When you call us for a new water heater installation, we don’t ask if you want a tankless water heater – because you don’t.
There’s a lot of buzz around tankless water heaters (or “instantaneous water heaters”) because they look futuristic and sound like a good idea, but in our experience they’re not worth the trouble. The benefits aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, and the costs may be a lot higher than you’d expect.
Here are just seven reasons why you should stick with a tanked heater.
1. Tankless Water Heaters Have Higher Equipment Costs
Many people buy into the idea of tankless water heaters because they expect to save money in the long run. Before we can even get to the monthly utility costs, the equipment costs will set you back a ways.
- Conventional water heater cost: $300 to $500
- Tankless water heater cost: $800 to $1500
If you’re lucky, a tankless water heater will cost a little under 2x the cost of a tanked heater. If you’re not, the cost could be up to 5x. That’s a big cost that you’ll have to recoup.
2. Tankless Water Heaters Can Require Expensive Retrofitting
Replacing a tanked heater with another tanked heater is relatively easy, but installing a new tankless heater for the first time can create other new expenses. If you are upgrading from a conventional to a tankless unit, you may also have to pay someone to upgrade your utility hookups, ventilation, and more.
A tankless water heater requires:
- Stainless steel tubing
- A minimum flow-rate of .5 GPM
- Better ventilation (sometimes)
- Higher gas or electricity throughput (often)
Retrofitting your water heater hookups can cost an additional $1000 on top of installation costs, bringing the grand total to $2000-3000 dollars rather than $1500 for conventional water heaters. That means you’re paying about twice as much initially for your tankless water heater.
That means it will only take longer for you to start reaping the benefits of decreased water usage – if you ever do.
3. Tankless Water Heaters Aren’t as Efficient as You Think
According to the Rinnai tankless water heater savings calculator, you can expect to save about $80 on your annual energy expenditures when you use a tankless water heater. That means it would take you 12.5 years to make up the extra $1000 dollars you spent on your tankless water heater initially – and by that time, the water heater has already gone through half of its lifespan.
That’s the word from one of the biggest manufacturers, but Consumer Reports places the payback time at 15-22 years, or longer than the expected life of many units. Even now they’re only beginning to say that the next generation of tankless water heaters might not suck.
4. Tankless Water Heater Aren’t Fun to Repair
Tanked water heaters all generally require the same kind of parts and skills to repair, but tankless water heaters aren’t as standard. If your tankless unit breaks down, expect to order away for OEM parts and search around for a tankless water heater specialist to install them.
Tankless heaters also have a hard time with hard water. Expect to descale your heater more often – some people recommend every year – or expect some serious breakdowns.
5. Tankless Water Heaters Have Bandwidth Issues
Tankless water heaters might not save you any money in the short or long term, but their infinite, instant hot water is a pretty cool luxury, right?
The fact is that there are even some big drawbacks to how tankless heaters operate, when compared to conventional heaters.
Conventional Water Heater Limitations
Conventional water heaters have tanks that hold the heated water for future use. Typically, your tanked water heater will hold between 30 to 50 gallons of hot water. This means that you don’t have to worry about running out of hot water if you’re taking a shower and washing the laundry or doing dishes simultaneously because your water heater has plenty of reserves on hand. You can keep using hot water until the reserves run out and the unit refills.
Tankless Water Heater Limitations
Tankless water heaters don’t store anything. Instead, you rely on your tankless water heater to heat up the water as you’re using it, which means you’re limited by bandwidth.
So what does that mean?
If you have a large family that might want to use the washing machine and a shower at the same time, someone is going to be out of luck. A typical tankless water heater can provide enough water for roughly two uses simultaneously before the water runs cold. If that’s a problem you’ll either have to go with a conventional water heater, limit your hot water usage, or buy more than one tankless water heater and dedicate them to different areas of your home.
6. Tankless Water Heaters Aren’t Instant
Probably the biggest myth about tankless water heaters is that they provide instant hot water. The biggest letdown might be that many actually take longer to deliver it.
100 feet of ½” pipe can hold roughly a gallon of water. If you’re using a fixture with a gallon per minute flow (like your shower head), there’s a minute of cold water between you and the heater, no matter what kind of heater you have. What’s even worse is that not all tankless heaters turn on right away. Some of them may require 15-30 seconds of running water before they kick in, which is water that goes straight down the drain.
7. Tankless Water Heaters Suck if the Power Goes Out
If you have a 40 gallon water heater and the power goes out, how much hot water do you have? Unless your stored reserves cool off, you’ll still have 40 gallons.
Since tankless water heaters don’t have any reserves, you’ll be stuck with zero gallons, from the second the power shuts off.
Do Yourself a Favor: Avoid Tankless Water Heaters
At Simpson Plumbing, we are always honest with our clients. While we could keep installing tankless water heaters and charge for all the extra labor, descaling, and repairs, we would rather install reliable, tanked water heaters that make our customers happier in the long run.
Call today or visit our water heater page to learn more about how we can help. Even if we don’t recommend them, our team of plumbing professionals have years of experience replacing and installing tankless water heaters. We come fully licensed and equipped to service homes and commercial properties in cities like Manteca, Ripon, Modesto, and more! So when you’re in need of a new water heater installation, be sure to give Simpson Plumbing a call.
(P.S. If you’re still 100% sold on getting a tankless water heater anyways, at least pick a good one.)