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chyna's avatar

I need a new water heater. Should I get a tankless one?

Asked by chyna (45321points) December 29th, 2015

Is a tankless better than a tank water heater? They seem to be cheaper, but is cheaper always better? I will need an electric one.

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34 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

I have one and I have mixed feelings. If your power goes out you won’t have any hot water. With a tank you can easily have 2 days of warm water if you conserve. If you have hard water you need to worry about getting it cleaned out or the smaller pipes can get clogged. They say you should have it cleaned once a year anyway, I don’t know how true that is. What’s great about it is endless hot water. I can take a long shower, while someone else fills a huge bath, and then I can get right out and start my laundry with hot water for cottons, and the hot water continues. It also saves on your utility bill, because it only heats on demand. My tankless is gas. I have heard the electric ones don’t heat as well, but I don’t know if it’s true. I figure if a coffe maker can hear water to 220 then why not a tankless heat to 120? I don’t understand logically why electric wouldn’t work well.

That doesn’t help you at all probably. I think if I were to do it again, I would not pay a lot more for a tankless. Usually they are double the cost, but you say it will be cheaper.

If you’re worried about water waste the tankless does not change having to wait for the water to warm up. The water still has to travel through the pipes. But some sort of water heater right at the shower, bathtub, or kitchen sink would take care of it.

I would be interested in hot on demand at the actual location, but I don’t know how expensive it is or how bulky. I don’t even know if it is very available, and maybe it’s only practical when building a house from scratch.

chyna's avatar

@JLeslie It does help. You brought up points I didn’t know about or consider. Thank you.

MooCows's avatar

When we built our house about 8 years ago we went for tankless water heaters and even had one on each side of our one story house. The contractors tried to tell us it was over-kill.
After about 8 months I was ready to yank the t w h out of our house! Ours were electric and
the water was never hot enough and once it got hot it never stayed hot long enough. We never saw a big savings because of the tankless and the whole family was complaining about them.
Of course the company we bought them from went out of business so our warranty was useless. Best thing we ever did was go to Lowes and get a regular water heaters! I was just thankful we had room for them and we got 2 for each side of the house and never looked back. Maybe by now they work better and the idea is great..it just did not work for us. I wouldn’t try it again if I built another house.

ibstubro's avatar

I just changed from a gas tank to electric tank hot water heater, and I’m not a bit pleased. Even during a long shower I constantly have to adjust the temperature to make the water warmer. (I didn’t make the decision to go to electric.) After the fact I went and looked and they rate them by how many users. The same sized gas tank provided hot water for 2–3 more users than electric.

I would have been interested in an on-demand gas water heater, but there’s no way I would consider a tankless electric. I have a 40 gallon tank, and the electric heater lets the temperature begin to drop within minutes. Forget about hot water after two people try to bathe/shower at the same time.

There’s no way I’d try tankless electric hot water. Look at an electric range, and how long the element takes to heat. How is that going to provide hot water on demand?

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@chyna Do you mean you don’t have a gas line? But you still need a tank-less heater?

I have a tank-less gas hot water heater that is – - GREAT, first because it is gas and second I can run hot water for as long as I want.
Electric tank-less, I only know my uncle had an electric tank-less 55 years ago because he worked for GE.

chyna's avatar

@Tropical_Willie Yes, I am all electric. No gas lines to my house.

Judi's avatar

A good tankless is probably more expensive. The ones that are less are probably point of use heaters for one sink.
The installation is also initially more expensive as they require a special vent that’s not included in the price of the heater. (I’m assuming it’s gas)
That being said, they are way more efficient and it’s nice not to worry about running out of hot water in the middle of your shower!
edit: should have read your post. I have no idea if electric is more efficient.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Gas tank-less is best BUT electric tank-less can be good. That is part of the reason my uncle replaced his coal fired furnace with an electric tank-less for hot water and a oil fired furnace for heating the radiators. He hated shoveling coal, so did and my cousin.

clairedanajames's avatar

I would go with electric tankless ones.

susanc's avatar

I put in an electric tankless fourteen years ago. It heats water for two bathrooms, two kitchen sinks (one with a dishwasher I don’t use very often), and a laundry room used by four people. I had to have an element or something
replaced two years ago but aside from that it’s been fine. I got a big one and it wasn’t cheap but it’s been great. It’s especially nice if someone isn’t there all the time, which in my case is true.

chyna's avatar

It turned out that mine just needed an element too, so I didn’t need to buy a new one. But if I ever do, I’ve decided to stay with an electric tank.
Thanks all for your help.

JLeslie's avatar

@susanc That’s a good point about not being home a lot. For people who travel a lot the savings on not heating a tank could be well worth it. I travel mostly in the summer, so the water if sitting in a tank, doesn’t take as much energy to stay hot.

ibstubro's avatar

I can’t tell you how much I hate my new 40 gallon electric tank, @chyna.

