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How Propane Tankless Water Heaters Work

Posted: June 20, 2022

Understanding Costs, Sizes, Maintenance, and More

A propane tankless water heater represents an option that needs less space in the home while providing a virtually endless supply of hot water on demand. Tankless water heaters are also more energy-efficient, and generally have a longer life than standard storage tank water heaters.

A tankless propane water heater, professionally installed by a Wilson Oil and Propane technician, eliminates standby energy losses that occur in storage tank systems because this innovative unit only heats water on demand.

What is a Tankless Water Heater?

A tankless water heater is so compact in size that it can easily be mounted on a wall. These units are about the size of a suitcase, which allows for installation in crawl spaces, attics, closets, and other tight spaces.

But a lot of people wonder: how can something that small deliver a comparable amount of hot water than I received from my old tank-type water heater?

It’s really simple. When you turn on your hot water faucets or an appliance, a flow sensor will activate a propane gas burner to heat the water. The heating will continue until you turn off the faucet, which shuts off the gas burner.

Isn’t that a better option than relying on your old storage tank water heater to heat water and store it for when you need it? This is not an ideal situation as the tank will definitely lose heat over time, especially if the hot water tank is located in an unheated space. And that costs you money!

By switching to a tankless model, your energy efficiency will improve up to 40% and you’ll have access to virtually unlimited amounts of hot water – because you won’t have to worry about the tank draining and having to refill and reheat.

Why Don’t More People Have a Tankless Water Heater?

A tankless propane water heater has a higher upfront cost than a traditional storage tank water heater. But if you’re patient, you’ll see you can save a lot of money on your water heating bills over time. It’s estimated that you can save more than $150 a year in annual energy costs compared with electric tank models.

And although tankless water heaters technically cannot run out of hot water since they are designed to always heat up more water on demand, they can be overwhelmed with demand when there are multiple taps or appliances on at once. This problem can be solved by installing more than one tankless water heater in your home to compensate for heavy demand.

It’s also important that you protect your investment and keep up with your water heater maintenance from year to year. You’ll need to have your tankless water heater serviced once a year.

If you have hard water, a higher frequency of service may be in order so you can avoid mineral buildup in the unit’s heat exchanger. Sediment can block water flow and will force your heater to work harder.

Finding the Proper Size Tankless Water Heater

There are two key factors that need to be considered when sizing a tankless water heater:

  1. Flow Rate: This is how much hot water you will need at any given time
  2. Temperature Rise: This is the difference between the incoming cold-water temperature and the desired temperature 

You will need a professional to figure out which fixtures you plan to operate simultaneously and how much hot water each will use.

So, depending on key factors like how many tubs and showers you have, how often you’re running appliances like a washing machine or dishwasher, and how many of these would be in use at once, you can customize your tankless water heater to suit your needs. Our tankless water heater experts can help you with these calculations so you can choose a tankless system that will always deliver all of the hot water you need.

As you consider your needs, or if you need some help figuring out what’s most important, get in touch with us. We’ll walk you through the process and help you get a clearer understanding of your household’s hot water needs.

And please check out our Specials page to see how you can save money on your purchase of a Rinnai tankless water heater.

Please contact us to request a free estimate.