How to Get the Most Out of Your Tankless Water Heater

Tankless water heater installed by Action Plumbing

If you’re shopping around for a new water heater, tankless systems are a wise choice for those looking for savings and longevity. These new systems can help you save money on energy, take up less space and can out live traditional water heaters if properly maintained. According to the Department of Energy, tankless water heaters installed in homes using 40 gallons or less of hot water each day can gain energy savings of 24%–34% vs. traditional storage tank water heaters (typical savings in the $100/year range). Homes that use a lot of hot water (~80 gallons a day), can still reap the benefits with energy savings of 8-14%. Designed to be super-efficient, tankless water heaters (or on-demand water heaters) are convenient because they provide hot water instantly without the need for a reserve tank to keep the water hot. Their compact size and energy efficiency are two reasons why they have become so popular. They can also offer a long, cost-effective life if maintained properly.

Giving Your Tankless Water Heater a Regular Check Up

Regularly maintaining your tankless water heater will mean a longer, trouble-free life and increased cost savings for you. Ongoing water heater maintenance means an annual cleaning of the heat exchange elements. If your household or business use 80+ gallons of water on a daily basis or if you utilize well water, consider cleaning your heat exchange elements every 18-24 months. Cleaning the heating elements on your hot water heater will ensure removal of mineral deposit build up. Even a light build up can mean reduced efficiency for the unit. If regular maintenance is not performed, you run the risk of damage to the elements, longer burner cycles and an overall shorter life for the water heater.

If your water heater is more than 8 years old, it may be time to consider purchasing a new tankless water heater. The technology of these units has changed rapidly over the years, and if your unit is not working to its full potential, you may be missing out on critical cost and energy savings. Particularly if you have not had any maintenance performed on the unit in a number of years.

The “Flushing” Process

Cleaning a tankless water heater is literally a ‘flushing’ of the unit to clean and flush out the buildup of mineral deposits on the heating element. It takes about an hour to fully flush the system, depending on the size of the unit and the type of water used on the property. This process requires three water valves to be drained and shut off temporarily.

It’s not a complicated process, in fact many homeowners can maintain it themselves, but it will require some working knowledge of the unit and a bit of handy work to remove the cover (which may require tools) and operate the water valves. It can be confusing if you’re not sure which lines are which and how to switch the various lines off/on to conduct the service. It can also be dangerous if hot water comes in contact with your skin, so extra care should be taken before starting any maintenance on your own.

If your water heater has an inlet filter, you’ll want to clean the filter on a more regular (3-4 times a year) basis. You can do this by removing the filter and running water through it to remove any sediment. This should be thoroughly checked each time the unit is maintained.

If you think your water heater could use a quick check up, fall is a great time to do it. Contact us to schedule an appointment or learn more about tankless water heater options available. If you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer, be sure to refer to the manufacturer owner’s manual for exact instructions on how to safely shut down, flush and restart the unit.