Tankless Water Heaters: 3 Reasons We Don’t Usually Recommend Them

August 20, 2014

Looking to replace your water heater?

You probably have a traditional tank water heater right now. But you’ve heard some good things about tankless water heaters—mainly, that they give you unlimited hot water and save you money in the long run.

However, they’re not as perfect as people make them out to be.

Here are 3 reasons why we don’t usually recommend them for Kansas homes.

1) Upfront cost is high compared to tank water heaters

A tankless water heater on average costs about twice as much as a tank water heater (when comparing water heaters of similar quality).

And installing a tankless water heater can cost almost 3 times as much to install as installing a tank water heater.

Why?

Because tankless water heaters need:

  • Electrical outlets for their fan and electronics
  • Upgraded gas pipes
  • A new ventilation system.

So retrofitting a tankless water heater into an older home can get pricy.

“But,” one might interject, “Aren’t tankless water heaters more energy efficient?” Well...

2) A tankless water heater’s energy efficiency won’t save you enough money in the long run

Are tankless water heaters more efficient than tank water heaters? Yes. But they’re not more economical.

According to Energy.gov, ”ENERGY STAR® estimates that a typical family can save $100 or more per year with an ENERGY STAR qualified tankless water heater.”

Saving $100 a year sounds nice. But, like we mentioned in the previous section, the upfront cost is so high that the long run energy efficiency savings probably won’t save you enough to make up the difference

3) You most likely won’t get “unlimited hot water” during cold weather

The biggest reasons for getting tankless water heaters is for instantaneous and unlimited hot water. I mean, who wants to run out of hot water in the middle of a shower?

Never running out of hot water sounds nice, right?

Too bad that’s not typically the case—especially for Kansas.

Each tankless water heater has a “flow rate” that details how much hot water it can provide at one time—measured in gallons per minute (gpm).

Typically, tankless water heaters provide hot water at a rate of 2–5 gallons (7.6–15.2 liters) per minute.

But (and this is important for Kansas homeowners) gpm decreases the colder it is outside because it takes longer to heat the ground water to the desired temperature.

So, for example: A tankless water heater maybe have a gpm of 2-5 gallons when the groundwater is at 72 degrees. But as temperatures fall in winter and the water gets colder, the gpm will drop, making it hard to get enough hot water for your family.

Because of this you’d need a larger sized tankless water heater (or an additional one) to provide a greater gpm for Kansas’ cold winter weather. That means you’re adding even more cost to the already monstrous upfront cost.

Also, tankless water heaters struggle to provide hot water when multiple people need it at once.

According to Energy.gov:
“Sometimes, however, even the largest, gas-fired [tankless water heater] cannot supply enough hot water for simultaneous, multiple uses in large households. For example, taking a shower and running the dishwasher at the same time can stretch a tankless water heater to its limit.”

When it comes to Kansas, go tank

While tankless water heaters hold a lot of promise, they’re not usually the best choice for the Kansas City home. Our frigid winter weather just makes them not worth the upfront cost.

And if you have a large family, you have even more reason to not invest in a tankless water heater, because it may fail to provide all the hot water you need—even in warmer weather.

So we usually recommend installing a tank water heater.

Ask one of our experts for help (it’s free!) to help you find a water heater that fits your:

  • Family size
  • Budget
  • Space restrictions (for installing the water heater)

Santa Fe Air Conditioning and Heating serves the Kansas City area. For more information, contact us online