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Tankless water heaters promise big savings, big water supply

Forty gallons (151 liters) is a lot of liquid, especially when it’s spread over your living room floor, or running down the walls. That’s the amount of water held by a standard hot water tank in a home. As one realtor put it, when forty gallons of water lets loose and the condo owner is off at work, the result is catastrophic.

This is one reason why tankless water heaters are becoming more popular. The promoters promise big benefits: up to 75 per cent off on your energy bill; endless supply of hot water; no bulky hot water tank taking up valuable space; a lifespan up to twice as long as conventional water tanks.

Can they really deliver all that?

Apparently, they can. Whether electric or gas powered, the tankless heaters today guarantee instant, endless hot water on demand. When they say “on demand” they mean just that: it never runs out because it’s being heated as you use it. And this is one reason why they save energy: there is no reservoir of water to be maintained at shower-ready temperature, and no “standby” losses. The fact that they do not hold water also eliminates one of the biggest problems with conventional tanks: corrosion.

High-volume heaters now provide form eight to twelve gallons per minute, which is more than enough for any normal household task. A “typical” shower flows at the rate of 1.5–3.0 gallons per minute, so there’s no shortage there. Many manufacturers claim that their products—Rinnai is one—allow simultaneous use of “up to four plumbing or appliance outlets,” all at pre-set, consistent temperature.

Another brand, the Stiebel Eltron Tempra and Tempra Plus tankless water heaters, are described as “the most advanced” ever made.

Tankless water heaters are being marketed on their savings potential to builders, developers, hotel and resort operators, as well as to individual home owners. Claims of savings of 50 per cent or more are common. An item in Habitat, however, cites an engineer who says tankless heaters won’t work in larger buildings because of demand. This seems to miss the point. The idea, at least at present, is not to install tankless heaters for common use; we haven’t been able to find any “industrial” sized heaters that could serve a multi-dwelling building like a modern high-rise condominium. But individual condo owners could benefit from installing one.

Disclaimer: condo.ca does not endorse or recommend any product mentioned herein. For information purposes only.

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