Tankless Water Heaters Review Buying Guide

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Tankless water heaters buying tips, best models, advanced features, review of the advantages, disadvantages, types and popular manufacturers.

Also called on-demand water heaters these devices are using an innovative tank-less technology to provide hot water on demand, when needed and in endless supply, resulting in fast hot water delivery, energy savings and enhanced comfort and convenience.

Highlights

Tankless gas water heaters advantages

tankless water heater by RinnaiTankless water heaters have many advantages over standard storage tank-type models.

Tankless heaters heat the water on demand while conventional tank type heats the water, even when it is not needed (used) - for example during the night, when absent 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.

Tankless hot water heaters provide an endless supply of hot water with the continuous flow while keeping the energy consumption and greenhouse gases low. There is no shortage of hot water, which is very if you have a large family, small kids, visitors or planning to fill up a hot tub.

Tankless gas water heaters are versatile units; they can be used indoor or outdoor, and due to its compact and small size, they are usually mounted on the wall without occupying the valuable floor space.
These on-demand heaters are able almost completely to eliminate the standby heat loss while reducing the energy consumption up to 30% (some manufacturers claim saving even more).

Most of the modern tankless water heaters such as Noritz, Rinnai or Navien 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 the self-diagnostic programs for easy troubleshooting.

Most of the components can be replaced (while in the tank-type not), so if one element fails you can replace it, which makes the heaters long lasting - they can last up to 20 years.

There are some comments that tankless water heaters cannot meet the requirements for higher hot water demand and that they are built for point-of-use applications only. That is not true, and I disagree with these comments, as many models can deliver hot water to more than two fixtures, in some cases up to 11 GPM. These advanced models can even use the multi-system connection feature which connects two or more units to work as one system, providing more power and water flow.

Small size and flexible installation are what allows tankless water heaters installation virtually anywhere. Keep in mind that proper location is very important for installation as it should be approachable for cleaning, maintenance and flushing, for example.

Disadvantages

Common complaints found for tankless hot water heaters are cold-water sandwich effects where some models are not capable of providing the consistent water temperature. Another drawback is if you need a trickle of hot water for shaving or hand washing, a burner might not ignite as the flow switch doesn't react on the low water flow. Off course, this is not present on every single tankless model, but only “value” models.

Initial costs of the tankless gas water heater, installation, venting, maintenance, and service are much higher than for conventional hot tanks. They are called "Instantaneous" but they do not deliver hot water instantly as there is still unheated water between the heating unit and the plumbing fixture and which has to be pushed out.

Another great drawback of the electric models is that they require lots of Amps, so proper panel size should be installed, which is another cost for you.


Types

Tankless water heaters can be found as electric - or gas-powered. Tankless gas water heaters are most of the time factory set to use natural gas, and the conversion kit is used to convert them to use propane or LP gas.

Both gas and electric tankless models are designed for the whole-house and as the point-of-use units. More BTUs (kW) or water flow rate one unit has, more plumbing fixtures can operate at the same time and deliver hot water at the 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. Typical examples are Rinnai, Noritz and Navien.

Indoor tankless models are mainly combustion sealed so the indoor air is untouched, so they can be installed even in the kitchen or room.

Manufacturers

Tankless water heaters are popular in 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:

American AO Smith Bosch
Bradford White John Woods
Navien
Noritz Paloma Rheem
Richmond Rinnai Ruud
State Stiebel Eltron Takagi
Titan Vaillant


Buying Guide - What to look for

  • Brand. The popular brands are: Rinnai, Noritz, Rheem, Takagi, Bosch, Navien and Paloma for gas type, and Stiebel Eltron, Titan, Eemax, Bosch, Chronomite and EcoSmart for electric tankless.

  • Fuel type. Tankless water heaters are using mainly natural gas, propane or electricity to heat the water. If the propane gas is your only option, the outdoor propane gas tank and its supply lines should be also considered. The advantage of electric tankless water heaters is that the electricity is available everywhere. Natural gas is also available to the regions with the greater population.

  • Size and capacity. Calculate what the peak hour demand for your household is. Based on how much 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 important factor to consider is the heating power (BTU for gas units and kW for electric). If the size is not properly optimized, you might have only a lukewarm water when several plumbing fixtures are in use.

  • Efficiency. It is easy to buy high efficient heaters. Just look for the Energy Star logo. Energy efficiency, energy factor or EF are actually showing the ratio of the heating energy delivered as hot water compared with the energy that is used by the heater over one-day period. Energy Star approved models meet the strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the Government Energy Departments.

  • Venting options. Electric tankless models do not require venting, while gas-type do. Most of the tankless use either direct or power vent system for indoor models, while the outdoor units are ventless.

  • Price and warranty. The prices for tankless water heaters are going from a below $500 to over $1500, for the best condensing models. Most of the manufacturers provide 12-year warranty on the heat exchanger and 5-years on other parts, while the best one found is 15-years.

See the reviews and prices on Amazon.com.

Summary

Tankless water heaters are the great option for homeowners. If you are looking for on-demand heater with the low or high water demand, you can find one, either buy Rinnai, Takagi, Bosch or any other. Tankless does require a large up-front investment, but you can take advantage when buying the Energy Star model which pays off in the long run.

Tankless water heaters reduce the energy consumption by at least 30% and heat the water only when you needed it, so water is always fresh (vs. storage tanks where it is sitting for hours or days).

Proper sizing will bring you enough hot water, and you will never run out even during the heavy usage.


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