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40gal vs. Tankless Hot Water Heater
updated: Dec 28, 2013, 1:30 PM

By Charles Brewster

Our 40 Gallon water heater has sprung a slow leak (ahhh, the joys of home ownership) and we are weighing the costs/features of the two types. We've heard that tankless heaters are a hot item these days and we are wondering if anyone has any experience with the new tankless water heaters? How much they spent on installation, if they are any cheaper to run, and any recommendations for installers, etc...? We currently have a quote for around 3 grand which covers the cost of the new tankless heater, removing the old heater, mounting the tankless one to an outside wall of our house, and running the piping & electricity. Is that a reasonable price to pay or is that to much? Thanks in advance for your input.

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 480825 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-28 01:53 PM

Our landlord just installed one in our small apartment. Seems okay, bit definitely takes a while to get hot water. Also doesn't do well when doing dishes. The short on/off spurts to rinse the dishes with never seems to trigger the flame, so we have to let it run to rinse with hot water, which wastes water.

I personally would go back to a traditional water tank if I had the choice.


 COMMENT 480829 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-28 02:16 PM

I have been wondering the same thing and would appreciate reports on whether their units are gas or electric. I have heard that installing gas is more complicated and costly, and electric has been suggested.


 COMMENT 480833 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-28 02:27 PM

Replace your existing water heater. They're super easy to install and a 40 gallon costs about $500 at HD. The actual install takes about 30 minutes. Use the couple of thousand dollars that you save on something you really want.

BTW, installing a gas tankless system isn't difficult except the venting is more expensive and unique due to the higher temperatures versus a traditional tank heater. Electric tank/tankless water heaters of any type are a piece of cake (no vents).


 COMMENT 480838 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-28 02:38 PM

The upside is you don't have to keep 40gals of water heated 24/7. You can reclaim the space occupied by the water tank and you don't have to worry about replacing the whole system again in 5-6 years, given our hard water.

The downside is you will consume more water just to reach the temperatures you're seeking. They've been using tankless heaters in Europe for decades but they generally have more water and their fuel bills are much outrageous compared to ours.


 COMMENT 480841P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-28 02:44 PM

We have gas tankless; it works fine and we've had it for 9 years so far. Takes awhile to get hot water from outside the garage to the showers, but it took almost that long with a tank, too. It is cheaper to run. Gas isn't all that expensive, though. I would think that an electric tankless would be expensive to run; electric heat for our hot tub is expensive.

I don't have a separate price for the water heater install, because it was part of a large kitchen/garage remodel.


 COMMENT 480842P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-28 02:46 PM

841P here again. I'd recommend getting a quote from George at Coastal Plumbing Services -- 259-0084.


 COMMENT 480845P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-28 02:51 PM

833, poster here, there are special reasons for wanting/needing to make the switch to tankless if we can. We may not have a choice.


 COMMENT 480851 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-28 03:00 PM

We considered it, but elected to stay with a traditional water heater - for now. They are getting better over time and we may do it next time. In small spaces and in certain circumstances they may be the only choice and they work great especially if you just need hot water for a kitchen or bathroom sink and nowhere else.


 COMMENT 480877P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-28 03:46 PM

I like having the traditional water heater as a backup water supply in case there is an earthquake.

Friends who live in Big Bear use the tankless style and set it at 40 degrees when they are gone, to keep the pipes from freezing.


 MISTA agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-28 04:25 PM

The HUGE benefit of keeping a traditional water heater (Tank) in earthquake country is you will have 40+ gallons of drinking water when the big one comes, and it will... Just make sure it's up to code with straps to keep it upright when the quake comes.


 COMMENT 480900 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-28 05:22 PM

I have one in the apartment I rent. Been here for 1 year.

The device started dripping - however I believe that was due to a faulty installation and was fixed with a new cheap piece of pipe.

As another person commented, the problem is that it does not work well with short burst uses - hand washing dishes, washing your hands....

If I have dishawasher, pressure to the shower is reduced by about 40%.

It does work well for very long hot showers if dishwasher is not on.


 COMMENT 480903 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-28 05:37 PM

Preparing for the big earthquake ... if you have a traditional water heater, do yourself a favor and purchase a small plastic cap to screw onto the end of the drain faucet.

This is insurance in case you turn on the faucet to get water out, but the faucet doesn't shut off (esp. older heaters) or leaks your precious water away.

The cap can be purchased at any hardware or plumbing store. Typically will need a hose thread.


 COMMENT 480905 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-28 05:53 PM

Look for the newer hybrid tank-less water heaters. They have a 5 to 12 gallon tank that eliminates most of the problems that pure tank-less have. You absolutely need a water softener as our water here will kill a tank-less in no time without one. Also most tank-less water heaters need a minimum 3/4 inch gas line. The electric tank-less water heaters need massive wires, so forget it unless you are installing it near the electric panel .


 SANDYINSB agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-28 07:27 PM

I have installed a few of them into my homes and rentals. You may need to install a larger gas line than the standard size for a tank water heater. I had one plumber tell me it's best to have a soft water/purifier system, as the heating unit can build up mineral deposits rather quickly. I noticed a sizeable reduction in water pressure and it takes some time before the water coming out of your faucet is hot. Still, I prefer the tankless as I hate to waste the energy, and my gas bill was reduced by 70%.


 PETER agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-29 06:32 AM

Our guest powder room is a long distance from the hot water heater and we installed an electric on-demand water heater some 20+ years ago. It works just fine and trouble free.


 COMMENT 480978P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-29 07:44 AM

You MUST have a water conditioning system to go along with the tankless or the thing will be ruined by our local minerally water in two years. I manage properties and this has been my experience.


