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How much is a Tankless Water Heater?

How Much Is A Tankless Water Heater

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You come home and can’t wait to have a hot shower. You turn on the water and it’s freezing cold.  Now you have to wait for the hot water tank to fill up and reheat, so you won’t be having your shower any time soon.  It may be time to switch to a tankless water heater which provides limitless hot water. The question is how much is a tankless water heater in the Vancouver area?

What is a Tankless Water Heater?

Tankless heaters provide hot water on demand, usually heating the water with gas or electricity. They are also referred to water on demand heaters.

You can either buy a whole house or point of use model. Whole house heaters are one primary heater for the home.  If one heater can’t provide enough hot water, they can be combined with other units.

Point of use heaters are installed within two feet of an appliance, for example by the laundry room. If you are not installing a primary heater, you need separate heaters for each area requiring hot water.

How does a Tankless Water Heater Work?

Most tankless water heaters are powered by electricity or natural gas, but they can also use solar power, geothermal energy, fuel oil, and propane.

How do electric tankless water heaters work? When you turn on a faucet or appliance, an internal sensor detects water flow. Then the water flows over heated electric elements. Next, the warm water is fed to the fixture or appliance.

How does a gas heater work differently than an electric model?  In this case, the water flows through a heat exchanger. This is a series of pipes which pass by gas burners and heat the water to a preset temperature.

There are two types of venting, either direct or power venting.  Direct vent units have both an intake and exhaust vent as it pulls in air from outside the building. A heater with concentric vent design is safer, as it has insulated intake and outtake pipes which don’t heat up.

Power vent models only have an exhaust vent.  Depending on the design, it can be vented from the roof or through the side wall.

Unfortunately, most heaters won’t work in a power outage. Their internal sensors need electricity to begin and maintain the heating process. Some units have a battery backup which can provide power to the computer components.

A licensed plumber should examine the unit once a year to ensure it is working correctly.  It’s necessary to flush it once or twice a year to prevent mineral buildup.

What size Tankless Water Heater do you need?

You need a heater large enough to provide enough hot water for all of your family members to use at the same time.

Sizing for a tankless unit is different from a tank water heater. Where a tank heater’s size is based on total volume, a tankless unit’s size is based on the amount of hot water which flows through it.

In addition, electric water heaters have different sizing than gas units. Electric models are classified by their wattage rating. The higher the wattage rating, the higher the power.  However, high-power units use more electricity which means you have higher electric bills.

Gas-powered units show the flow rate in gallons per minute (GPM). Flow rate describes how many gallons of water can be heated in one  minute and sent to your appliances.  For example, showers have a flow rate of 2 GPM to 3 GPM, washing machines are from 2 to 2.5, faucets are 1 to 2, while a dishwasher is 1.5 to 2. To calculate the size of the heater you need to supply hot water throughout your home, add up the GPMs of your water appliances. You can also find online tools to help you calculate this.

Manufacturers show two different GPM values on their spec sheets or labels. One is the maximum GPM, and the second is the actual flow rate. The maximum GPM reflects the water heater’s maximum water flow rate in ideal conditions.  Manufacturers also include a realistic GPM, adjusted for the average groundwater temperature and temperature rise (the difference between the groundwater and desired temperature).

Most manufacturers have a water heater sizing chart for their units. The recommended sizes are:

  • For a family of two, a 6 GPM to 8 GPM gas heater or a 10 kW to 18 kW electric heater.
  • For a three person household, a 7 GPM to 9 GPM gas heater or a 15 kW to 23 kW electric unit.
  • A four member household needs a 8 GPM to 10 GPM gas model or a 20 kW to 28 kW electric heater.
  • For a family of five, a 9 GPM to 11 GPM gas water heater or a 25 kW to 34 kW electric unit.
  • Families with more than five people need a 11 GPM gas water heater or an 34 kW electric unit.
Water Heater Chart

Where should you put a Tankless Water Heater?

So where is the best place to install your heater?

It is better to install a whole home heater in the same location to reduce installation costs. This way you can use the existing gas and hot water lines. If you decide to install it in another location, choose one where the existing plumbing does not need to be changed significantly, as adding new piping can be very costly. Ideally it should be close to the main electrical panel and also near your kitchen, bathrooms, and laundry room. It should be placed in an accessible location for maintenance and servicing.

A dedicated gas line is also needed.  Keep in mind that if both the furnace and water heater are in the same room, both units may not get enough gas, and you may not have enough hot water.

Point of use heaters are typically installed within two feet of a fixture or appliance when it is located too far away from the primary heater.  A tankless water heater is much smaller than a conventional one, and can be installed in storage areas, pantries, closets, mounted on a wall, or under the sink.

