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Ask the Experts!

6 August 2008

“I am considering buying a tankless on-demand water heater to replace my 13 year old gas traditional tank water heater. What are the advantages or disadvantages?”

First, I love our on-demand water heater, but there are a couple of issues.  First, I would encourage anyone thinking about them to only install one if it is time to replace their existing unit.  The energy savings won’t be so large that it’s worth decommissioning a perfectly good water heater.  Second, there are potential issues with the ability of one’s gas connection with the utility, and the gas lines in the home, to deliver sufficient pressure for an on demand water heater.  Our existing meter, and 80 year old gas lines, couldn’t handle the necessary pressure, so we had to have a new meter and new internal gas lines installed (which isn’t cheap).

As far as performance of the units is concerned, I have been very happy with ours.  For large constant loads, like a shower or the washing machine, it performs very well.  We don’t have any issues with not having enough hot water, or have wild temperature fluctuations (which is a common complaint).  There are situations where we are constantly switching the hot water on and off, like hand washing dishes, where you get big slugs of cold water mixed in with the hot water.  I’ve found that with a little bit of practice it isn’t that hard to figure out how to avoid that.

Answer provided by Kyle MacLaury, Research Analyst at the Center for Energy and Environment.

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