We get a lot of phone calls here at Instant Plumbing asking about tankless, on-demand water heaters. These units offer a lot of benefits, and as regulations change regarding conventional, atmospheric hot water tanks over the next few years, they’ll become an even more attractive option to home owners. However, they also aren’t the perfect option for every home. Let’s look at how to decide whether an on-demand water heater is the best choice for your home, and what you should know before you make the switch.
Hot Water Tanks versus On-Demand Hot Water
Most of the world outside of North America knows something many of us here in Canada do not: tankless water heaters make a lot of sense. Many countries around the world have a high percentage of tankless systems. They are, however, becoming more popular here all the time.
The main differences between an on-demand water heating unit and a hot water tank are that on-demand offers unlimited hot water, while a tank is limited to the amount of water that fits in the tank before it needs to heat another batch; tankless units are much more efficient than hot water tanks; reliability/ease to repair compared to a tank water heater; and the fact that while a hot water tank is large and takes up a large space, tankless units are compact and sit against a wall. For more information on the benefits of a tankless system, please see what Navien, our on-demand water heater supplier, has to say: http://us.navien.com/CostSavings/.
These units are pricey now because demand is still relatively low, but the market is changing. Over the next few years, industry regulations will require all new water heater installs to be high efficiency, meaning that atmospheric (standard efficiency, tank-style) water heaters will be discontinued. With the loss of this low-cost option, tankless systems will make more sense than ever.
Is On-Demand Hot Water for You?
The main determining factor is the size of your home, followed by the size of your family. On-demand water heaters make the most sense for families of 3-4 at most, living in 2500 sq-ft or less. Larger homes, larger families, or even the regular filling of large soaker tubs will stress an on-demand system over time, causing it to burn out early — meaning you’ve lost the savings the higher efficiency rating would have offered you. For homeowners with a need for greater volumes of hot water on a regular basis, a residential boiler is the best option.
If you think on-demand hot water is the right option for you, your best bet is to plan ahead, before your current tank gives out. Installation of a tankless system involves changing several components, including venting and running the recirculation loop, and takes a full day, so it’s not ideal to do when you weren’t expecting to be without hot water, or on short notice. You also absolutely must have a water softener installed to run one of these systems in Calgary, so that installation time and cost must be taken into account as well.
If you think your hot water tank may be nearing the end of its life and on-demand, unlimited hot water appeals to you, give us a call. We can walk you through everything you need to know before making your final decision.