For safety reasons, never place the water heater on air conditioning lines, under pipes that can drip, or above an electrical box. This could cause a fire if there were a water leak.  Make sure children can’t reach the electrical sub-panel or outlet water pipes. The outlet water pipe can get boiling hot, and could cause a bad burn.

Keep in mind that these heaters are designed for indoor use. If you install it outside, enclose it so it is protected from rain, direct sunlight, water, debris and insects. Never put it outside if it can freeze, as this can severely damage your heater, and it won’t be covered by the warranty.

Before you install a tankless heater, check your municipal and provincial codes, and find out if a permit is required.  Unless you are a plumber, you should have a qualified professional install it for you.

Where should you put a Tankless Water Heater?

Here are some of the benefits of tankless water heaters:

  • They last about 20 years compared to conventional tanks which usually last from 15 to 17 years.
  • Although they cost more initially, you will save money in the long run as they use less water and energy than tank heaters. Did you know that about 30% of your heating bill goes to heating your water?  According to Consumer Reports tests, you can save approximately $70 to $80 a year on your energy bill. Some manufacturers claim you can cut your energy costs in half with a tankless heater.
  • A third benefit is that these heaters provide an unlimited supply of hot water. You don’t need to wait for your hot shower, and your family can use multiple appliances at the same time. Traditional hot water tanks are limited by the size of the tank. Once the water in the tank is depleted, it can take over an hour for the water to refill and heat up.
  • Tankless models are much smaller and take up less space. Point of use heaters can be placed close to appliances and will even fit under your kitchen sink
  • Another benefit is the reduced risk of contaminated water since the water isn’t sitting in a tank.
  • Fortis BC offers rebates up to $2500 for upgrading to an energy efficient gas condensing tankless water heater.
  • A traditional tank eventually can leak and rust over timeand leaks can cause major water damage to your flooring, walls and belongings. Without a tank the risk of water damage is nearly zero.
  • Although it is rare, hot water tanks occasionally There is no risk of this with a tankless unit.

On the downside, some of the cons are:

  • Tankless models have to be installed by professionals with piping, venting and electrical expertise.
  • In addition, the units need to be flushed every six months to prevent mineral buildup and corrosion.
  • They don’t provide hot water instantly, and if you only need a small amount of water the burner may not ignite.

Which is better, Gas or Electric?

Should you choose a gas or electric tankless heater? Some areas don’t have access to gas or propane, so electricity is the only option.

In some cases, you may need to modify your home’s current electricity supply line to install a new electric heater.

Here are some pros and cons of both types.

GAS

Pros

  • Condensing systems don’t require a venting system, so installation costs are low.
  • You will need costly modifications to your gas or propane and venting systems.
  • They easily provide a flow rate of 20 GPM.
  • Good for homes with more than 4 residents.
  • Currently, gas heaters are cheaper to run, as gas rates are lower than electricity costs.
  • They can last up to 20 years, and may  last longer with regular maintenance.
  • Many manufacturers offer a 10 year heat exchanger warranty, 5 year additional components warranty, and a 1 year labor warranty.
  • They are more efficient than tank heaters with an energy-efficiency rate up to 80%.

Cons

  • Gas units are more expensive to purchase and harder to install.
  • A non-condensing system needs an expensive stainless steel venting system with sufficient airflow.
  • New venting is required if you are switching from a tank to tankless system.
  • You need to upgrade your gas pipelines.
  • When gas prices increase, they may be more expensive to run than electric units.
  • They require more maintenance than electric systems.
  • They release greenhouse gases into the environment.
Electric

Pros

  • Electric models are less costly to purchase, install and repair.
  • They are smaller than gas models and can be mounted in any corners including the attic, closet, kitchen, or bathroom.
  • They don’t require a venting system.
  • Their energy-efficiency rate is 98 to 99%, which means lower electricity bills.
  • They need minimal maintenance and can last over 20 years.
  • Many brands provide lifetime warranties, but some offer a 5 years additional parts warranty and a 1 year labor warranty.
  • Units don’t use fossil fuels or emit greenhouse gases.

Cons

  • You may need to upgrade your electrical power supply.
  • Electricity prices are higher than gas, so you will have higher electricity bills.

Have a lower heating capacity than gas models as their maximum is 8 GPM.  Larger households need multiple units or a combination of a primary and point of use heaters to supply enough hot water.

Buying a new water heater is a major investment.  Tankless heaters have many benefits including saving space, a longer lifespan, unlimited hot water, and virtually no risk of water leaks.  The downside is they are more expensive to purchase and install, and they may require costly electrical and venting upgrades.

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