Endless Hot Water Is a Reality

As a homeowner in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, or other areas in southeast Michigan, you may be curious about tankless or demand-type water heaters, and how they differ to traditional storage water heaters. Essentially, you can save money as tankless varieties don’t produce the standby energy losses associated with the traditional tank water heaters we are all so familiar with. We’ve provided you with some information regarding how tankless water heaters work, selection, advantages and disadvantages, and more below.

How Tankless Water Heaters Work

With this type of water heater, which is either an electric element or gas burner, you never have to worry about running out of hot water again. Turn the hot water tap on, and cold water comes into the unit and is heated instantly. The flow rate of the hot water is limited by the heater’s output.

Electric tankless water heaters do not produce as high a flow rate as gas-fired models do. Generally speaking, these types of heaters deliver about two to five gallons of hot water per minute (this equates to 7.6 to 15.2 liters). However, it’s important to note that if you have a large family or use a lot of hot water at the same time, even the largest gas-fired model may not be sufficient. For instance, if you run the dishwasher while taking a shower or use hot water for other multiple purposes frequently, it may be worth it to consider having two or more tankless water heaters installed. Not only do many homeowners have heaters installed on dishwashers, washing machines, and other larger appliances, but also to boost solar water heating systems and for hot tubs or remote bathrooms.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Tankless Hot Water Heater

There are certain advantages and disadvantages of tankless or demand water heaters for Michigan homeowners, most related to cost. While the initial cost of having a gas-fired or electric unit installed will likely be more than what you would spend to have a traditional water heater installed, the payoff is great. Not only will they last longer in most cases, the operating costs will be lower, which means you will spend less on energy costs. Generally speaking, a tankless water heater will last about 20 years. The parts for these demand water heaters are easily accessible and will extend that 20-year life even further. In comparison, most storage tank water heaters have a life expectancy of about 10 to 15 years.

A home that uses less hot water will experience greater energy savings. According to Energy.gov, homes that consume 41 gallons or less of hot water on a daily basis will enjoy up to 34% more energy efficient than with a traditional tank water heater. For homes that use about twice that much hot water daily, the energy savings will range around 8% to 14%. Homeowners who install a tankless unit at every hot water outlet can achieve energy savings of between 27% and 50%! The typical or average Michigan family will enjoy savings of about $100 per year according to ENERGY STAR estimates. This is substantial!

Traditional water heaters use more energy to keep the water heated while it is on “stand-by” mode. If you choose to switch to a tankless or demand water heater, should you choose a gas-fired or electric model? While gas-fired units offer a higher flow rate, the burning pilot light can consume more energy. How much gas-fired pilot lights will cost you will vary from model to model, so check with the manufacturer to determine how much the cost to operate the model you are considering will be.

There is also such a thing as a standing pilot light, which allows you to turn a gas-fired unit off when not in use. Also, you may want to consider a model with an IID or intermittent ignition device; this is similar to spark ignition device found on some gas kitchen ovens and ranges.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Demand or Tankless Water Heater

There are a few things you should consider before purchasing a tankless water heater, including fuel type, size, energy factor or efficiency, and costs.

The EF, or energy factor, indicates the unit’s overall efficiency based on several factors including standby and cycling losses, and recovery efficiency. A higher energy factor is preferred, as this indicates the efficiency of the water heater.

Determining the size you will need isn’t hard, but it’s a bit involved. You can find instructions for deciding what size tankless or demand water heater you will need at the Energy.gov website.

Costs to operate will depend on the type of fuel used if a gas-fired heater, how much hot water your family uses, installation and maintenance costs, etc. The manufacturer or a qualified contractor can help by providing you with the formula to calculate annual costs.

Proper Installation and Maintenance will Optimize Your Tankless Water Heater’s Energy Efficiency

It is critical that you have a qualified heating/plumbing contractor install your tankless water heater, as proper installation is key to its operation and energy efficiency. The climate, fuel type used, and local building code requirements, along with other factors, will affect how your unit is installed. When choosing a capable contractor, it is important to:

  • Ask the contractor to provide references
  • Get cost estimates in writing
  • Check regarding the rating/reputation of the company with your local Better Business Bureau
  • Learn if contractors with the company understand local building codes, and are willing to get a local permit for you if required

Haley Mechanical

At Haley Mechanical, we know that some southeast Michigan homeowners are devout do-it-yourselfers. If you are determined to install a demand water heater on your own, be sure to consult with the manufacturer first for any instruction and installation manuals. Before you take the first step, be sure to check with city or town officials to find out if you must have a permit, and regarding any local water heater installation codes that may exist.

Remember, maintaining your water heater on a regular basis can extend its life substantially while ensuring your heater works at maximum efficiency. For maintenance guidance, consult your owner’s manual or give Haley Mechanical a call!

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