Want to replace the traditional tank-top water heater you currently use but don’t know how to go about it? You might be asking yourself, “How big of a tankless hot water heater do I need?”
That’s a valid question from someone who is overwhelmed with the array of options from this appliance.
However, providing you with a specific choice straight away will be inaccurate since some things need checking first.
How Big of a Tankless Hot Water Heater Do I Need?
Knowing the size of the tankless water heater suited for your home is the first factor to consider. Follow the steps below to know the right size for your homes.
Step 1: Calculate the GPM
Estimate the maximum GPM (gallons per minute) by getting the total amount of each fixture to utilize hot water at the same time.
You can use the information below to calculate your consumption:
- Shower – 3 GPM
- Bathroom Sink – 0.5 to 1 GPM
- Washing Machine – 2 to 3 GPM
- Kitchen Faucet – 2 to 3 GPM
- Dishwasher – 1.5 to 3 GPM
- Bathtub – 4 to 6 GPM
Step 2: Find Out the Needed Temperature Rise
Temperature rise is the degree of hotness you need to reach your expected outgoing water temperature.
First, you need to know the incoming water temperature from the ground. Deduct it from your desired water temperature. The difference is your needed temperature rise.
You can check the groundwater temperature in your area online to get an estimate.
Step 3: Decide on Your Power Source
The next thing that you need to select is the type of power source for your tankless water heater.
You need to know what kind of power source is accessible in your home. If you have access to both gas and electricity, choose the more affordable one for long-term use.
Choosing a Tankless Water Heater
Determining the size of the tankless water heater is not enough. You need to choose the type of tankless water heater appropriate to your needs.
1. Gas vs. Electric
It’s easier to decide on this factor if you already know what your power source is.
Electric tankless water heaters are suitable for small homes that need minimal water demands and with warm groundwater temperatures.
Additionally, the initial cost of electric tankless water heaters is lower as they are more affordable and easier to install.
There are also different types of electric tankless water heaters.
In a daily situation, several members of the family will most likely use hot water at the same time. This kind of scenario requires a water heater that can cater to the family’s needs.
The whole-house water heater is the perfect appliance to provide the hot water needs of the entire household.
Point of Use
This small single-use electric water heater is ideal in providing hot water for one faucet. These are easy-to-install units that are efficient and altogether remove the standby heat loss.
These portable and lightweight units have small GPM but can be installed and carried anywhere. This water heater type is perfect for camping and traveling or installed in your RV.
This outdoor water heater is typically installed on the wall outside of your bathroom. It is also equipped with a freeze protection system so that it can still function during winter.
Some models may even come with enclosures to protect it from the elements. This heater type is ideal for houses with small spaces.
Gas Tankless Water Heater
Gas tankless water heaters, however, can produce more hot water quickly. Thus, these are recommended in areas with colder groundwater temperatures.
They are also suitable and economical for bigger homes that may require more hot water.
BTU or British Thermal Unit is the amount of heat you need to increase the water temperature by one Fahrenheit for every pound.
Hence, tankless water heaters with high BTUs can heat more water. If you wish to have hot water for the whole house, look for a water heater with high BTU.
3. Point of Use vs. the Whole House
Another factor worth considering is how you intend to use your hot water supply.
A sizeable tankless water heater unit will be perfect for the whole house to accommodate its higher hot water demand.
Nevertheless, you can opt to use smaller tankless water heaters for each point of use. As a result, it offers lower GPM, which will be sufficient for your on-demand needs.
Installing a tankless water heater is not as simple as buying the unit and setting it up.
The installation costs for a gas-powered tankless water heater meant to supply the entire household is higher.
You can estimate the cost based on its distance from the water and gas sources to the fixture and the length of its venting system.
Electric-powered tankless water heater installation costs less as it does not require venting. Although, you will still need the service of an electrician to ensure safe and correct installation.
Tankless Water Heater Types
Currently, you can choose from these three tankless water heater types for your home.
The non-condensing type is the first generation of tankless water heaters. It uses heat exchangers in heating the water on-demand, giving it an efficiency rating level of 82% to 85%.
Japan and Europe have been using this technology even before reaching the United States. This appliance has proven its reliability with minimal manufacturing issues.
The second generation for this appliance is the condensing type.
After the first heat exchanger, this type makes use of another heat exchanger. It reuses the heat from the exhaust to help increase the water temperature.
As a result, the efficiency factor for the second generation increases to 92% to 94%.
The cooler exhaust allows you to use an affordable PVC material for venting purposes. However, second-generation units are more expensive and less efficient for small amounts of water.
3. Condensing Hybrid
This third-generation type of tankless water heater was developed in the United States. This appliance includes a small holding tank, around one liter to two gallons capacity.
It serves as a container for hot water to remove the inefficiency of not releasing hot water in small amounts. Therefore, reaching an efficiency factor of 94% through its consistent operation.
