Everything You Need to Know About Tankless Water Heaters

a hand underneath warm running water

a hand underneath warm running water

Everything You Need to Know About Tankless Water Heaters

When it comes to traditional tank water heaters versus tankless alternatives, which is best? Both options have pros and cons, but today's article will discuss the benefits, maintenance, and challenges of tankless water heaters in Utah's climate.

Advantages of Tankless Water Heaters

A typical water heater in a Utah home is a gas-powered one that has an average rate of 60% to 70% efficiency. This means that 30 to 40 cents for every dollar you spend on gas to heat the water goes down the drain.

As a plumber, I can attest that nearly all my colleagues have embraced tankless systems in their own homes, and for good reason. They have a staggering 97% efficiency rating, thanks to their PVC flue system and smart design. In contrast, for every dollar spent with a tankless water heating system, you're reaping the benefits of 97 cents going towards heating your water. This efficiency translates to significant savings on your gas bill and means less wasted gas emissions.

Speaking of savings, let's talk numbers. Depending on the size of your household, your water heater typically accounts for 15 to 20% of your gas bill. With tankless water heaters, the efficiency boost can slash that portion by up to 30%, putting a substantial dent in your monthly expenses. Plus, their compact size allows you to reclaim valuable space in your home.

The most compelling argument in favor of tankless systems is their longevity. Utah has hard water, and traditional water heaters often struggle to reach their entire lifespan due to mineral buildup. While tanked heaters are good for a maximum of 8 to 10 years, but tankless water heaters last from 12 to 25 years, with many lasting a remarkable 20 to 30 years.

Admittedly, the initial investment in a tankless water heating system is higher. However, you would have to replace a tanked heater multiple times over the lifespan of a single tankless unit. With that in mind, the cost-effectiveness becomes crystal clear.

Drawbacks of Tankless Water Heaters

The initial price tag of a tankless water heater is about double that of a traditional tank model. Despite the hefty upfront investment, a tankless water heater offers unmatched benefits. The downside is you'll need to invest in a softener or descaler to safeguard your tankless water heater. Why is this? Well, those heat exchangers are covered by warranties, but they're voided if your water has over nine grains per gallon of hardness. And let me tell you, that hardness wreaks havoc on those exchangers.

It is vital to ensure your water quality meets the requirements. In Utah, that often means adding a water softener or descaler to your tankless water heater setup. Yes, it is an additional expense, but protecting your investment is well worth the price. In fact, we recommend it for all water heaters, whether tankless or traditional. In my experience, nearly every customer understands the importance of this safeguard, with rare exceptions.

Necessary Maintenance for Tankless Water Heaters

When it comes to maintaining a tankless water heater, there are a few crucial steps to ensure optimal performance and longevity.

First, install a descaler to protect the system from the harsh effects of hard water. Doing this will prevent mineral buildup and ensure your tankless water heater stays in top condition for years to come.

You should also flush the tankless system on an annual basis. The flushing process for a tankless water heater involves specialized equipment, including a pump and the appropriate solution for thorough cleaning. Flushing a tankless water system is a task best left to trained professionals to preserve the efficiency and performance of your tankless water heater.

Challenges with Tankless Water Heaters in the Utah Climate

Tankless water heating systems can adapt to various conditions. However, in the winter, the groundwater temperature can plummet by 10 to 20 degrees. As a result, the water entering your home's pipes is significantly cooler. For a tankless water heater, this means it takes a bit longer for the water to travel through the coils and reach the desired temperature.

When the water is 20 degrees colder than usual, this can translate to a delay of 30 seconds to a minute before hot water starts flowing, especially in November and December. Despite this delay, it doesn't impact your tankless water heater's overall functionality or longevity, and the benefits of a tankless water heater far outweigh this minor inconvenience.

The Future is Tankless

Every year, new government regulations on traditional water heaters drive up their prices. They now require more insulation, and we're seeing the rise of low-knock heaters, which, while more efficient, contribute to the cost hike.

I remember when I started this company, we were installing water heaters for around $1200 to $1300. Now, I'm paying that much just for the parts! It's absolutely mind-boggling to me.

While I can't provide concrete evidence to support this theory, I have observed a trend that leads me to believe there's a deliberate effort to phase out traditional tank water heaters in favor of tankless models. More and more regulations and policies favor tankless systems, making them more financially attractive and pushing them into the spotlight.

One factor driving this shift is the perceived inefficiency and hazards associated with traditional tank water heaters. Additionally, there's a major push towards energy efficiency, mirroring the trend in Europe, where tankless water heaters are more prevalent.

I have family in England, and I've witnessed firsthand how commonplace tankless water heaters are in homes there. While the quality may not match that of the systems we use, the space constraints in Europe necessitate it. In contrast, American homes typically have more space. However, as space becomes a premium and energy efficiency has become increasingly important, the tide is starting to turn towards tankless options.

From my perspective, government regulations and market forces are driving this transition. While there haven't been significant changes in the cost or availability of tankless water heaters, traditional tank models have seen substantial price hikes in recent years. This, coupled with ongoing efforts to improve energy efficiency, suggests a deliberate push towards phasing out tank water heaters.

While it's difficult to predict the future with certainty, I wouldn't be surprised if tankless water heaters become the norm within the next couple of decades, so it is something homeowners and industry professionals should be prepared for.


The shift towards tankless water heaters represents more than just a trend; it's a leap towards a more efficient and sustainable future. While increased investment and maintenance requirements exist, the long-term benefits in cost savings, environmental impact, and reliability make them a worthy investment.

As regulations and market forces continue to evolve, it's evident that tankless water heaters are poised to become the new standard. Embracing this change will help everyone contribute to a greener, energy-efficient world for future generations.

If you are interested in getting a tankless water heater for your home, contact our team at Salt City Plumbing, Heating & Air to schedule your consultation.

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