A Tankless Task: What You Need To Know About Switching To A Tankless Water Heater

Are you thinking about switching from a traditional tank water heater to a tankless version? There are some great advantages you'll get from going tankless, but you should also be aware of some unintended side effects. Knowing about these in advance will help prevent unpleasant surprises and make you more prepared for certain odd events. While these side effects might not happen for everyone, this is really a case of better safe than sorry.

You May Need More Than One

Your giant water heater tank can hold a lot of hot water, making it easier to keep a steady flow of hot water going even if several people are trying to use different faucets at the same time. Tankless water heaters, though, which provide hot water just as you need it, rather than storing it, may not be able to keep up with very heavy demand. It might be a good idea to look at installing more than just one heater. For example, have one for general use in the house, have a second that is dedicated to just the water lines going to the clothes washer, and have a third that's dedicated to the dishwasher. In a home where there are maybe one or two people, one heater could suffice, but if you have a lot of kids or roommates, more heaters would be better.

You'll Need to Increase Your Emergency Water Stores

The water that comes into a hot water tank is generally safe to use, and it can be a source of water in times of emergency. While you are supposed to have a lot of bottled water stored up, sometimes your supply can dwindle because you just haven't been able to get back to the store. If you switch to a tankless heater, you'll have to be especially careful to keep water on hand for emergencies and not let the supply fall.

You Won't Reduce the Risk of Legionella

The water supply in North America tends to have low levels of Legionella, the bacteria responsible for Legionnaire's disease. The bacteria can grow if water heaters are not set to temperatures that are high enough to halt growth or even kill the bacteria. Many people have the impression that the bacteria lurks in hot water tanks but not in the lines themselves, leading them to think that a tankless water heater may be safer and carry less of a risk of transmitting Legionella. This is not true. Because Legionella exists in the wild (i.e., outside homes) and not just in large tanks, it can get into any type of plumbing system. Remember to set your tankless hot water heater to at least 122 degrees Fahrenheit.

Have the tankless heater installed by a professional; don't attempt to work on this yourself. You want to be sure the tankless heater has been installed correctly and that you have a good warranty on it.