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Hot Water When You Want It, Where You Want It



Why Install a Point-of-Use Water Heater?

Instant water heaters have become popular in the last decade. They are tankless and can be installed for the whole house, under the kitchen counter, as a booster in a bathroom far from the house water heater, or for a specific hot water-using appliance. The chief benefits of these units are that no energy is wasted keeping water hot around the clock and that you will have hot water immediately when you need it. If you live in an area where water is expensive—and that really means more places every year—it is frustrating to watch as water goes down the drain while you wait for it to be at least warm enough to wash your hands.

Most people think that instantaneous means that when you turn on the tap, hot water comes out instantly.  But the heater does not store hot water, so if the heater is not close by, you still have to wait for the water to get to you. It is really instant only if the heater is right at the point of use. But, since there is no tank to empty, you can have continuous hot water for 20 hours a day.

Tankless heaters heat water as it is required, and do not store hot water that is reheated on a timer—this eliminates what is called standby heat loss. Water flow activates a heating element fired by a gas burner or electric coils.  Almost instant hot water is useful for a variety of reasons—showers, hand dishwashing, and other kitchen needs, laundry and dishwashers, even hot water for tea. Though it is ideal to plan for multiple and simultaneous uses (a load of laundry and a shower at the same time, for example), the cost of a whole-house tankless water heater can be prohibitive.

Deciding what to buy

As point-of-use water heaters can be expensive, there are things that you should consider before deciding which to purchase. These considerations include: the temperature of hot water wanted, the temperature of the water as it enters the unit, and the flow rate (volume measured by gallons of water per minute) of the water needed.  The desired flow rate is an important element when you select a unit. Determine the flow rate of any appliance you will be hooking up—your dishwasher or washing machine for example. What is the flow rate for your shower head if that is the point of use?

The fuel used to make hot water is also a big consideration. One of the first things to think about is the cost of fuel in your area.  Some places have cheap natural gas, some have low electric rates.  After you choose the type of heater that you need, remember to consider the cost of installation.

A gas-fired water heater must be vented through an outside wall, which is expensive. You might want to hire an electrician and plumber to reroute water, gas, and electrical connections to the new heater.  Also, gas tankless heaters require an annual inspection.  Electric heaters, on the other hand, can be installed anywhere—under a sink, in a closet—and ideally should be located where the water is needed. (Hence the name, point-of-use.) Maintenance costs with electric heaters are much lower, and can mostly be completed by any homeowner.

Now that you know how to get hot water as soon as you need it, it is time to evaluate needs, start shopping, and to get installation estimates!