LESLIE: Christine in Florida’s working on a relatively new home. How can we help?
CHRISTINE: Yes, hi. We had – I’m here in Florida and we already have gas service to the house, but it’s time to be replacing the water tank pretty soon. And there’s a lot being said about the tankless water heater. But knowing that this is instant heating of the water and there’s no tank, I’m wondering is – you know, what you can tell me about these units; how efficient they really are. And what happens if the electric power goes off? Does it affect us getting hot water?
TOM: Well, that’s a good question. Now, first of all, I have to ask you do you have natural gas in your house, Christine.
CHRISTINE: Yes, we do.
TOM: OK. So a tankless water heater works just as you describe. It basically heats water on demand. So the efficiency comes from only heating water and only running the gas to heat the water as you consume it.
LESLIE: So you’re going to see a financial savings because, otherwise, a traditional water heater is going to just keep that water hot all the time.
TOM: Yeah, we like to say that traditional water heaters are dumb (Leslie chuckles) because they don’t know any better than just to heat it all the time whether you need it or not. A tankless water heater gets around all that by heating on demand.
Now the other advantage of a tankless water heater is you have a very easy way to adjust water temperature. In fact, many of the more modern ones have digital control panels so you can literally dial the temperature up or down. You know, in case of a house, perhaps, that has children, you can dial it down to a very, very safe, lukewarm level and not worry about sending them off to take their bath or shower. And then if you want it a little bit hotter, when they’re done you can easily dial it back up again.
The installation – fairly straightforward. A couple of things that are different from a normal gas water heater, usually the piping has to be bigger because tankless water heaters use very big gas pipes. They don’t use more gas. They just need a larger pipe to get the volume of gas that it needs there to give you that instant heating capability. So the installation tends to be a little bit more expensive. And of course the water heaters are more expensive. But over the life of the units, you are going to save money and they are pretty darn convenient. And they’re very tiny.
LESLIE: And what about the power outage issue?
TOM: Well, if you lose power, you’re going to lose water. But you would lose water even if it was a gas water heater with an electric ignition. If you had just a regular gas water heater you wouldn’t lose hot water but with a tankless you probably will because there’s circuitry involved there.
CHRISTINE: Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.