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by Mark Hall, Vancouver Washington Real Estate

It seems that my recent conversations around green living and sustainable building have been dominated by discussions about tankless water heaters. I just mention high efficiency appliances and people start asking about the benefits of a tankless water heater. Did The New York Times write an article on them that I haven’t heard about?

The funny thing is that I have yet to have the discussion with anyone who would be able to benefit from using one! Let me explain why.

Pro & Cons of going tankless:

Water tankThe big “PRO” for going tankless is that it only runs when it is being used. It only uses energy when hot water is needed and, by definition, it doesn’t use any power when hot water is not needed. Sounds really green, doesn’t it?

The big “CON for these units is that they use a huge amount of energy when they are being used. It takes a large amount of energy to heat water quickly and to maintain any significant output. A hot shower is a good example of usage that requires a large amount of sustained output.

So the answer is simple. There are savings to be had if you are a household who doesn’t use a large amount of hot water. Households that who fall into this category would be those of small families: empty nesters, couples with an infant or toddler, or maybe a home that is only a part time residence.

Homes that are lived in by full and active families will actually increase their energy bills by going to a tankless system. Think about how much energy is required to quickly heat the daily showers, dishwashing, and laundry for a family of five. In this case, a high efficiency water heater would be a more energy and cost effective solution.

Mark and his wife, Janice, own Elite Realty NW, a real estate company under the Keller Williams banner in Vancouver Washington. They specialize in residential and investment real estate transactions.

Check out our Green Pages for information on money saving tips that help the environment. Once there, click on the Green Forum.

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  • A. Cutter

    This article does not really address the major drawbacks of tankless systems, as follows:

    1. Because really massive amounts of energy are required to be delivered quickly, the utility services supplied must usually be retrofited accommodate this-namely larger gas supply piping and metering, larger diameter chimneys and double-walled stainless steel vent pipes, or costly changes to electrical apparatus,, including higher capacity electrical panels, meters, and substantially larger circuit breakers and wires.

    2. I have not seen any really cost effective solutions to the problem of fast response time for heated water to arrive at the tap. If there is no recirculation system, all the (cold) water in the pipes has to be run out and wasted, and the first water flowing out of the heater will be cooled as it runs through the cold pipes enroute to the tap. If a recirculation system is installed, it will need to be triggered nearly every time that heated water is demanded from any tap, and there wil be a time delay.

    3. Proper sizing is a problem, and cost considerations may result in selection of a system that may prove to be grossly undersized for the (hard to predict) number of simultaneous users. It may be necessary to prioritize or inconvenience some users such as those wishing to bathe and wash clothes at the same time.

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