Explore our tankless water heaters buying guide to find reviews of the best models and advanced features, compare advantages and disadvantages, select the size, and learn how to install, maintain, and save.
Tankless water heaters have many benefits. They are small and powerful, using on-demand technology to provide hot water when needed and in endless supply. This innovative design ensures fast hot water delivery and energy savings with enhanced comfort and convenience.
Tankless water heaters have many advantages over standard storage tank-type models.
On-demand heating. Tankless heaters heat the water on demand while conventional tank-type heats water even when it is not needed (or used); for example, during the night, when away from home, or when on vacation. Therefore, during tankless heating, hot water is always clean and fresh and no more fighting the rust and scale buildup inside the tank, resulting in less time spent on the maintenance.
Endless supply. Tankless hot water heaters provide an endless supply of hot water with continuous flow while keeping energy consumption and greenhouse gases low. There is no shortage of hot water, which is vital if you have a large family, small kids, visitors, or planning to fill up a hot tub. While many people call the tankless – instantaneous, they do not provide instant hot water. If you want hot water delivered fast, look for the tankless model with the recirculation system installed, either with the internal or external mode.
Versatile. Tankless gas water heaters are versatile units; they can be used indoor or outdoor, and due to their compact and small size, they are usually mounted on the wall without occupying valuable floor space. They typically use a direct and power vent system for efficient and safe removal of flue gases.
Save energy. These on-demand heaters can almost eliminate the standby heat loss while reducing energy consumption by up to 30% (some manufacturers claim even higher savings). As the water is heated and used simultaneously (not water storage), most of the tankless water heaters are highly efficient and Energy Star compliant.
Precise temperature control: Tankless water heaters offer precise temperature control, allowing you to set your desired water temperature to the exact degree. This feature ensures that you can enjoy consistent and comfortable hot water for various purposes, such as bathing, cooking, or cleaning.
Quality elements. Most modern tankless water heaters, such as Noritz, Rinnai, or Takagi, are using quality elements found in their advanced models and for both residential and commercial water heating. This includes commercial-grade elements and sophisticated electronically-controlled processes with self-diagnostic programs for easy troubleshooting.
Most of the components can be replaced (while in the tank-type cannot), so if one element fails, you can replace it, making heaters long-lasting - they can generally last up to 20 years.
There are some comments that tankless water heaters cannot meet the requirements for higher hot water demand and are built for point-of-use applications only. That is not true, as many models can deliver hot water to more than two fixtures; Noritz NRC1111, for example, can deliver up to 11 GPM water flow. The best models from the Rinnai RUR and RU series have a water flow of over 10 GPM.
These advanced models can even use the multi-system connection feature, which connects two or more units to work as one system, providing supplementary power and water flow.
Small and compact. Small size and flexible installation allow tankless water heaters installation virtually anywhere, but mostly on the wall. Keep in mind that proper location is crucial for installation as it should be approachable for cleaning, maintenance, and flushing, for example.
Reduced risk of water damage: Since tankless water heaters don't store large volumes of water, there's a lower risk of catastrophic water damage caused by tank leaks or ruptures. This can provide peace of mind, especially if your water heater is located in a living space rather than a basement or utility area.
Temperature fluctuation: Common complaints found for tankless hot water heaters are cold-water sandwich effects, where some models are not capable of providing consistent water temperature.
Limited flow rate: Tankless water heaters have a maximum flow rate, which can be a limitation for households with high hot water demands. If multiple hot water fixtures are used simultaneously, such as running showers and appliances, it can strain the heater's capacity and result in reduced water temperature.
Tankless water heaters have a minimum water flow requirement, which can be a drawback in certain situations. For example, if you only need a small amount of hot water for tasks like shaving or handwashing, the burner might not ignite because the flow switch doesn't respond to low water flow. It's important to note that this issue is typically associated with 'value' or economy models of tankless water heaters. Therefore, you may encounter complaints from users about not getting enough hot water from these models.
Upfront cost: While tankless water heaters can provide long-term energy savings, their initial cost, including installation, can be significantly higher than traditional tank-style water heaters. This upfront investment may deter some homeowners, even though the energy efficiency benefits can lead to savings over time.
While they are called "Instantaneous," they do not deliver hot water instantly as there is still unheated water between the heating unit and the plumbing fixture, which has to be pushed out.
Complex installation: Installing a tankless water heater can be more complex than replacing a traditional water heater. It often requires changes to the existing plumbing and gas lines, and the installation should be performed by a qualified professional, which can add to the overall cost.
Energy source compatibility: Gas-powered tankless water heaters require proper venting, and not all homes are equipped for this. Electric tankless models, as mentioned earlier, may require a significant electrical upgrade, increasing installation costs.
|Efficiency||High (0.80 and up)||Low (0.57 and up)|
|Life expectancy||20+||up to 15|
Tankless water heaters can be found as electric - or gas-powered. Tankless gas water heaters are generally factory set to use natural gas, and the conversion kit is used to convert them to use propane or LP gas.
Both gas and tankless electric models are designed for use in whole-house and point-of-use applications. The more BTUs (kW) or water flow rate one unit has, the more plumbing fixtures can operate at the same time and deliver hot water at a uniform temperature.
