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It's a Tankless Job

Posted: January 26, 2008 12:32 p.m.
Updated: March 28, 2008 2:02 a.m.

This is a tankless hot water heater, manufactured by Takagi. In this case, it has been installed on the outside of a home. However, the relatively small size of such systems (about 2.2 cubic feet) allows them to be installed in various locations.

• Is it time to replace your old hot water heater with a new and highly-efficient tankless one?

The tankless water heater may be the perfect replacement for anyone tired of running out of hot water because of an old water heater.
Also known as an instantaneous, inline or instant water heater, the tankless water heater is a great solution for residential hot water needs. In essence, these are "on-demand" hot water heaters because they create hot water on demand, as opposed to storing it.
"Tankless water heaters work so well because they heat water at low flow and operate at a high efficiency rate," said David Whyte, president of Whyte Plumbing in San Fernando. "They are very flexible, can go just about anywhere in the house. It's very compact, too."
In addition to instantaneously heating water, the tankless water heater also has financial benefits. According to Whyte Plumbing, the best systems can save residents up to 50 percent on water heating costs, while also qualifying users for a $300 federal energy tax credit.
A tankless water heater only heats water as it is used. It has a heating device that is activated by the flow of water when a hot water valve is opened.
As the heating device is activated, the heater delivers a constant supply of hot water. The rate of heated water flow, however, is limited by the output.
"They work on gallons per minute," Whyte said. A standard machine works on seven gallons per minute at 40 degree rise. If you want more, there is less gallons per minute, but 55 degree rise. It needs a bigger gas line to heat it, but it's more efficient because it uses a copper coil."
Most tankless water heaters do not allow the water to be heated above 120 degrees, Whyte said.
Tankless water heaters do not need a storage tank to keep heated all day nor a pilot light. Instead, they burn gas only when hot water is needed. With no need for a tank, the problem of standby heat loss is eliminated. Traditional water heaters lose as much as three to four percent in standby heat loss every hour. Due to the higher efficiency, users may save up to 50 percent off their utility costs.
The lack of a tank to fill allows for the tankless water heater to provide limitless hot water. Depending on the model purchased, a tankless hot water heater may deliver between 200 gallons and 500 gallons of hot water every hour on demand.
In terms of space, standard tankless units take up only 2.2 cubic feet of space and weigh only 60 pounds. They are about the size of a suitcase.
Tankless water heaters are also efficient.
"Tankless water heaters work at 83 to 87 percent efficiency," Whyte said.
Yet despite the advantages, tankless water heaters do have their shortcomings and limitations. While they may work out if properly used, any improper use can lead to disappointing results.
While these units save money on energy bills and are eligible for federal tax credits, they are more expensive to purchase than conventional storage-type water heaters.
Typical cost to install a tankless water heater for a two to three bathroom home is approximately $3,000, while a four or five bathroom home may cost upwards of $4,000. For residents that require a pump for re-circulation, installation will run between $900 and $1,200.
Despite being called "instantaneous" hot water heaters, tankless heaters may actually take longer to provide hot water, since the units don't start heating water until a faucet or shower is turned on. Accordingly, a tankless water heater may actually cause an increase in water wastage, since many people may let the water run longer or at full blast to get hot water.
To solve this problem, however, users may add a specialized pumping system that will heat up the water in less than half the time it would take by running water at full blast. The pumping system conserves water and makes the tankless hot water system operate efficiently.
"I really have not seen very many real disadvantages," Whyte said.
"Though some units do need to have a power supply, so if it is a blackout, the computer would not kick on."
Disadvantages aside, tankless water heaters do have longer lives than regular water heaters. Regular tank-type water heaters last five to 10 years, while new tankless water heaters last 10-15 years.
Installation for tankless water heaters is easy. According to Whyte, Initial installation takes a crew of two to three men one day, though a few complex houses may take longer.
In determining what to look for when shopping for a tankless water heater, Whyte recommends most customers understand the needs of their homes.
"Most of the time, a prerequisite is that people need to have an electrical outlet and a three-quarter inch gas line," Whyte added.
"People should also know how many appliances will be used in their system and the location of existing water or gas heater."
Locations for tankless water heaters vary from house to house, according to Whyte. They come in point-of-use and whole-house versions. Many tankless water heaters come in either electric and natural gas or propane models. Some tankless units are sized to heat a cup of tea, others to provide enough hot water for two or more bathrooms. Also, the region of the country you live in has a lot to do with how much hot water a tankless water heater can produce.
As a side note, the tax credit is based upon the 2005 Energy Policy Tax Incentives Act. Since the tankless water heaters are energy efficient, homeowners may earn a $300 tax credit on their personal income tax for installing a high-efficiency gas, oil or propane water heater with an energy factor of at least 0.80. Certain tankless residential water heaters meet and surpass the energy factor standards. There is also no carbon monoxide produced when the water is not being heated, preventing further pollution to the environment.
While there are many products on the market, Whyte suggests a Takagi Tankless Water Heater. "They are the people that invented the technology," he said.
For more information about tankless water heaters, visit Whyte's Website at or call his office at (818) 885-8222.


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