Ask a Plumber Blog: Guidance from a Master Plumber

How Do Tankless Water Heaters Work?

tankless-water-heater trinity plumbing endless hot water shower with steam

Has this ever happened to you? You’ve had a long hard day at work, but you are finally home. All you want to do now is take a nice long hot shower and forget all your troubles.

When you get into the shower, however, you discover that the water is tepid at best or worse – it’s ice cold.

Yep, it’s happened again. The kids have been bathed, the dishes were washed, but now you’re all out of hot water and you’re just out of luck.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you never again had to worry about having enough hot water left to take a shower?

What if I told you that there’s a way to do just that?

It’s called a tankless water heater and it not only can help keep you from never having to worry about being last in line for bath time, it can also help you save a lot of money on your utility bills.

Here’s what you need to know:

Regular Water Heaters vs Tankless Water Heaters

water heater tips maintenance tank tankless electric gas

Tankless Water Heaters

As the name suggests, a tankless water heater is a water heater system that heats water without…you guessed…a water tank!

That seems like an absurdly simple definition, but that is what it is. It is a water heater without a water tank.

Instead, when there is a need for hot water, such as you want to run your dishwasher, take a shower or simply get hot water out of a sink faucet, the cold water comes up the pipes into your house, then flows straight into the tankless water heater from an inlet pipe that goes into the water heater.

Tankless water heater endless hot water trinity plumbing

Once inside the unit, either a gas burner or an electric element heats the water. The water continues to be heated as it passes through the heater and exits from the water outlet at the water temperature you have preset it for. The heated water then travels onward through the pipes to whatever water fixture you have turned on. Going where the hot water is needed.

Once you turn whatever hot water fixture you were using off, the cold water stops flowing into the tankless water heater and the flame or electric element that heats the water turns itself off and stays off until it is needed again.

The Pros of a Tankless Water Heater

  • Tankless water heaters typically have a 12 to 15-year warranty and the system can last up to 15 years.
  • Takes up less space and can be mounted on the wall.

The Cons of a Tankless Water Heater

  • Higher initial cost for installation because of vent requirements.
  • May take a while to see the yearly savings.
  • Not recommended that you attempt to install it yourself.
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Regular Water Heater

Although the regular water heater with its 40 to 50-gallon storage tank continues to be the one that is most commonly used (because of its cheaper cost), its use of water and energy can be extremely wasteful.

To keep the water heated, the storage tank of a regular water heater has to remain full of heated water at all times. This means that anytime hot water leaves the tank, fresh water has to pour into the tank to take its place.

The water must then stay heated 24/7 each and every day to ensure that when the hot water – it is there and ready to use.

This all sounds good as long as everything goes according to plan, but it often doesn’t actually work out that way.

If your son or daughter decides to take a really long shower or your spouse decides to wash a large load of clothes in the wash machine, the hot water is emptied from the storage tank and the new water that takes its place has to have time to heat.

This not only involves the constant storage of 40 to 50 gallons of water, think about the amount of gas or electricity you are using to keep this type of system going.

In addition, there are other concerns to worry about.

Is there sediment forming in the bottom of the tank that will cause it to rust the bottom out or keep the heating element from heating properly?

What happens if the storage tank springs a leak and no one is home when it happens?

Both of these issues are reasonable concerns because a regular water heater typically only lasts an average of 8 to 12 years. It’s definitely the cheaper way to go initially, but could perhaps ultimately cost you more in the long run.

The Pros of a Regular Water Heater

  • Less initial cost to install over the installation cost of a tankless water heater.
  • Easier to perform maintenance on your own, such as flushing the water in the tank to keep sediment from building up.

The Cons of a Regular Water Heater

  • Does not last as long as a tankless water heater.
  • Water heaters with tanks typically have a shorter warranty period of about 10 years.
  • Water damage can be substantial if not found quickly.
  • Bacteria growth, such as legionella are more prone to grow and multiply in a tank type water heater (at any temperature less than 140*)
tankless water heater going green trinity plumbing

Good Savings and Good for the Environment

Tankless water heaters have been widely used in Europe and Japan for quite a while now, but they’ve only recently gained in popularity in the United States.

This is largely due to more Americans deciding to “Go Green” to help do their part in saving the environment.

Installing a tankless system not only can save you a substantial amount of money over time, it also helps conserve energy since it only heats the water as you need it.

Other blog articles about water heaters you may be interested in reading:

Interested in Purchasing a Tankless Water Heater?

At Trinity Plumbing, we know that purchasing a tankless water heater is a big investment. That’s why we are happy to take the time to discuss your options and help you decide if a tankless water heater is right for you.

We provide free estimates and there’s never any pressure to buy. We want you to make the decision that’s right for you. Contact Trinity Plumbing to schedule service for your tankless water heater.

Robert (Master Plumber)

Robert (Master Plumber)

Owner of Trinity Plumbing, LLC
Residential & Commercial Plumbing

Serving: Acworth, Dallas, Kennesaw, Marietta, Smyrna, & surrounding Metro Atlanta areas

Full Bio & All Author Posts
Robert (Master Plumber)

Robert (Master Plumber)

Owner of Trinity Plumbing, LLC
Residential & Commercial Plumbing

Serving: Acworth, Dallas, Kennesaw, Marietta, Smyrna, & surrounding Metro Atlanta areas

Full Bio & All Author Posts