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Calgary Plumbing: Are Tankless Water Heaters Worth the Hype?
Hello everyone, Kyle here and today we’re going to take a hard look at tankless water heaters. Yeah, we’ve discussed them before and yes, I think they are a pretty cool invention in some cases, but this article will go deep in depth in looking at the good, the bad and yes, the ugly of tankless water heaters to answer an age old question: are they worth it?
While tankless water heaters are great for saving energy because of the lack of a storage tank, there are still some negative things associated with them. Certainly they provide hot water in an instant, but there are some other important things to consider before you purchase one for your home.
The Need for a Tankless Water Heater
Customers generally want three things from their hot water: the hot water better last throughout the duration of a shower, one shouldn’t have to wait for the water to heat up and the water heating costs shouldn’t be through the roof! Simple things, but most standard water heaters fall short at least a few times on one or all of these points. The tankless water heater promises to get rid of these problems by doing away with the tank and instead heating water on demand. This cuts down on water heating costs, creates a way for hot water to always be available and hot water doesn’t run out in the middle of an operation!
Hyped to the Point of Risks…
We know full well that the goal for any salesperson is to sell and the tankless water heater is no exception. These people sell water heaters to customers using a three pronged approach (the validity of each will be examined in greater detail in just a moment):
Electric bills will be cut down and the machine is ‘green’
Tankless water heaters can provide hot water ‘on demand’
They are cool and modern
Upon these three things rests most of the sales pitch and many people buy into them. The salespeople create a huge hype around their product until people feel as though they must purchase one in order to remain up to date.
However, the risk is also great, mainly lying with the company. Many companies up and disappear, leaving customers in trouble should their water heater break down. Replacement parts are nowhere to be seen, warranties are nulled and no extended service is offered. Water heater companies by and large have a reputation for fast talking customers into buying something and then vanishing without a trace later on or tying up customers in so much red tape that they might as well not be there at all!
As tempting as it would be to sue many of these companies, customers are by and large stymied by the fine print which basically puts out the fact that service is limited (and pricey), and that there is no actual guarantee of reduced energy bills. The result? A product and company which does not live up to the promise.
Comparison Criteria is Misleading
Companies love to compare their products to other products in order to make their products shine out. It’s a common marketing scheme. However, most comparisons are based on incorrect data or the results are skewed to make a company look better. In the case of tankless water heater manufacturers, several comparisons are misleading or ‘off’. Here’s a look at the common comparisons and how they should be corrected!
Tank Heaters Only have about 1 Inch of insulation!
No. Well, yes. Well, it depends! Customers can ask for and receive tank heaters with double or triple the standard insulation and that of course saves on insulation.
EPA Mileage Ratings
The mileage ratings are usually wildly different from real world usage and as a result, the factors and tests may be wrong.
Increased Water Temperature Numbers
A favourite line to throw out is that water is heated to 35 degrees higher than needed. This is wrong though because it depends wildly on what kind of heater you have.
You should always take comparisons with a grain of salt because the company comparing their products to others are obviously going to have a bias!
It’s Very Expensive
Tankless water heaters are very expensive, often costing several times more than the standard water heater. But the energy required to heat X amount of water to Y degrees will always be the same. This means that you are paying the same amount in energy costs no matter which system you use. The only difference is that most tankless water heaters can only heat about forty gallons of water at a time before, yes, you’ll have to wait a bit for more water to come in!
All aspects of the tankless water heater are expensive. The initial heater costs at least six to seven hundred dollars more than the conventional heater and then installation costs even more. Furthermore, repairs are expensive because the machine is more fiddly and you will need bigger gas lines and larger vents which will require a bit of work on your home. All in all, that is one hefty price tag for a product which may or may not last long enough to let you reap any energy savings in the first place!
Are there any savings to be had? Sure, if you find a reputable merchant of water heater tankless system who stands by their work, offers servicing and a good warranty and delivers a good product. Tankless water heaters don’t lose as much heat as their tank cousins which means that you can save a bit of money. But it’ll take a while for those bits to add up and make up for the initial costs!
The Flexible Tank Heater
For something that is big and bulk, the traditional tank heater does have some flexibility and that’s worth considering for your specific needs. So let’s take a look:
Tank water heaters can provide hot water for a shower AND the sink with multitasking. Tankless water heaters, not so much.
Tankless water heaters have a hard time with small volumes of water. You have to pay attention to the flow of water and heating time to get things perfect and get the efficiency which heatless tanks claim.
