going "Green" can be a good thing, but here at Olin Plumbing we believe saving your Green Backs (i.e., money) is better. Most of our competition will probably persecute us for that statement and deny the truth because they are only thinking about the money they are making selling tankless water heaters to their customers and installing them and not about each customers specific needs and what may be the best solution for each of their customers.
The ads for tankless water heaters usually say something along the lines of "Go Green, Save Money and Use Less Supply of Hot Water". Well yes and no can be said in response to such a statement as this. In order for a tankless water heater to give you an endless supply of hot water it needs to first be sized right. Most companies out there do not do this, nor do they know how.
Most manufacturers of tankless water heaters will claim that that their products will heat your water with a 60 degree rise at 9 gallons per minute. This means that the heater will heat up to 9 gallons of the water 60 degrees warmer then what it comes into your home, but will not heat your water over 120 degrees in temperature due to safety reasons. If you are using more than 9 gallons per minute, then the temperature of the water drops, in other words, the more hot water you use the less you get. The manufacturers have taken this into consideration and devised the approach that if you require more hot water then simply install another tankless water heater, maybe even 2 or even 5 more. Simply said, if you need an endless supply of hot water, then just use one thing at a time or buy bigger tankless water heaters or more of them.
Let's Look At The Cost
It may be said that tankless water heaters can save you money because you are not keeping 40 or 50 gallons of water hot all the time, but are they the best solution for you? The average cost of most tankless water heaters ranges from $2,500 - $5,000 installed. This is just for one heater, whereas a conventional gas or electric water heater can run you only $800 - $1,000 to replace, which is a significant difference in up front cost. Though one may argue that a tankless water heater saves you money in the long run because gas consumption is less since it only comes on when you turn on the hot water and therefore you are not maintaining a tank of hot water when you are not using it. However, a tankless water heater uses between 11,000 - 199,900 B.T.U. to heat the water on demand as opposed to a conventional water heater that only uses about 40,000 B.T.U. which is significantly less. So it could be said that whether you use a tank or tankless water heater, overall you use about the same amount of B.T.U. to heat the same amount of water. This is like six in one hand and a half dozen in the other.
The real difference in cost comes into play when a plumber informs you that in order to keep your tankless water heater in good working order, you have to have a water softener due to the hardness of the city water supply in the Tampa Bay area. If you do not already have one, the cost to have a water softener installed and supplied can be between $1,500 - $5,000. If you should decide not to install a water softener then you will need to have a plumber clean the scale out of the heat exchanger annually, which will be an additional cost of $150 - $200 per year. Most manufacturers do provide a warranty on the heat exchanger, some even say they will give you a 20 year warranty. It may be all well and good that the manufacturer is willing to replace your heat exchanger, but it could take days or even weeks until the heat exchanger is ordered and you will be without hot water in the meantime. In addition, you will probably be required to pay to have it installed which is another price you pay.
The heat exchanger in a tankless water heater is not the only part susceptible to failure, there are a whole lot of parts that make up a tankless water heater and therefore a whole lot that can go wrong. Most of these additional parts are only covered by a 1 year warranty and therefore you may be required to pay for the replacement of these parts should they fail.
Tank or Tankless, That is the Question?
We could go on and on about the pros and cons of both a tank and tankless water heater, but we think you get the picture. A tankless water heater has its place and serves its purpose, but for the majority of home owners out there a good old fashioned tank water heater is all you need. We here at Olin Plumbing will install any water heater you would like, but we believe in saving you money and headache at the same time. Therefore, when it comes to choosing between a tank or tankless water heater, we recommend most should choose a tank.