Tankless Water Heater – Part 1 – The Beginning

Today we begin a series of articles on our experience with obtaining a tankless water heater. At first I thought it would be a one article or at most a two part series, but as I started to write this the words kept flowing on the many different aspects. So to those who don´t want to read, I ended up calling Air Source Heat Pumps to install their product because it was honestly the best I´ve seen.

So, let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Always a good place to start.

As our frequent visitors know we are participating in the ecoENERGY Retrofit program and have already had our initial energy audit. It was from the audit report we received that we learned a great many things about reducing the consumption of non-renewable resources in the home, so much so that we still say our number 1 tip for a home renovation of any kind is to first obtain an energy audit.

Now, one of the recommendations in the energy audit report was about the replacement of our hot water tank with an instantaneous, or tankless, gas water heater with an energy factor (EF) of 0.8 or better. At the time, late 2007, the available financial incentive from the Federal Government was $200 and the matching incentive from our Provincial Government was also $200. More about this matching grant later.

audit report page 1 hot water heater Tankless Water Heater   Part 1   The Beginning

Now, as you likely know tankless water heaters only use electricity or propane or natural gas (depending on the model) to heat the water when someone wants to use hot water. No energy is used to heat the water otherwise. This compares to what in North America is the traditional hot water tank which is constantly heating the water regardless if someone is taking a shower, or bath or….. or not.

That Energy Factor of 0.80 or better refers to the efficiency of the tankless unit in using the energy source to heat the water. To qualify for the grant, we would need to install one of the more efficient variety.

We know nothing about tankless water heaters. I do remember from my many visits to western Europe over the years that tankless water heaters are the norm. And, a lot of countries in western Europe have the same cold climate as where we live, so why wouldn’t they work here in North America.

However, I am a pragmatist, meaning that I need proof. So, I went to the closest sources available to me, the Internet. I went to this forum and that, to this web site and that. And, that is how I was introduced to many of the web sites that are now included within our Energy Conservation blog roll over on the left hand side.

I learned that many favoured natural gas over electric type of tankless water heaters as natural gas was more efficient. I also learned that there are various capacities of these devices and installing one that is too small, yes, can result in insufficient hot water when you want it; say when the teenager is having a 30 minute shower and you are also taking one before you go off to work!

So, I was determined that if we were to convert from our current hot water tank to an instantaneous hot water device it would be (A) of the natural gas variety and (B) sufficiently large so we would not face an issue of insufficient hot water.

I like to think of myself as also being frugal. Being a former professional accountant, I need financial payback in a sufficiently short time. Yes, I have become much more conscious of reducing consumption of non-renewable resources. However, no one is going to put food on my table if it costs me so much to have installed an energy conservation device that I run out of money. And, since these are not as wide spread in North America, I need to make sure that I have a reputable installation company perform the work for me so I don’t have to worry about what to do if it stops to work.

Therefore, I also included the additional conditions that (C) the installation would be from a company I could trust and (D) I needed financial payback in under 5 years….preferably 4 years or less (financial payback is the number of years it takes to realize actual savings equal to the total cost of the project). I think that is reasonable for the size of the up front investment we will need to make.

Will I find such a device and company to meet my A, B, C and D conditions for a tankless water heater?

Return tomorrow as we begin the search!

To continue with the next article in the series on tankless / instantaneous water heaters simply select this link to Part 2.

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  1. Philscbx says:

    I’m about to install one myself. But you cannot take out your main water heater.
    My priority is to not only save energy, but save water.
    Running out 3 gallons to get hot water is the main problem. All hot lines, and main tank are also insulated.
    With an instant heater close by at the sink, etc, you have no shortage of hot water using controlled restricter in place of shower head for 2 gal a minute flow.
    Going entirely tankless is not the option.

  2. Dan says:

    Interesting, Phil.

    You are the first person who has ever mentioned that.

    All other research, including people living in western Europe where these are the norm have never mentioned that.

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