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By Tom Atkinson
     As the title of this article clearly states, I am not a big fan of tankless water heaters, as I do not believe they are a good investment. Being promoted as energy efficient appliances because they only heat water as needed, be aware the high cost of installation and energy required for operation means that outlaying money for a tankless water heater is not a wise choice. And even though sales and marketing people try to convince consumers that instantaneous/tankless water heaters are energy saving appliances, a closer look reveals differently.

Advantages of Conventional Water Heaters over Tankless Water Heaters
     When tankless water heaters first arrived on the scene, they were advertised for their efficiency and for their ability to eliminate the standby losses of conventional water heaters, which store water until it is needed. This fact was true prior to the early 1980’s, at which time conventional water heater manufacturers began using foam insulation around the heaters, which reduced standby losses exceedingly well. This made conventional water heaters far more efficient to operate and eliminated the seeming advantages of tankless water heaters. Another huge advantage of electric conventional water heaters over tankless units is that because conventional units store the hot water, it is possible to heat water during off peak times when electric rates can be seventy percent lower than peak hours. In fact, if a timer is used with a conventional water heater, it can reduce the cost to a fraction of what a tankless water heater costs to operate. Basically, with tankless water heaters, homeowners are required to pay the electric rates during the hours they are used, which is normally during the day when people primarily wash clothes and dishes and when rates are at their highest.

The Drawbacks to Tankless Water Heaters
     Right from the start of their introduction, tankless water heaters had a huge problem when it came to the flow and production of HOT water. For example, electric tankless water heaters will run out of hot water when the flow rate is more than 3 to 6 gallons per minute. And while gas units are capable of as much as nine gallons per minute, this amount is not nearly enough for many homes, especially since washing machines consume approximately 6 gallons per minute. Another drawback of tankless water heaters is inconsistent water temperatures. Tankless water heaters do not deliver hot water instantaneously as they are said to do. It actually takes time to heat the water to get the desired temperature. In fact, with tankless models there is the chance that when turning on a faucet, it could send out a spurt of cold-water that has been left in the pipes. Another important point is that with tankless water heaters chances are good that you will need to add in the expense of a bigger gas line and a larger vent, plus there is an additional expense of having the tankless water heater installed. And if you’re using electricity for your water heater, it might require heavier wiring to accommodate a tankless heater. These drawbacks are a huge disadvantage that many sales and marketing companies forget to explain to customers. As a result, there are many dissatisfied tankless water heater consumers, a number of which have made large investments in what they thought was going to be a superior water heating system. The Long Term Status of Conventional Water Heaters
     Tankless water heater supporters promote their units as having a longer life expectancy over conventional water heaters, which in our professional opinion is far from a proven fact. Besides having a long history of reliability, conventional water heaters are produced by well-established companies and always have manufacturer’s reps and service people available to tune-up their units. In contrast, with tankless water heater manufacturers, the opposite is true, often leaving a customer with an unreliable product, few service options, and a unit that is more complex than a conventional water heater. And because conventional water heaters have been around for such a long time, warranty coverage for a conventional water heater is well established. Tankless water heater companies may not stand behind their units in the same way, plus these companies may take valuable time honoring their warranties and leaving consumers without hot water. Tankless water heaters require maintenance, which if not performed can void the warranty; once again leaving the consumer with a huge investment in a product that has not saved the money anticipated and being a great source of frustration.

Installation Costs
     On average, a conventional water heater can be installed for approximately $500.00 to $700.00. Installed costs of a tankless water heater can run anywhere from $2500.00 to more than $5000.00, making the initial cost of a tankless water heater far higher than a conventional water heater. Generally speaking, to run a water heater the cost is about $300.00 to $500.00 dollars a year, or possibly less to operate, which means it would be highly unlikely that a tankless water heater would recover the difference in energy savings. And as mentioned above, with a tankless water heater, there is often the added expense of bigger gas lines and heavier wiring to accommodate a tankless water heater.

A Final Thought About Tankless Water Heaters
     Having been in the water heater industry for many years, when all is said and done, we at American Home Water have seen the problems associated with tankless water heaters first hand, and we do not offer or promote tankless water heaters. There is obviously money to be made in the tankless water heater business, but to our way of thinking, besides the costs of additional parts and various controls, which create more problems overall, we strongly believe the risks are too high, the costs too expensive and the results extremely poor. While we realize there is an impression in the marketplace that tankless water heaters are a good investment, given our knowledge and experience along with all the factors related to their cost, efficiency, reliability and warranty issues, we cannot in good conscience offer them to our customers, as I do not believe they are a good investment. About the Author
     Tom Atkinson is the owner and co-founder of American Home Water in Phoenix, Arizona. Over the past two decades, American Home Water has installed Bradford White, State, American, Premier and A.O. Smith Water Heaters, the largest manufacturers of water heaters in the world. Based on the company’s reputation, American Home Water has continued to flourish, due in large part to Tom’s knowledge and expertise about water heaters and water filtration systems in addition to the quality workmanship and superior equipment. To learn more about American Home Water, please visit www.americanhomewater.com. To contact Tom you may write him at ahstom@gmail.com or you can call directly at (602) 339-1468.
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