Back to all blog posts

How Does a Tankless Water Heater Work?

October 30, 2020


You're here because you have been hearing the term tankless water heater and don't really get a vivid picture of the gadget. So what is a tankless water heater? Demand type water heaters, also known as tankless water heaters, are the upgraded version of the traditional tanks that provide us with hot water in the home. While the traditional system is always on standby to heat water and store in a tank, the tankless water heaters only makes heated water available when needed.  

Curious minds are often astonished as to how they can just turn on a tap and hot water gushes out in a few seconds without any tank somewhere where this water is stored. They often wonder how does a tankless water heater work? (I've had to answer my 4-year-old son that question almost every time he uses the bath). Reading this right now, you are probably asking the same question, “how do tankless water heaters work?”

Let's get educated.

Tankless Water Heater vs Tank

The tankless water heater has several characteristics that the tank counterpart does not.   For example, space. Space is one big factor in the home. A home without space can look crowded and untidy. A tank water heater stands at more than 60 inches in height and around 25 inches wide. On the other hand, a tankless water heater is less than 20 inches in height and about 24 inches around.

Another difference between the tankless water heater and the regular heater is the maintenance. For the tankless, maintenance takes place once in almost 5 years.  You can only do yearly cleaning if you live in an area where the water is hard and it is quite simple – solution of vinegar passed through the pipes can flush out any buildup of a precipitate. However, the tank water heater may require maintenance every six months. In five years, the maintenance costs of the regular tank water heater would have run into thousands of dollars.

Before Installing a Tankless Water Heater

Before installing a tankless water heater, there are factors you must consider for the long term safety of your home. These factors include;

  • Multitasking:

The tankless water heater is not always advisable in a large household or one that needs hot water running simultaneously for multiple applications such as showering and dishwashing. However, this can be fixed if you purchase a bigger unit. You may also note that due to the large water output, the temperature of the water would fluctuate and most likely not be as hot.

  • Repairs:

Truthfully, the tankless water heater has more parts than the regular product. Although tankless water heaters haven’t been in the market as long as traditional water heaters have, they are believed to require less maintenance all around.

How Tankless Water Heaters Work

Tankless water heaters do not require storage tanks before making hot water available, but the actual process is carried out by converting cold water into hot water in the pipes. When you turn the red-colored tap knob on, cold water pours through the pipes and passes through a heating unit. In this unit, the water is heated by either an electric element or a gas burner.  This process is often discontinued when the tap is turned off and hence you only get to have hot water when necessary.  This will let you save a huge amount of energy in heating water as well as reduce the bills you will have to pay monthly or annually.  The downside is that the flow rate is often limited with a tankless water heater.

Flow Rate

The average flow rate of tankless water heaters is around 2-5 gallons in one minute. However, a gas-powered tankless water heater should have a higher flow rate than the electric element. Despite this, large households that have a high volume of water usage cannot make do with the gas-powered tankless water heater because it would not be able to provide enough water simultaneously.

More often, large households are advised to install more than one tankless water heater that can solve the needs of hot water. Sometimes household appliances such as washing machines or other machines that use a bulk amount of water often have their own tankless water tank.

Home applications that require a large amount of hot water usage include tub (hot), remote bathrooms, solar water heating systems, and a washer.

Lifespan of a Tankless Water Heater

Before installation, you might ask how long does a tankless water heater last?  Normally, a tank water heater can last for 10 or 15 years with proper maintenance. On the other hand, a tankless water heater can average 20 years of constant usage. Additionally, your tankless water heater can last more than 20 years if you maintain it properly. There are spare parts that are readily available and affordable too which makes them perform at optimum levels for longer.

Making the Upgrade to Tankless

Tank water heaters have been around for a while and the recent upgrade to the tankless version makes it a lot better. It may be an expensive option initially, but in the long run, it proves to be a more energy-efficient and cost-efficient option. It also lasts longer than the storage tanks and requires less maintenance in the long run.

Get updated tips and expert advice delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Get A FRee Quote