Are Electric Tankless Water Heaters Worth It?

A million dollar question! Glad you asked. However, let us discuss the issue in detail to arrive at a plausible conclusion. The traditional water heaters are slowly becoming a thing of the past. Scientific advancement and heightened aesthetic sensibility of man have fueled this phenomenon.

Man’s quest for advanced equipments that will ease his life a bit more than yesterday has made several breakthroughs in every field of life. Water heating is just one of them. The large water tank sitting on the garage walls and bathroom walls have given way to sleek fixtures that will often go with your internal décor scheme. Modern layman is more aesthetically tempered than his ancestors who were more oriented towards performance.

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On top of this world is now facing a worse energy crisis than ever before. The environmental issues have added to the troubles. Exhaustion of the non-renewable energy sources has forced man to look for alternative sources. But where it is not possible, he is compelled to save as much energy as he can. The atmospheric pollution and global warming have made it mandatory for him to adopt systems which add the least amount of harmful influences, while operating a domestic appliance.

The entry of the tankless water heater into this scenario caused quite a stir. It is supposed to be more energy saving and almost green in its operation than the traditional water heaters. Naturally the markets are flooded with hundreds of models of tankless water heaters. But the question whether they are worth the huge upfront expenditure is a much debated topic.

All about conventional storage water heaters

There are two types of storage water heaters – the one which uses natural gas or propane or even kerosene and the other electrically heated model.

The gas storage water heater incurs cheaper operation charges as gas at present is cheaper than electricity. This conventional water heater has a storage tank that holds water. The heating occurs inside this tank. The tank is fitted with an input connection for cold water and an output connection for hot water.

The cold water pipe goes really deep into the tank and the outgoing hot water pipe reaches only till half way. This is because cold water should be delivered to a lower level and the hot water level happens to be considerably above. A magnesium or aluminum anode is also installed inside the water heater in order to prevent ionization and corrosion of the inside of the tank.

The Best Energy Conserving Tankless Water HeatersThe gas fueled water heater has a burner under the water tank. This burner is connected with a gas connection which is often a dedicated line or a line using pipes with enhanced size. This burner is lighted with a pilot light or an electrical spark ignition. The thermostat of the system senses the temperature and adjusts the fuel flow. There is another component in all types of gas water heaters that monitors the pilot flame. If the pilot flame has gone out for some reason, it shuts off all the gas connections to it.

The gas water heater is fitted with a vent to let out the combustion emissions from the burner. This is often let out through roof or through the side wall to open air.

The electric water heater is heated by a heating element inside the storage tank. Since there are no gas emissions, it does not need a vent. But it sure needs a heavy duty wiring and electrical connection. This water heater is also regulated by means of a thermostat which comes on and off to keep the water at an optimum temperature always.

All about electrical tankless water heaters

The tankless water heater does not have a reservoir to store water. This is a compact equipment that lets water flow through it to the hot water faucets. The small unit inside the water heater called heat exchanger heats the water, while it continues to flow through the heater.

The heat exchanger starts functioning when a hot water faucet is opened. This is why it is called ‘instant water heater’. The water gets heated only when the demand for hot water arises. So the tankless water heaters are also called ‘on demand water heater’.

The heat exchanger is the principal part of a tankless water heater. This is a device that transfers heat from a heating coil to water. This coil is heated by a gas burner or an electric current as the case may be. The heat exchanger is activated by a flow sensor which detects the inflow of water.

The gas operated tankless water heater will need vents just as in the gas storage water heater. The electrical models are devoid of vents.

A comparison between conventional and tankless water heaters

  1. Beauty quotient – Considering the beauty of the units, the tankless models have distinct advantage. Most of the models have compact glossy bodies which are pleasing to the eye. In spite of the modern designer made tanks of the storage water heater, it still sits on the wall as a lump.
  2. Space utilization – The storage tanks take more space than the compact units of the tankless water heater. While you have to lodge the storage water heaters inside the bathrooms or garages, some of the tankless systems can be installed closer to the point of utilization.

But when it comes to the whole house models even the best tankless water heaters have to be installed at a place from where it can be connected to various faucets and points of use.

  1. Energy conservation – The storage water heater is considered to be a more energy consuming appliance because of its standby energy loss. The heating and re-heating of water consumes a lot of energy. The tankless water heater uses up energy only when the water flow is registered in its flow sensor. So there is no standby loss.
  2. Instantaneous heating – The tankless water heater delivers hot water as soon as the tap is opened, while you will have to switch on the storage water heater sufficiently early to get hot water when you open the tap.

But if the tankless water heater is for the whole house, it will be installed at a far off place from multiple hot water faucets. In that case you will have to wait a few seconds for the cold water that is already in the pipe to flow out before you get the hot water. Moreover, you will waste some water before the hot water arrives your point.

  1. Initial cost – The tankless water heater incurs a sizable initial cost by way of the water heater price and installation charges. The plumbing for the tankless water heater is also expensive. The electrical tankless water heater may need a dedicated connection, which will cost you a packet.
  2. Impact on the environment – The tankless water heater is said to be energy saving. But in most cases it wastes an equally precious natural resource called water while you wait for the hot water to follow the cold water in the pipe. The storage water heater provides you with hot water the instant you open the tap.
  3. Life span – The tankless water heater can boast of more than 20 years of service life, which is a lot more than their storage counter parts.

Choose A Tankless Water Heater That Suits You

Now it is time to evaluate the whole scenario as we have seen the pros and cons of the two types of water heater. Considering all the aspects, we cannot flatly declare one to be worthy and the other unworthy. If one scores in certain respects, the other scores in yet other respects.

The bottom line is, you have to choose the one that suits you. If you are not in a position to spend a big amount, you can stick on to the storage water heaters and try as much as you can to prolong its life with proper installation and maintenance. On the other hand, if you are rich enough to spend money on a bit of luxury, you can go for an eye-pleasing tankless model and provide your family with instantaneous hot water.