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Problems With On-Demand Hot-Water Heaters

Helping the environment and saving dollars at the same time by installing an on-demand (or tankless) hot-water heater is a good way to gain bragging rights among neighbors and friends. The amount of energy used and the cost to the homeowner are much less than with a conventional water heater. With almost double the lifespan of traditional water heaters, many homeowners find good reason to have on-demand water heaters installed in new homes and retrofitted into older ones. But few things in life are 100 percent good, and when looked at a little closer, there are some potential problems with on-demand water heaters.

Increased Upfront Expenses

Is having immediate hot water for the shower worth the other obstacles?

A tankless heater costs more than a conventional water heater. In 2010 a complete installation may cost up to $1,000 more in a new home, and if retrofitted, perhaps up to $2,300. If a homeowner is on a budget, he or she may have to pass up the tankless heater.

Fewer Plumbers

Finding a plumber who will install or maintain a tankless heater is more difficult. As on-demand water heaters become more common, this will be less of a problem, but it is a concern in 2010.

May Require Extensive Remodeling

The ventilation needs of a tankless heater are much greater than for a conventional heater, and often older homes cannot meet the building code requirements.

Limited Amount of Hot Water

If too much hot water demand is put on at the same time for multiple uses, the heating capacity may not be able to handle it all at once.

No Well or Hard Water

Tankless heaters are susceptible to blocked pipes from well or hard water, and some manufacturers don't honor the warranty if the heater is installed under these circumstances.

About the Author

Jack Burton started writing professionally in 1980 with articles in "Word from Jerusalem," "ICEJ Daily News" and Tagalong Garden News. He has managed radio stations, TV studios and newspapers, and was the chief fundraiser for Taltree Arboretum. Burton holds a B.S. in broadcasting from John Brown University. He is a 26-year veteran of the U.S. Navy/Navy Reserves and the Navy Seabees.

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