Europe and Asia have been using tankless water heaters for several decades, but in the United States tankless just now catching on? Why is that? Do Americans enjoy long, hot showers that eventually turn cold? Is our society so prosperous that lowering energy bills is not a concern? Regardless of the reason, the tankless revolution has arrived and it promises to be the wave of the future.
According to the American Gas Association, approximately 9.5 million water heaters are sold annually. Of those sales, the split between gas and electric is 50/50, with 80 percent as replacement water heaters and 20 percent for new construction.
With the building industry’s green renaissance in full swing, there’s a built-in demand for tankless, both gas and electric, due to water and energy savings they deliver. And when increased space and endless hot water are factored in, tankless is virtually unbeatable.
“The reason for the rapid growth in tankless water heater sales is because consumers are embracing the concept of saving energy, water and other resources. For years, energy has been relatively inexpensive in the United States and most consumers have not felt the need to save energy and water,” says Fred Huggins, vice president of sales and marketing for Noble Innovations. “However, that’s changing as gas and electricity prices rise and as consumers become more green conscious. The success of the LEED for Homes program and introduction of NAHB’s new National Green Building Program are major indicators of how green American consumers and businesses are becoming.”
“In comparison to electric tank style heaters, the homeowner will save 15 to 20 percent on the water heating portion of their electric bills,” says Bill Riley, sales and marketing specialist for Stiebel Eltron. “As you know, tank-style heaters must continually heat and reheat water throughout the day to higher than necessary temperatures due to heat dissipation through the wall of the tank. This results in stand-by losses of 15 to 20 percent of the kilowatt-hours used.”
Stiebel Eltron is adding a Tempra upgrade and a new Tempra Plus model this year. These will include an upgraded basic model that will be capable of heating water to 140 degrees F, among other enhancements. Additionally, Stiebel Eltron will present the Tempra Plus models that will automatically limit the water flow rate in case the unit is not able to maintain the set-point temperature.
“Tankless water heaters are a great solution for many remodeling projects for several reasons,” says Nina Knight, Rinnai America Corp. marketing communications coordinator. “First, their compact size allows them to be installed in a small area.
Second, they are great for providing hot water for shower towers and large garden tubs that would require large or multiple tanks.”
Rinnai recently launched its hydronic air handler, which was designed specifically to work with the company’s tankless water heater. The air handler uses the hot water from the tankless unit to heat the user’s home. The main benefit of this product is that only gas and venting for the tankless unit is required, whereas two gas lines and two vent penetrations are needed when using a water heater and furnace. Rinnai’s air handler also has a built-in domestic priority system so if the domestic load combined with the heating load is too high, the air handler will stop running until the domestic load eases.
“If you heat too much hot water, even with a tankless water heater, it will no longer give you the savings in fossil fuel usage which many environmentalists are looking for,” cautions Bob Hitchner, director of tankless sales for Rheem Water Heating.
“But the environmentally conscious consumer also sees a lot to like in the tankless water heater. This is because they are indeed extremely energy efficient when used to heat the water for an average home.”
An Endless Flow from a Small Source