Richmond Virginia Plumbing

Should I Get a Tankless Water Heater? [Checklist]

Posted on January 6, 2022 in Maintenance, Plumbing

a man quickly and easily adjusts the temperature on his interior wall-mounted tankless water heater

Tankless water heaters are gaining popularity because they take up less space than a traditional hot water tank. 

So if your old water tank needs to be replaced or repaired, you might want to consider upgrading to a tankless unit. After the initial investment, you’ll save on utility costs and you won’t have to worry about your family using up all the hot water. 

Tankless Water Heaters vs. Traditional Water Heaters

If your old water heater is on its last legs, you’re probably asking yourself, should I get a tankless water heater? To answer that, let’s look at the differences between the two.

How a Traditional Water Heater Works

You’ll usually find a traditional water heater tank in a closet, laundry/utility room, or a corner in the basement. It draws water from your main water supply and keeps water in the tank constantly hot, whether you’re using it or not. Because of this hot water storage method, you may run out of hot water if everyone in your household takes a shower in a short time. 

According to Home Advisor, a water tank will usually hold between 30 and 80 gallons. You’ll need to replace it about every 8 to 12 years.

How a Tankless Water Heater Works

A small unit is installed in a convenient location in your house: a crawl space, attic, or even on the exterior. It’s sometimes called a demand-type or instantaneous water heater because it heats water only as you need it — so they’re not constantly using power.

Turn a hot water tap on and cold water travels into a pipe, where it’s heated by a gas burner or electric element. Different units can deliver between two and 11 gallons of water per minute (GPM), so you need to choose the right one for your household.

For larger households, you could get a large unit or have multiple units around the house at specific points of use. For example, one near the dishwasher and one near the shower. 

You’ll only need to replace it every 20 years and you may save 24% to 50% of energy use compared to a traditional water heater. 

A tankless water heater may cost from $250 to $2,500 to buy and from $400 to $1500 to install.

Note: Some of the smaller electric units may not be suitable for cold, Northern locations.

Checklist to Decide Which Tankless Water Heater to Buy

If you’ve decided a tankless water heater is the right choice for you and your family, it’s time to choose which one to buy.  

Here are a few top suggestions from 

I Want the Energy Efficient Option

Rinnai RUR98iN Water Heater

  • Price: $1,915, which makes it one of the most expensive but arguably the best and most cost-effective in the long run
  • Installation: Needs professional installation 
  • Power Source: Natural Gas, featuring a condensing unit with dual heat exchanger
  • Energy Star Certified: Yes, with an EF of 96%
  • Warranty: 20 months (heat exchanger), 12 months (labor), 60 months (parts)  
  • Water Supply: 9.8 GPM or enough for two showers and a dishwasher. (Get the 11 GPM model for larger households)
  • Water Temperature Rise: 60 degrees F so a good choice for colder climates
  • Size: 12.5 x 10 x 26 inches 
  • Wi-Fi Compatibility: Yes, can be operated through the Rinnai app, Alexa, and Google Home

I Want the Most Reliable Option

Ecosmart ECO 27 Electric Tankless Water Heater

  • Price: $450
  • Installation: DIY installation-friendly 
  • Power Source: Electric
  • EF Rating: 99.8%
  • Warranty: Lifetime for residential use, with professional installation
  • Water Supply: 6.6 GPM or enough for a household of two in a warmer climate
  • Water Temperature Rise: 43 degrees F, making it ideal for a small house in warmer climates
  • Size: 3.63 x 17 x 17 inches
  • Wi-Fi Compatibility: None, but digital temperature control

I Want the Smallest, Quietest Option

Rheem RTEX-18 (Electric Point of Use) 

  • Price: Approx $429 
  • Installation: Needs professional installation
  • Power Source: Electric
  • EF Rating: 99.8%
  • Warranty: 10 years to lifetime depending on various factors 
  • Water Supply: Up to 6 GPM, enough for a single appliance or small household
  • Size: 5.88 x 2.75 x 10.88 inches and wall mounted
  • Wi-Fi Compatibility: None

I Want the Easy to Maintain Option

Takagi T-KJr2 IN-NG

  • Price: Approx $539 
  • Installation: Needs professional installation, and disassemble to access parts for DIY maintenance 
  • Power Source: Gas that can be converted to propane
  • EF Rating: 81%
  • Warranty: 15-year on the heat exchanger in residential applications, 5-year on parts
  • Water Supply: Up to 6.6 GPM, enough for a single appliance or small household
  • Size: 6.7 x 13.8 x 20.3 inches
  • Wi-Fi Compatibility: None but has an integrated temperature controller

I Want the Outdoor Option

Rheem RTGH-95XLN

  • Price: $1260
  • Installation: Requires professional installation
  • Power Source: Gas, but because it’s outdoors you won’t need to worry about ventilation
  • EF Rating: 94%
  • Warranty: 12-year heat exchanger, 5-year parts, and 1-year labor manufacturer; must be professionally installed to qualify
  • Water Supply: Up to 9.5 GPM, or enough for a large home
  • Water Temperature Rise: 40 degrees F, meaning it is more suitable for warmer climates.
  • Size: 17.3 x 11 x 3 inches
  • Wi-Fi Compatibility: None, but has auto and manual modes

I Want the Safest Option

Sio Green IR288 

  • Price: $368 
  • Installation: Requires professional installation, and it contains no metallic elements so runs no risk of corrosion. This may mean less maintenance overall.
  • Power Source: Electric
  • EF Rating: 98%
  • Water Supply: Just 1.7, or enough for an RV or a household sink
  • Water Temperature Rise: 40 degrees F, meaning it is more suitable for warmer climates.
  • Space: 18.5 x 9.75 x 27.5 inches
  • Wi-Fi Compatibility: None

The Bottom Line on Tankless Water Heaters

So by now, you’ve probably answered “yes” to the question, should I get a tankless water heater? And you’ve decided which model you like. All that’s left to do is determine what size to get. 

Tankless water heaters may range from the size of a shoebox up to the size of a suitcase. Find out more!

What Size Tankless Water Heater Do I Need?