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Are Tankless Water Heaters Worth the Extra Cost?


Houston water heater repair usually justifies the effort from a cost-value point of view. Installing a new water heater — unless your existing heater is extremely inefficient and leaky — takes time to recover the costs through water and energy savings. You should find out what is needed to fix the old heater before deciding to invest in a new unit. Your next big question is likely to be whether to install a tankless water heater instead of a traditional, reservoir-style (tank) heater.

How Tankless Water Heaters Work

Tankless water heaters are usually installed close to where hot water is needed, and they heat and furnish hot water on-demand, which reduces the costs associated with holding a tank of water at a preset temperature. You eliminate standby heat loss because tankless systems use coils in a powerful heat exchanger that heats water by transferring heat energy — which is the way that air conditioners, refrigerators, and car radiators work. You can choose electric, gas, or propane heating systems that are activated by the flow of water so that your hot water tap delivers hot water almost instantly.

Can You Recover Your Costs when Going Tankless?

Tankless water heaters unquestionably save energy, but the question remains whether these cost savings justify the high costs of the equipment. The following formula will help you compare tankless with tank-style water heaters:

  • Determine How Much Water Your Family Uses

    Calculate how many gallons of hot water your family uses in a typical year.

  • Calculate the Costs of Installations

    Find out how much it would cost to install a tankless and tank-style heater. If you own a large home, you might need a different tankless system than if you just need hot water near the bathroom.

  • Compare Costs

    You can compare usage histories for tank-style heaters, water costs, and gas and electricity expenses. Determine the in-use efficiency rating of the tankless and tank-style system and the costs of energy and water to calculate the real-world savings of the tankless system, based on how much hot water you use.

  • Consider Extenuating Circumstances

    After determining how long it would take to recover your costs, you can consider the extenuating circumstances that apply. Are you likely to move before you recover your costs? Will the tankless heater last long enough to recover its cost? Will you need a complex tankless system where water will have to travel a long distance? Are you trading energy savings for increased water usage?

Minnesota Research

Minnesota researchers Dave Bohac, Ben Schoenbauer, and Martha Hewett of the Center for Energy and Environment in Minneapolis conducted a study to determine whether the typical family could save enough money using a tankless heater to justify the relatively high costs and came up with a resounding “no.” The researchers concluded that most tankless heaters would expire of old age before saving enough money to cover their costs.

Lifestyle Issues

If you own a big house, have lots of family members, and use water for many toilets, baths, showers, sinks, and appliances, you will probably need a complex tankless system or multiple heaters placed near each point of use. The more complex your system, the more likely you will have problems, unexpected maintenance expenses, and breakdowns that require hiring a Houston plumber. Recovering your costs in such a scenario would be highly difficult because your tank of heated water is regularly used by everyone in the household, which reduces the cost per use by lowering standby water waste.

However, if you live alone, travel frequently, and use hot water within a small area of your home and apartment, you might save a lot of money by not heating a full tank of water 24/7. However, it still might take some time to recover your investment from energy and water savings if you do not use much of either resource in your home to heat and maintain water to a specified temperature.

Tankless water heaters can provide precise temperature control, unlimited hot water for a single person’s needs, and energy savings but at high startup costs. You could also end up wasting more water, which needs to be calculated when considering your energy savings. You should consult a Houston residential plumber to get the facts and cost estimates before you decide whether to repair an existing unit, install a tankless system or stick with a traditional, tank-style water heater.

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