There is a growing debate about the two types of water heaters available to most homes — conventional and tankless.
Conventional water heaters use a storage tank to hold water that is kept at a constant temperature, whereas tankless water heaters use a coil system to heat water as it is needed.
The debate between the two types covers issues such as energy efficiency, cost effectiveness, performance, and environmental footprint.
This article will focus on the tankless water heating systems, showing how they work and what they have to offer overall.
Conventional Water Heating Systems
In order to fully understand how tankless water heating systems work, it is essential to have a working understanding of how a conventional water heating system works.
In most homes there is a large, intimidating metal tank taking up a copious amount of space in a closet or a basement.
These tanks range in size, but the average is between 30-50 gallons in capacity.
The concept, quite simply, is that an electric or gas heating system will keep the water in the tank at a constant temperature range, just as central air/heating keeps the air temperature in your house at a constant.
When the water drops below a certain temperature, then the heating element turns on and restores it to the desired level.
This means that a house has a stash of 30-50 gallons of hot water for use at any time for such things as showers, washing dishes or washing clothes.
Tankless Water Heaters
An alternate system of water heating is the tankless system.
This system goes by various other names, including instant water heating and on-demand water heating.
The basic premise of this system is that rather than heating a large storage tank of water and maintaining it at a certain temperature, this system only heats the hot water you use as you use it.
This approach eliminates the need of bulky storage tanks that take up space, as well as complicated pipes and plumbing connecting a conventional water tank to the various places hot water is used in a house.
What makes a tankless water heater work is the use of heater coils that cold water flows between.
The water snakes its way along a route of heater coils that heat the water as it passes, causing the water to reach its maximum temperature before leaving the system and flowing to where it is needed.
The simplicity of this system is matched by its compact size.
These units can fit in a small area, taking up far less space than a conventional water tank.
Advantages of Tankless Water Heating Systems
There are several advantages given to tankless water heating systems compared to their conventional counterparts.
- Compact size allows them to be put on a wall or under a sink, freeing up the space required by a hot water tank.
- Can reduce energy consumption by up to 30%
- Offers a more efficient system for residences only occupied seasonally.
- Eliminates the risk of flooding that can occur when hot water tanks fail.
- Parts last 5-10 years longer than conventional systems.
- Many tankless systems receive a $300 federal tax rebate.
Disadvantages of Tankless Water Heating Systems
Conventional water heating system experts will point out that, despite the appearance that tankless systems are superior to conventional units, they do in fact come with a list of drawbacks.
These drawbacks include:
- Tankless systems are generally far more expensive than conventional systems, costing up to three times more on average.
- Units can find it hard to keep up in residences where heavy hot-water usage is common.
- Ventilation for gas units is required, as are additional gas lines in most cases.
- Gas units create greenhouse gas emissions.
- Electric models require a lot of energy, potentially more than conventional units in heavy hot-water consumption residences.
In the end, the advantages and disadvantages of each system aew largely dependent on the hot water usage of your home.
The estimates of energy usage and cost effectiveness of tankless systems are based on certain variables, including the amount of water you use, the type of water tank in comparison, and the amount of insulation used on the tank and/or pipes.
Additionally, smaller tanks require less energy to heat and maintain.
Even so, the general principles of these advantages do hold true, just to different degrees.
To learn about tankless heaters and their uses, have a look at our Best Tankless Water Heater Reviews!