Does A Tankless Water Heater Require Other Home Upgrades?

18 December 2020
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Moving to a tankless water heater can offer your family numerous benefits, including lower utility bills and hot water that never runs out. However, these appliances are expensive, and they may also require that you update other aspects of your home. Making an informed decision between a tankless heater and a traditional storage heater requires understanding how your installation costs will be affected.

If you're installing your water heater in an older home, then there are three areas where you may potentially need to make improvements: your gas line, your electrical wiring, and your exhaust vents. Your installer will discuss these requirements with you, but this article will outline why they may be necessary.

1. Upgraded Gas Lines

The gas lines in your home determine the maximum flow rate to connected appliances. As a general rule, more fuel means a flame that burns much hotter. Most installers will size gas lines based on appliance needs, so your home's current gas plumbing is likely only appropriate for a storage-tank water heater.

Tankless heaters sometimes require more gas flow because they operate at higher temperatures. Since they don't store hot water, the flame temperature must be hot enough to heat the water fully as it passes through the heat exchanger. If your current gas plumbing doesn't meet these requirements, then you'll need your installer to upgrade the gas line.

2. Improved Electrical Wiring

Most local building codes require that appliances such as water heaters operate on a dedicated circuit. Depending on the age of your home, your old water heater may not have its own circuit or may not have been connected to the mains electricity at all. Old-style water heaters often used pilot lights that required manual lighting and so lacked even electric igniters.

All tankless water heaters require electricity, however. Gas models need access to mains power to operate their electric igniter, sensors, and control board. Depending on the heater model, you may only need to plug it into a standard outlet. Always discuss your electrical needs with your installer to ensure that you meet any local building codes.

3. Altered Venting

If you have an older gas water heater, it may vent through your chimney. Gas water heaters extract heat from exhaust gases to provide hot water, but older models were incredibly inefficient. As a result, the exhaust gases would remain warm enough for chimney venting. High-efficiency tankless heaters extract much more heat from their exhaust gases, so they cannot be safely vented in this way.

Most homes will already have an appropriate vent for a tankless water heater, but you'll need to install one if not. In these cases, you'll need a vent connected directly to the heater that runs outside of your home.

For more information, contact a water heater installation service in your area.