There is less pressure fluctuation from the third generation water heaters and less delay in the delivery of hot water.
However, most models are produced by small companies, hence the question of quality and warranty.
Tankless Water Heater Maintenance Tips
Whether you call a plumber or you do it yourself, regular tankless water heater maintenance is essential. These appliances need regular cleaning if you want to maximize its lifespan.
There are areas where the water is full of minerals that buildup in the heating elements. When this happens, the water heater’s performance is affected.
You can hire the services of a professional to clean the heat exchanger from scale buildup.
A yearly cleaning is sufficient except when your temperature setting is too high or you have hard water in your area.
If you opt to clean it yourself, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it. Before starting, make sure you read the user’s manual on how to care for your water heater.
Step 1: Turn off the power before removing the unit’s cover. Then, close the water valves going to the heater.
Step 2: Remove the valve caps on the purge valves of both cold and hot water pipes to ease the pressure.
Step 3: Then, hook up the hose lines at the same angles as the hot and cold water valves.
Step 4: Remove mineral deposits from the heating elements using white vinegar.
Step 5: Drain and flush according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Afterward, close the valves of the purge port after flushing by twisting the T-shaped handles.
Step 6: Detach the hose lines, return and tighten the caps on the valves of the purge port.
Step 7: Search and remove the filter then clean its screen and housing before putting it back.
Step 8: Finally, check your user’s manual to ensure that you can safely restart the heater.
Tankless Water Heater Benefits
There are many reasons why several households are choosing tankless water heaters. Here are some of them:
1. Endless Hot Water
This on-demand water heater will not run out of hot water supply as long as it is connected to the water source.
Hot water is readily available whenever you need it but not instantly, as it may take several seconds before water is heated.
2. Space Saver
Tankless water heaters are space-savers because they are mounted on the wall.
They don’t need large storage tanks that occupy a lot of space. There are even units that you can install outside of your house to free up indoor space.
The transferred heat measures the efficiency of a tankless water heater from the power source going to the water.
Currently, the tankless water heater’s efficiency level is more than 80%, as there is no need to reheat the stored water in the tank.
For this reason, you can lower your water heating expenses by 30% to 60%.
4. Longer-Lasting Product
These water heating appliances are made from premium quality materials, and components are not easily affected by leaks and rust.
As a result, the tankless water heater can last up to 20 to 30 years.
5. Increase Home Resale Value
Having a tankless water heater installed in your home can add to its market value in case you decide to sell your home.
Tankless Water Heater Downsides
We have talked about the benefits of tankless water heaters. This time, we will check some of its disadvantages.
1. Retrofit Cost
If you decide to change your traditional water heater system to a tankless one, be prepared to spend a lot of money.
The cost of the initial installation project ranges typically from $2,000 to $4,500. The amount includes changes with your venting, gas, and water lines to adapt to the new system.
2. Wait Time at the Faucet
Some people believe that they will instantly get hot water after opening the faucet. However, tankless water heaters do not provide instant hot water, much like the traditional type.
Sometimes, it may even take a few more seconds longer before hot water comes out of the faucet.
3. Unsure Savings
Some people are unable to reduce their water heating expenses after installing the tankless water heater.
Their consumption increased, knowing that they have an unlimited hot water supply.
4. Requires Electricity
Some homeowners decided to use an electric-powered tankless water heater. They will not have any hot water supply in case of a power outage.
5. Additional Equipment Needed
You may need to install a water softener for the water heater to work correctly.
Buying this additional device adds to the overall installation cost. This unit will also occupy additional square footage in the house.
Common Problems With Tankless Water Heater
Just like any other product, tankless water heaters experience issues, as well. One of the most common problems is the heater’s failure to produce sufficient hot water.
Here are some reasons why it is happening and some tips on how to resolve it.
1. Demand Is Too High
If you have multiple fixtures and appliances that need hot water simultaneously, you will have insufficient supply.
Some possible reasons for this high demand may be an upgraded bathtub or shower that requires more hot water.
Adding a new bathroom means additional demand for hot water. New appliances that use hot water can also add to the required supply.
The best possible solution to this problem is to replace your water heater with a larger capacity. You can also make a schedule so that hot water usage is equally distributed.
2. Cold Incoming Water
In areas where the weather is freezing, your incoming water may be too cold for the water heater to heat up quickly. You may feel that your unit is not producing enough hot water.
What you can do in this situation is to increase the temperature setting of your water heater.
3. Reduced Incoming Water Pressure
If the cold incoming water pressure is reduced, the outgoing hot water pressure will also decrease.
This problem may be a bit harder to resolve as there may be old and corroded pipes requiring replacement.
In the first part of this discussion, you asked, “How big of a tankless hot water heater do I need?”
We have provided information on how you can calculate the size of your water heater.Once you have determined the right size, you can check some of the best water heaters and buy the one that meets your needs.