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Tankless water heaters, or on-demand water heaters, have been around for over a decade now and have proven to be a reliable, energy efficient and a green alternative to tank-style water heaters. When problems do arise is often a result of installation issues or a lack of maintenance.

Tankless Water Heater

Tankless water heaters are hi-tech appliances that heat water rapidly only when it's need, resulting in less wasted energy and a nearly continuous supply of hot water. When properly maintained they will last around 20 years. Here are some of the most common problems experienced with tankless water heaters.

Hard Water and Mineral Build-up

Hard water can lead to scaly calcium buildup which can increase the maintenance requirements for the unit. The unit should be flushed with vinegar following the manufacturer's instructions to prevent minerals from reducing performance or potentially damaging the unit. If your home has excessively hard water, it's recommended that a water softener be installed to prevent excessive calcium deposits form accumulating in the water lines.

Corrosion

While you're more likely to experience corrosion problems with a conventional tank-style water heater, tankless water heaters can also be damaged by corrosion if condensation drips onto on the gas burner and causes problems with the gas supply.

Excessive Demand

Before installing a new tankless water heater your plumber will ask about your water usage to calculate which unit will best serve your hot water needs. If you exceed the capacity of the unit by showering, doing laundry and other water-intensive tasks simultaneously, the unit may shut down to prevent damage from over heating. If you use a lot of hot water at the same time in different areas of your home, you may be better off going with a larger tank-style water heater.

Improper Installation

When a tankless water heater is installed it's essential that the unit have enough ventilation to allow excess heat to escape, and in the case of gas units, for exhaust gases to vent to the outside of the home. If not properly vented, the unit may overheat and automatically shut down as a safety precaution.

Have questions about tankless water heaters? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We can help answer all your water heating concerns.
One of the concerns many homeowners have when making the switch from a conventional tank-style water heater to a tankless, or on-demand water heater, is whether it can get the water as hot as a tank water heater. The short answer is yes.

Most tankless water heaters have a thermostat that can be adjusted between 100° to 140°, depending on the brand and model. By comparison, most tank water heaters have the temperature set around 120°.

The key to ensuring the water heater can supply a consistent 120° or higher is the climate and number of sources the tankless water heater will need to supply. It is critical that a tankless water heater is sized based on a household's needs. If the unit is too small for the amount of flow it’s being asked to produce it may work fine for a shower, but not work as needed when a washing machine and a shower are in use at the same time.

Tankless water heater ratings are based on the rise in water temperature they produce. The colder the temperature of the incoming water supply, the lower the maximum temperature of the heater. This means in a warmer climate like Florida, you don't need as large a tankless water heater as someone living in a colder climate, like Minnesota.

Have questions about which water heater is right for your home? Call Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We're here to help.
When choosing a new water heater there are several types to choose from. Each offers advantages and disadvantages, here is a comparison, starting with the most popular water heater designs.

Storage Hot Water Heaters

Advantages
  • Available in a wide range of sizes
  • Inexpensive to purchase and install
  • Energy source gas or electric 
  • Average EF rating 0.67
Disadvantages
  • Tank size has increased with NAECA standards, so installation requires more space
  • Limited supply of hot water during extended use
  • Can waste up to 15% of energy through radiant heat loss
  • Life expectancy of 10-15 years

Tankless Hot Water Heaters - On Demand Water Heaters

Advantages
  • Consume 20% to 30% less energy than storage tank models
  • Meets NAECA standards without increase in size or installation costs.
  • Take up less space, can be mounted on a wall
  • Very little standby energy waste
  • Virtually endless supply of hot water
  • Life expectancy of 20 or more years
  • Average EF rating 0.75
Disadvantages
  • Hot water flow rate is limited by the size of the unit
  • Typically more complicated and expensive to install
Tankless water heaters will all make some noise when starting up and heating water, but the noise levels are usually reasonable and not cause for concern. When the noise occurs when there is no hot water being used, it's likely there is a vacuum that's siphoning water away from the unit and causing loud noise and vibration. In most cases the solution is to have a plumber install a check valve in the water line to prevent other plumbing fixtures from interfering with the flow of water to the water heater.

Another common problem that can create noise in tankless water heaters is a dirty flow sensor which controls how much gas is sent to the unit. Other sources of noise include blocked or inadequate ventilation or a defective or improperly set pressure valve.

Because there can be many causes of the noise, it's best to have your plumber diagnose the problem and fix the unit if needed.

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