Another category of tankless gas water heaters is becoming very popular; gas condensing type. Condensing technology allows these units to achieve extremely high efficiency, up to 96%, so only 4% of energy is wasted. This is possible as the second heat exchanger was added to capture heat from the exhaust gases and preheat incoming cold water. Another great advantage is the lower temperature of the flue gases resulting in inexpensive vents such as PVC.
Indoor tankless models are mainly combustion sealed, so the indoor air is untouched. As a result, they can be installed even in the kitchen or room.
Tankless water heaters are popular in the US and Canada, while in Europe, they are known as combi or combination boilers (they heat home and water at the same time). Below is the list of popular manufacturers, including the best non-condensing tankless models:
Brand: Look for the popular brands as they have a great selection, quality models, and a large service and distributor network. These are Rinnai, Noritz, Rheem, Takagi, Bosch, Navien, and Paloma for the gas type, and Stiebel Eltron, Titan, Eemax, Bosch, Chronomite, and EcoSmart for the electric tankless.
Fuel type: Tankless water heaters are using mainly natural gas, propane, or electricity to heat the water. If propane gas is your only option, the outdoor propane gas tank and its supply lines should also be considered. The advantage of electric tankless water heaters is that electricity is available everywhere.
Natural gas is also available in regions with a higher population. For many, this is the best option due to its availability and cost.
Size and capacity: Calculate what the peak hour demand for your household is. Based on how many gallons of hot water your home needs, look for the models that meet this requirement with the water flow rate, usually shown in GPM or gallons per minute. Another essential factor to consider is the heating power (BTU for gas units and kW for electric). If the size is not correctly optimized, you might have only lukewarm water when several plumbing fixtures are in use.
Efficiency: Buying high efficient heaters is straightforward. Look for the blue Energy Star logo. Energy efficiency, Uniform Energy Factor or UEF shows the ratio of the heating energy delivered as hot water, compared to the energy used by the heater over a one-day period. Energy Star-approved models meet the strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the Department of Energy (DOE).
Venting options: Electric tankless models do not require venting, while gas-type do. Most of the tankless use either direct or power vent systems for indoor models, while the outdoor units are ventless.
Altitude: If you live at a high altitude, be aware that the oxygen levels can affect the combustion process in gas-powered tankless heaters. You may need to adjust the air-fuel ratio or select a unit designed for high-altitude use.
Price and warranty: The prices for tankless water heaters are going from below $500 to over $1500 for the best condensing models. Most of the manufacturers provide a 12-year warranty on the heat exchanger and 5-years on other parts, while the best one found is 15-years.
Local building codes: Check your local building codes and regulations. Some areas may have specific requirements for the installation and venting of tankless water heaters. Ensuring compliance with local codes is crucial to a safe and legal installation.
Professional Installation: Due to unit's complexity, tankless water heaters typically require professional installation. Consider the cost and availability of qualified technicians in your area when budgeting for your purchase.
|* per DOE 2017|
Sizing a tankless water heater is a critical step in ensuring your hot water needs are met efficiently. Beyond the number of fixtures and their flow rates, consider your household's peak hot water demand.
Think about how often hot water is used simultaneously for showers, laundry, and other activities. Also, keep in mind that colder climates may require a larger unit to achieve the desired temperature rise.
Choosing the right size ensures optimal performance and energy efficiency. An undersized unit may struggle to deliver consistent hot water, while an oversized unit can lead to unnecessary energy consumption. If you're uncertain about the sizing process, it's advisable to consult a professional plumber or use manufacturer-provided online calculators for accurate recommendations.
Don't forget to factor in future needs. If your household size is likely to change or you plan to add more hot water fixtures, consider sizing up to accommodate these future requirements. Investing in the right-sized tankless water heater ensures long-term satisfaction with your hot water system.
The following sizing guide and tips are only for reference. Use the online sizing calculators such as those from Rinnai and Noritz, or contact a professional plumber for help. The calculators will usually ask for your zip code, number of showers in your home, types of showerheads, number of baths, fuel type, features to have, recirculation, and more.
Other important factors include the incoming water temperature, water flow rates measured in gallons per minute (GPM) and temperature rise.
Now let's see how many GPM of hot water is needed per application:
For a home where the shower, dishwasher, and washer applications are used simultaneously, the total water flow is 5.5 GPM (2+1.5+2).
If the temperature of the incoming water is 60 F and desired temperature of the outgoing water is 120 F, then look for the model that is capable of raising the temperature of water to 60 F at 5.5 GPM. Use this pdf from Bosch to determine the groundwater temperature in your area (US).
It's worth noting that gas tankless water heaters can typically achieve a higher temperature rise compared to electric models.
So, is it time to invest in a tankless water heater for your home?
Tankless water heaters offer a fantastic solution for homeowners seeking on-demand, energy-efficient hot water, whether you have low or high water demand. Brands like Rinnai, Takagi, or Noritz are excellent options to explore.
While the initial cost may seem substantial, remember that choosing an Energy Star model can result in significant long-term savings. Tankless water heaters not only reduce energy consumption by at least 30% but also ensure that your hot water is always fresh, unlike traditional storage tanks where water can sit for hours or even days.
By properly sizing your tankless unit, you'll have a consistent and endless supply of hot water, even during periods of heavy usage. So, don't hesitate – make the switch to a tankless water heater and enjoy the benefits of efficient, on-demand hot water in your home!