Tankless water heaters are really not practical for most commercial uses because of the need for high volume or continuous water usage, but they do lend themselves to a small office building, a school, or any other enterprise which does not use hot water continuously. If two to five gallons per minute is acceptable, a tankless hot water heater can be ideal. They will work well in a setting that requires hot water for limited purposes, such as hand washing or cleaning of a minimal amount of equipment. Some tankless hot water dispensers advertise their fitness for specialized settings, including restaurants and food manufacturing. Typically dishwashers in these settings are not run from the tankless water heater.
Several manufacturers of wall-mounted tankless water heaters advertise their unit’s suitability for commercial use. Most emphasize savings in capital expenditures and life-time energy costs. One cited advantage is that there is no water storage, eliminating one cause of accidents. Another is that the temperature of the water can be set exactly, with no need for tempering valves. Tankless units do save space. These manufacturers suggest that high volume water users (apartment buildings, hotels, fitness centers, hair salons, etc.) install a series of units, thus allowing instant hot water when needed.
Tankless water heaters are advertised as lasting more than 20 years, compared to the 10 to 15 years expected of a water storage system. They are designed with easily replaceable parts, and periodic maintenance should last a long time. Manufacturers do provide good manuals and instructions on installation and maintenance on their web sites, so it is a good idea to look at these before choosing a unit.
Will it Work for us?
To determine if a wall-mounted water heater will work for commercial use there are some basic considerations. First and most obvious, what is the size of the building and how many users will the unit have? The utilities available in the building’s location may make the choice for you—if there is no gas line, you will have to go with an electric heater. Placement of a tankless heater is pretty open, but a clear, dry area close to the faucet or appliance that will demand the hot water is ideal. Gas units need to be installed with a vent on an outside wall, but electric units can be small enough to fit under a sink. By all means, locate the unit in a place that can be easily reached for maintenance and repair.
Commercial tankless water heaters do not usually ship with a mounting system, so you will have to consult with your installer to decide which of the available mounting systems to use. Really heavy-duty mounts are advisable with industrial installations.
What to Look for:
A tank designed for long life, corrosion-resistant materials
Long-lasting heating elements—these also need to resist corrosion
Sufficient insulation—both to keep the warmth in and to prevent anyone who touches it from a burn
A control that will shut off the system if the water becomes overheated for some reason
Readily available replacement parts
Ease of repair in the field
The ability of units to work in parallel to increase the hot water flow
Dry heat shutoff
Different electrical tankless water heaters require various amp draw and circuits. So to assure that your systems can handle the heater you purchase, you must consider your facility’s voltage, amperage, and circuit breakers. If you find that your circuits do not provide the support your heater needs, have an electrician install another circuit dedicated entirely to the new unit.
Wall-mounted hot water boilers can save capital outlay and operating costs for many commercial situations. Before deciding to install a tankless water heater of any kind, take some time to explore the options.