Tankless water heaters are sometimes called instantaneous or on-demand water heaters. This has led to some confusion for people who have installed whole house tankless water heaters expecting to have instant hot water as soon as they turn on their shower or faucet.
While the tankless water heater is heating the water as soon as you turn on your faucet or shower, the cold water that existed in the pipes between the faucet and the water heater still needs to be flushed out, just like with any whole-home water heater. So, when you turn on the faucet, there will be a small amount of cold water first.
If you desire instant hot water for your shower or faucet, you can install a smaller-point-of-use tankless water heater designed to deliver hot water to a specific fixture.
How Do They Work?
Before you can understand how a tankless water heater works, it's important to first understand traditional water heaters. Traditional models operate by maintaining a heated reserve of water inside its tank. Traditional water heaters are often seen as energy-wasters since they continually heat water even when it isn't being used; contributing to what is called standby heat loss.
Tankless systems provide on-demand hot water without the use of a reserve tank. Instead, a gas burner or electric heating element heats the water as it travels through the unit.
What are the Benefits?
Tankless water heaters only run when a demand for hot water is placed on the unit. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, tankless water heaters are more than 24% - 34% more energy efficient than traditional water heaters in homes that us less than 41 gallons of hot water, daily. In homes that use around 86 gallons of water a day, tankless water heaters can be 8% - 14% more energy efficient.
Tankless water heaters also last longer than traditional types. Where traditional water heaters are typically good for 10 years or so, tankless water heaters often last another 5 to 10 years more.
Without the storage tank, tankless water heaters are much smaller in size and take up much less space than traditional varieties. For homes with not a lot of storage, the smaller size is a great benefit.
How Do I Choose One?
Tankless water heaters are available in electric, propane, or natural gas. And you can select from two types of tankless water heaters: point of use and whole-house heaters. Point-of-use water heaters are great for small spaces like underneath the kitchen sink or outside by the barbecue.
For the whole-house variety, the amount of hot water used in your household and the frequency should be considered. If you have a large home where it takes a long time for water to travel from the heater to the point of use, if you want the ability to allow for simultaneous showers, or if you want to run the washer and the shower at the same time, you might benefit from multiple units. If you're not sure which route is right for you, contact a trained specialist to help you make the right choice.
If you're in the market for a new water heater, you have a large selection of options and varieties to choose from. All water heaters fall into two main categories: traditional water heaters and tankless water heaters (also called on-demand or instantaneous). We've created a water heater buying guide to help you determine which type suits your Virginia Beach home best.
What's the Difference?
Traditional water heaters heat and store water in a large tank. Each time you shower, wash dishes or run a load of laundry, you consume pre-heated water from the tank. Your water source refills this tank as hot water is used, and the cycle continues.
Tankless water heaters, sometimes called instantaneous or on-demand water heaters, heat water only at the time of use, rather than storing heated water in a tank. When you turn on a hot water tap, cool water runs through the unit. Its heat source - either electric or gas - instantaneously heats the water on demand.
Which is Better?
When shopping for a water heater, there are many things to consider, including efficiency, convenience and cost. There is no universally "right" choice, as your decision should be based on your individual needs. We've outlined the key differences between the tankless and traditional varieties to help you determine the best selection for your home.
Efficiency - Traditional water heaters devour a lot of energy because a constant supply of heat is needed to keep the stored water hot, even when you are not using any hot water. Tankless units only use energy as you use hot water, making them the more energy-efficient option by a landslide.
Convenience - Generally speaking, a tankless water heater is more convenient because it eliminates the dreaded last-one-up-gets-a-cold-shower dilemma. Tankless water heaters can also save you space, where traditional water heaters typically require a larger amount of space. In Virginia Beach, these compact units can be mounted on a wall, inside or outside your home and supply hot water on demand.
However, some tankless water heaters are too small to supply enough hot water for simultaneous use. For example, if you were showering, running a load of laundry in hot water and washing dishes in the dishwasher, you could be demanding more hot water than the heater can supply. (Traditional water heaters would also have a difficult time keeping up with such strenuous demands.) You can avoid this by installing a higher-rated tankless water heater or choosing to install multiple units.
Cost - While tankless heaters are slightly more expensive, they recoup the cost of their initial installation over the course of their lifetime from decreased energy bills and a longer lifespan. Traditional water heaters are still common because they can be significantly less expensive. But they are also more expensive to operate.