I had nothing to do with it’s selection or installation, so I don’t know if it’s terribly low end, or just incompatible with the rest of my older plumbing. (The instructions mention something about mixers at the water outlets, which I’m certain we don’t have.) All I can say is that if you do end up having to replace your hot water heater, do your homework. And more than just asking on Fluther.

Never once did I run short of hot water with my old 40 gallon gas water heater. Now if someone takes a bath, and an hour later I shower, I’m likely to end up with really warm water rather than steamy hot, as is my habit. It’s like I’m trying to boil 40 gallons of water on an electric stove. 100% only a few times a day.

JLeslie's avatar

@ibstubro Usually, you need a larger electric tank compared to gas. Often 50 gallon gas tanks are used interchangeably with 80 gallon electric. If you went to electric from gas you should not have kept the same tank size.

JLeslie's avatar

This actually shows that it’s ok to substitute a 40 gallon electric for a 40 gallon gas, but it surprises me. Check out the table.

ibstubro's avatar

2 people @JLeslie. We’re talking about hot water for two people and a 40 gallon tank. It should be overkill regardless of the heat source.

The only reason the tank is 40g is that anything less might negatively impact the resale value of the house.

A family of two may be disappointed with a thirty gallon tank if they
tried to take long showers back to back.

“All I can say is that if you do end up having to replace your hot water heater, do your homework. And more than just asking on Fluther.

JLeslie's avatar

I’m pretty sure my 50g tank in TN used to run out of very hot water when I filled my bathtub. That’s just one person. Maybe it was smaller and I have the tank size wrong?

jca's avatar

I’m thinking about my 10 gallon fish tank and I can imagine if I emptied that into the tub, there would be an inch of water, maybe two. I can envision that a tub could take 40 gallons for a bath or even 50.

JLeslie's avatar

That tub was very big. I liked that it was long, but it was also wide, too wide. It took a long time to fill, and I felt like it was a waste. Having an instant hot right at the bathtub would be awesome. There and the kitchen sink.

Judi's avatar

The newer models won’t let you set your temperatures as hot so you have to use more water from the hot water tank to get your desired temperatures.

JLeslie's avatar

@Judi Great point. I turned mine way up to 120, which was almost too hot to put my hand in. I think some don’t go that high.

ibstubro's avatar

I had mine turned up to 140° because the directions said that anything less could result in “stinky water syndrome” (or stinky water something). I had to turn it down to 120°. I don’t know what the tw heating elements are for, and I wonder if I shouldn’t turn the top element up, even though the directions say not to. Why is it adjustable if you’re not supposed to adjust it?

JLeslie's avatar

140 is quite hot. Dangerous for small children.

Judi's avatar

If you have it at 130 it cools off by the time it gets to your shower unless it’s right by your bathroom and the hotter it is the more cold water you can use and the longer it will take to empty your tank.
They reduced the temperatures because stupid parents were putting their babies in the tub without checking the temperature and seriously burning them. You never hear about that anymore. Probably because they’re designed not to get as hot.

JLeslie's avatar

Since I’ve lived mostly south of the Mason-Dixon Line it didn’t occur to me the water might cool as it travels through the pipes. Although, most of the pipe travel is inside the house at room temperature isn’t it?

Judi's avatar

If it’s in the ceiling it could get much colder. I know that in the winter time here it takes a lot longer for the water to be bearable in the shower than in the summertime.

JLeslie's avatar

I wonder if the cold water is colder also? So, to make water warm (mix of hot and cold) the percentage from the hot line has to be increased, or you need to wait longer and clear water sitting in the pipes.

ibstubro's avatar

Absolutely, @JLeslie, the cold water will be colder in the wintertime.
Unless you have appliances that mix water to a specific temperature (like your washer), you’ll have to adjust the mix from summer to winter. In my location what’s really warm in washer during the summer is barely warm during the winter.

In the Midwest cold tap water is about the equivalent of ice water from the fridge, in my experience.

JLeslie's avatar

@ibstubro I know tap water is cold the further north you go, I just wondered if the winter months really make a difference. The ground water is probably a similar temperature all year I would think? Once you go below the earth the temperature varies less through the seasons.

ibstubro's avatar

Every place I’ve lived (mostly small town and rural), the tap water has been noticably colder during the winter, @JLeslie. During the summer I wonder if the cold tap water is too warm to thaw frozen meat in, and during the winter it’s too cold to hold your hand under for a prolonged time.

My dissatisfaction with the electric water heater is probably 3 pronged:
1.) I had just installed a new, dual head, shower head that sucks water
2.) Winter was just coming on with colder tap water
3.) The new electric heater just bites compared to the old gas one

Here’s an interesting article that everyone might like reading about The Goldilocks Bath.

I think my hot showers have been chapping my cheeks of late. But, damn, I enjoy those showers!

ibstubro's avatar

GQ, @chyna, by-the-way, if it’s generated this much discussion!
Just sayin.

JLeslie's avatar

@ibstubro For me, in my head, I just compare FL tap to up north, and the difference is huge. When I first moved to FL the tap water seemed less clean being so luke warm. I was so used to ice water from the tap.

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