 COMMENT 480984P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-29 08:05 AM

Have had tankless for several years now and puts out much more hot water than the tank. With old tank we'd run out by the time 2 people had showers or if two baths going at once someone would get cold water. Now, no waiting & More garage room.


 COMMENT 480991 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-29 08:20 AM

A neighbor recently replaced his tankless water heater with a traditional one and commented that he will never get another tankless one.


 COMMENT 481009 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-29 09:12 AM

we love our external gas condensing tankless (installed a year ago). water is hot and forever, takes a 50 seconds to get the hot water to the kitchen on the other side of the house. Uses a ton less energy. got about $400 in rebates from various agencies. Got a very well rated 9 gpm unit (Con. Rep.) for about $800 on amazon. Had a Plumbing Co. from Ventura install for $500 (local companies wanted $2k, regardless of it being a simple install). We're told to have it flushed with vinegar once a year or if the sensor thinks it needs it, flushed at a year and the vinegar came out completely clean so it obviously doesn't need it that often.


 HILLSIDES agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-29 09:38 AM

Unless it is the last resort such as a difficult location for a tank type.
They are very expensive, don't last a long time and parts are not stocked locally.
If you do have one installed, make sure to have it as close as possible to baths and kitchen. There is a delay and don't stay on with low volume flow.
We are on out second EXPENSIVE unit in only a few years and If this one dies sooner than expected, I will bite the bullet to have a tank type installed. We do have earth quakes here and 40 or 50 galleons of potable water would be good.


 COMMENT 481032 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-29 09:57 AM

We did a remodel on our home two years ago that included going from a tank water heater to tankless. Our summer gas bill went from about $40 to $9. It does take a little longer to get hot water. We can have the clothes washer, kitchen sink and shower going at the same time and it has no problem providing hot water to all. We have the plumber who installed it flush it once a year. Make sure the installation includes the pipes and valves used to flush it. Ours is installed on an outside wall of the house, so there was no problem with ventalation. Overall we are very pleased with the tankless heater.


 COMMENT 481056 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-29 10:25 AM

Most of the pertinent factors have been covered in other posts, however the following are worth noting.
All tankless water heaters are NOT the same. Quality and price vary - go with a high quality unit. They will accumulate calcium if you have hard water, but most are set up with flush valves so that you can remove the accumulated mineral deposits on a regular (annual) basis. Tankless heaters make the most sense if your demand for hot water is on the low side. Keeping 40 gal of water hot 24 hours a day for one shower makes little sense. A household of six people is quite different from a couple or sole occupant.


 BONNER agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-29 11:08 AM

I switched to a good quality gas tankless a year and half ago in a small 2ba rental and it's been great. You only have to run the hot water for 30-50 seconds and then it's ready to heat the showers, the laundry and sink on demand. Energy savings have been beneficial as well. Get a good plumber.


 COMMENT 481107 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-29 12:24 PM

I love our tankless, got it about 10 years ago and immediately we saved $20 a month on gas. We don't worry when we go away, no flames burning and we don't worry about the water heater springing a leak and flooding the house. Put it on the outside wall near the kitchen, which is equally close to the shower. Yes you have to wait for warm water but we did before too. We love it and remember to clean it out every 6 months or so with vinegar wash, no problem. We can adjust the temperature so easy without waiting. Shop around for the best quality heater and best price on plumbers, I think $3k is a bit much to pay for install.


 COMMENT 481117 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-29 12:58 PM

In put in an elect tank less 13 yrs ago and gained 3' x 3' lots of space in my small place, and I saved $20 on my energy bill a month. It is still working great, though I had to flush it's pipes of SB hard water scale. So ask for a demo on how to flush the scale. Mine has a valve that dumps the scale.

I hired a reasonable local plumber and electrician who worked together to get it installed at about $500. If you have a 3k quote I suggest you look further.

I have friends who have had to replace a tank and then they continue to complain about the energy bill of keeping hot water on demand while they are at work.


 COMMENT 481132 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-29 02:03 PM

If you get a tankless water heater spend the extra dollars to get a pump to go with it. It cuts down on the amount of water that has to run before you get hot water. Be prepared to go without hot water if the electricity goes out.


 COMMENT 481139 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-29 02:36 PM

Tankless Pros:
efficient, compact, if properly sized they will never run out of hot water
Tankless Cons:
usually need twice as big a gas/electric supply line, not compatible with recirculating systems which can be a problem in a big house with distributed taps, needs special combustion vents for gas, don't deal well with low-flow situations (but a hybrid system with a small storage tank overcomes this problem), expensive to buy, parts are harder to come by, often more vulnerable to hard water.

Tankless is clearly the way to go if you are running off of expensive fuel like propane tanks or liquid fuels (coleman or heating oil). For all others, be very cautious before taking the plunge.


 COMMENT 481166 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-29 04:55 PM

We had one for five years but discovered that unless you have softened water they won't last more than 5 years. Another problem was that the temp wasn't even with the water turning cold or hot suddenly.


 COMMENT 481278 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-30 11:25 AM

Per other commentators, you could spend about $750 to buy and install a new tank water heater installed. Or, you could spend $2000-4000 to buy and install a tankless unit. You may save as about $20 per month on natural gas bills. You may have to replace the tankless unit in half the time (every five years versus every 12).

Economics is not the strong suit of the Edhat community, but perhaps you are one of those rare readers that thinks with their pocket book instead of emotional platitudes. Good luck.


 COMMENT 481297 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-12-30 12:26 PM

I have a few freinds who live in the new Bella Riviera housing on E. Micheltorena and all of the units have tankless water heaters and each of them say they would definitely recommend them.
They say you can run the washing machine, dishwasher & shower at the same time with no loss of presure or hot water. And their utility bill is low.


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