Storage tanks uniformly heat your water and tankless heaters don’t. This means you could end up getting hot water that in the pipes from sometime earlier, than hot and cold cycles with temperature fluctuations as the water moves around the burner and up the pipes. So much for even heating!
While some of these problems can be avoided using a small storage tank, you might as well go all the way and get a real storage water heater and save all your money and hassle.
Is There Really Instantaneous Hot Water?
The big benefit of tankless water heaters is the claim that you will get hot water on demand, but this isn’t entirely true. Think about it: When you turn your faucet, the flow sensor has to start, fans have to turn on and the burner has to go on. The water has to be heated before it comes out of your tap and that takes a few seconds, just like a tank water heater. What they really mean by instant hot water is that your hot water wasn’t in a tank before you turned on the faucet.
Are Tankless Water Heaters Reliable?
It’s easy to say ‘no’ at this point and get even more discouraged. The truth is, that like any complicated apparatus, tankless water heaters are not as reliable as the old fashioned tanks. Here’s why:
Tankless water heaters are complicated; they have a lot of bits which can break down at any time. They function like mini-boilers and as a result can be damaged by things like sediments all to easily.
If it’s cold outside, you have to completely drain the water out or else frozen water inside could damage the tank.
Hard water destroys the efficiency of these tanks. Interiors become covered in lime and sediment and the whole apparatus slows down. Standard water heaters allow the sediment to settle to the bottom where they can be flushed out.
Tankless water heaters need a lot of inspecting and if you ignore this, your warranty may be voided. These technicians aren’t cheap either, so no matter what, you’re paying through the nose.
If you forget about switching your heater off or you don’t think much about maintenance, you’re better off with tank heaters which are sturdy and take care of themselves just fine.
Now again, if you find a reputable merchant with solid tankless water heaters, you won’t have to worry as much about these problems, but they are still more likely to crop up than tank water heaters and repairs are far more costly.
Are Tankless Water Heaters Really Energy Efficient?
Heaters are general are not a very efficient appliance. The piping and vents leaks a lot of heat and some tanks are just poorly insulated. The only way to really save energy would be if you had no piping, but then you’d have to have your water heater beside every faucet and shower and that’s not likely to happen! In all honestly, a well insulated water tank would lose the same amount of heat as a tankless water heater, assuming they are both relatively good or both very poor in quality so you have accurate grounds to compare. Both systems use vents which also lose heat and tankless water heaters have larger vents to lose even more heat from. This is not to say that by nature tankless water heaters are NOT efficient, just that they are no more efficient than a good tank water heater.
There are two ways to save energy with tankless water heaters:
Insulate the piping. (this works on tank heaters too though)
Go electrical. For the most part, electric tankless water heaters save a bit more energy than gas, assuming that electrical bills in your state don’t cost more than gas.
We are focusing on tankless water heaters in this article, but the following information on warranties is valid with EVERYTHING! So please keep this advice in mind when purchasing any appliances or electrical gadgets or anything really.
Warranties by tankless heaters are worth reading because they are full of potential loopholes for the sake of the company and are fairly long winded. For example, you have to have your tankless water heater regularly inspected in order to preserve the warranty and there is a long list of things you cannot do to your tankless water heater (such as fix it yourself!) or you void the warranty. Now if you don’t care about that, fiddle away, but most people depend on their warranty.
The fact that these warranties are so extensive should give you pause for thought. Warranties for things which are reliable and last years are not nearly as complex as warranties for things which can die easily. Guess which camp tankless water heaters fall into? The latter one of course! Part of this is just because the technology is still new enough the companies are paranoid, but that means it may be too new for your home and peace of mind.
In Conclusion…I’m NEVER BUYING A TANKLESS WATER HEATER!
The point of this article wasn’t to scare you away from tankless water heaters. In the right circumstances, they are a nifty piece of work. If you don’t need a ton of water for example or if you live in tight spaces and you want to save on room, tankless water heaters can be a great way to keep the hot water going. The point of this article was to make you think hard about what the manufacturers are claiming and not take it as Holy Writ. By thinking critically about any purchases, including tankless water heaters, you can ensure that the products you buy will work for your home and make your life better and easier. Ask thoughtful questions of anyone trying to sell you this technology and make sure you fully understand what you’re getting into before you buy and that way you’ll be happy with your purchase.
If you have any questions about tankless water heaters or water heaters in general, feel free to contact us at Clearview Plumbing and Heating at…
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