Row of navien tankless water heaters

Understanding How a Tankless Water Heater Works

Hot water is as fundamental to our daily lives as electricity, heating, and air conditioning, yet we often don’t think twice about how it reaches our showers and sinks. Whether it’s for a relaxing bath after a long day or for daily chores like washing dishes and laundry, it’s impossible to deny how important hot water is for our everyday tasks.

One modern solution that many homeowners are turning to is the tankless water heater. But how do these compact devices provide hot water on demand? Let’s help you better understand how a tankless water heater works.

What Is a Tankless Water Heater?

A tankless water heater, also known as an on-demand water heater, heats water only when you need it. Unlike traditional water heaters that store hot water in a tank, tankless heaters heat water as it flows through the unit. This means you get instant hot water without the need for a bulky storage tank.

Traditional vs. Tankless Water Heaters

Traditional water heaters keep a large storage tank of water hot at all times, using energy to maintain the temperature. This constant heating can potentially lead to higher energy bills. By comparison, tankless water heaters will only heat water when a hot water tap is turned on, providing hot water on demand. This difference in operation leads to significant energy savings and a continual supply of hot water.

How Tankless Water Heaters Work

Understanding how tankless water heaters work involves a bit of basic plumbing knowledge. When you turn on a hot water tap in your house, cold water flows into the unit. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown:

  1. Cold Water Inlet: When a hot water tap is turned on, cold water flows into the tankless water heater through the cold water inlet.
  2. Heating Process: The water then passes over either a gas burner or an electric element, depending on whether you have a gas tankless water heater or an electric one. The heat exchanger rapidly heats the water to your desired temperature.
  3. Continuous Flow: The water heater continues to heat the water as long as the tap remains open, providing a constant flow of hot water.
  4. Hot Water Outlet: Once heated, the water exits the unit through the hot water outlet and flows to your faucet, shower, or appliance.

Components of a Tankless Water Heater

To better understand how a tankless water heater works, let’s look at its main components:

  • Heat Exchanger: This is the core of the tankless system, where the actual heating occurs. In gas tankless water heaters, a gas burner heats the exchanger. Electric tankless water heaters use electrical resistance heating coils.
  • Gas Burner or Electric Element: This component provides the necessary heat.
  • Flow Sensor: This detects when water is flowing and signals the heater to start warming the water.
  • Control Panel: The front-facing panel allows you to set the desired temperature and monitor the system.

Types of Tankless Water Heaters

There are, ultimately, two main types of tankless water heaters: gas and electric.

Gas Tankless Water Heaters

Gas tankless water heaters, as their name suggests, utilize a gas burner to heat up the water. They typically have a higher flow rate compared to electric ones, which makes them suitable for larger households with high hot water demand. However, they require proper ventilation and a reliable gas supply.

Electric Tankless Water Heaters

Electric tankless water heaters use electrical resistance heating coils to heat the water. They are easier to install than gas models since they don’t need a gas supply or ventilation. Electric tankless water heaters are usually ideal for smaller homes or where gas isn’t available.

Benefits of Tankless Water Heaters

Now that you have a grasp on how a tankless water heater works, you might be asking yourself how you could benefit from having one installed if you don’t already own one. There are several advantages to consider.

Energy Efficiency

One of the most notable advantages of tankless water heaters is their energy efficiency. Since these systems only heat water on demand, they consume less energy compared to traditional storage tank heaters. This can bring about significant energy savings and lower utility bills.

Unlimited Hot Water

With a tankless system, you don’t have to worry about running out of hot water. As long as the water tap is turned on, the heater will continue to provide hot water, which is perfect for large families or homes with high hot water demand.

Space Saving

Tankless water heaters are compact by design and can be installed in small spaces, freeing up room that would otherwise be taken by a bulky storage tank. This is particularly beneficial for those with smaller homes or apartments.

Longer Lifespan

Most tankless water heaters have a longer lifespan than traditional water heaters. With proper maintenance, a tankless water heater can last up to 20 years, whereas traditional tanks typically last about ten to 15 years.

Is a Tankless Water Heater Right for You?

While tankless water heaters offer many benefits, they might not be the perfect fit for everyone. Consider the following:

  • Initial Cost: Tankless water heaters can be more expensive to purchase and install compared to traditional tanks.
  • Home Size and Water Usage: Large homes or households with high hot water demand might require multiple units.
  • Energy Source: Decide between gas and electric models based on availability and your home’s infrastructure.

Schedule Your Tankless Water Heater Services Today!

By understanding how a tankless water heater works, you can make an informed decision about whether this technology is right for your home. With the potential for energy savings and space efficiency, tankless water heaters are a smart investment for many homeowners.

Are you ready to finally make the switch to a tankless water heater? JJ&A Mechanical offers professional installation, maintenance, and repair services for tankless water heaters.
Don’t wait until you’re stuck with cold water. Contact JJ&A Mechanical today to schedule your appointment! We’re proud to offer an array of solutions to meet your plumbing needs, from tankless water heater repair to drain cleaning in Vancouver, BC. With the help of our professional services, you can enjoy a reliable, efficient, and continuous supply of hot water for years to come.

Hands testing the temperature in a shower.

Reasons to Install a Tankless Water Heater in Your Home

For a long time, homeowners have relied on storage tank water heaters for all their household hot-water needs. With the emergence of tankless hot water heaters, many people are now making the switch. If you’re still on the fence about upgrading, here are our top reasons to consider installing a tankless water heater in your home.

Endless Hot Water

Tired of waiting for your old hot water tank to get hot again after a family member, roommate, or tenant just used up the last of the hot water? Tankless water heaters eliminate this issue by providing an uninterrupted supply of hot water. They can deliver a consistent flow of hot water for as long as needed, ensuring you never run out of hot water. This makes tankless water heaters ideal for high-demand households with multiple people who need to shower in the mornings.

Lower Bills

Tankless water heaters are much more energy efficient than conventional hot water tanks. Unlike storage tank heaters that constantly heat and reheat water to maintain a set temperature, tankless heaters only heat water as it is used. This point-of-use heating means that energy is not wasted, which decreases your monthly bills. Upgrading to a tankless water heater is an investment that will cost you some money up front, but will pay for itself in savings over time.

Better for the Environment

That energy efficiency that saves you money, also means that tankless water heaters are kinder to the environment than hot water tanks. With the growing emphasis on sustainability, more and more homeowners are choosing tankless water heaters to align with eco-friendly practices. The reduced energy consumption and longevity of these systems contribute to lower carbon footprints and less waste, helping to protect the environment.

Longer Lifespan

Tankless water heaters have a longer life expectancy compared to conventional hot water tanks. The lifespan of a conventional hot water tank depends on the specifics of the tank itself and how well it’s maintained, but newer hot water tanks typically come with a warranty of 6 years. In our experience in the field, we generally find that these hot water tanks last around 8 to 10 years, while tankless water heaters last upwards of 15 to 20 years. This extended lifespan not only saves you the stress and cost of replacing your water heater more frequently, but also reduces the environmental impact of disposing of old units.

Are you ready to make the switch to tankless and enjoy double the life expectancy of a tank, increased efficiency, and endless hot water? Get in touch with our team today for expert installation of your new water heater.

Act soon and you could even get a $1000 rebate from FortisBC when you switch to a tankless unit!