Mean Green List takes a look at tankless water heater designs to help you decide if they are your best option. Traditional water heaters use a huge insulated water tank full of hot water, allowing you to access hot water in your sink, shower or dishwasher whenever you need it. However, one typically uses hot water only a couple times a day, so it’s rather wasteful to keep so much water constantly heated. The theory behind tankless water heaters is to heat the water right before you use it, thus sparing all that unutilized energy.
We spoke with Ed Baharopoulo, President of American Pride Heating & Cooling, Inc of Niles, Illinois to find out more about tankless water heaters as an option. A mere 1-to-5% of his clients opt for tankless due to their upfront costs compared to a newer traditional system. However many new condo builders in Chicago as well as rehabbers are going with small tankless units because they take up much less space than traditional tanks do, leaving more usable square footage to rent or sell.
Another challenge facing homeowners considering an upgrade is that there is no direct comparison between your old tank, and a new tankless system. Because the primary demand on a tankless is not overall capacity, but water flow rate, you can’t simply check your existing heater and based on that go out and buy a tankless.
A careful examination of the number of fixtures, and the distances between the fixtures, and the distance between all fixtures and the water heater needs to be taken into consideration. As is the case with traditional heaters, a larger residence requires a larger and more expensive tankless unit.
Many homeowners however have opted for a creative hybrid solution in which they connect a tankless water heater between the primary tank and the fixtures. They will set the tank heater to a lower setting, say 100 degrees instead of 120, taking advantage of the tankless to bring the water up to desired temperature, on demand. Less energy is used to keep the large tank of water hot this way, and because the tankless system is playing only a supporting role, a smaller, cheaper unit will suffice.
What’s more, federal tax credits are making the choice a little easier for some. Several hundred versus a few thousands is a steep jump when comparing the two options. But thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and its extension from the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 you may get up to $1500 back in your 2010 filings using the IRS tax Form 5695. It’s important to note that at this time only gas, not electric, tankless water heaters are eligible for a tax credit.