Tankless Water Heaters: Seamless Evolution

Tankless Water Heaters: Seamless Evolution

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Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless water heaters have been around for more than 90 years, but they did not become viable alternatives to a standard tank unit until the 1970s. The efficiency of tankless systems continued to increase, so Europe began adopting the technology to save energy—as well as space. Once the EPA established Energy Star in 1992, tankless water heaters started to make a larger impact in the U.S. market.

Since then, instantaneous (or on-demand) water-heating technology has incorporated a secondary heat exchanger to generate more efficient heat transfers. Some tankless models also have integrated a built-in recirculation pump to return cooled water that would normally run down the drain, saving households thousands of gallons of water per year and reducing the wait for hot water at a faucet.

Many manufacturers now offer WiFi compatibility for their tankless products as well, which enables homeowners to monitor and tweak usage from a mobile device. The wireless adaptor, when used in conjunction with an app, allows customers to create and manage their own schedules and often connects to a smart home network—such as Nest or Wink—to provide even greater convenience.

How they operate

As soon as a hot water tap opens, the water flow sensor inside a tankless unit alerts the computer board, which turns on a fan to clear the vent and ensure fresh air for combustion. A flame ignites and warms the burner. Cold water flows into the unit from an inlet pipe, passing through the heat exchanger and absorbing warmth from the burner before exiting at the desired temperature.

The computer board automatically adjusts the flame output if another tap opens and the hot water flow rate changes, so that the temperature remains steady. As the hot water taps close, cold water stops flowing into the heater and the flame extinguishes. The unit will stay off until the next time a need for hot water occurs, such as turning on a shower, washing machine, dishwasher or faucet.

Combustion produces the energy required to heat cold water, but the process also creates exhaust gases that a non-condensing tankless water heater will vent immediately. The unit loses about 20 percent of the heat generated from combustion as a result, and the material used for venting must be able to withstand the release of extremely hot gases, which can reach temperatures up to 300 F

A condensing tankless water heater, however, employs a secondary heat exchanger to extract the warmth from these gases and preheat the water. This extra step can induce an efficiency rating of more than 90 percent, and the cooler exhaust gases (around 100 F) permit a much less expensive material than the special Category III stainless steel necessary for venting a noncondensing unit.

As the gases cool inside a condensing unit, though, they form condensation that can corrode heat exchangers and other critical parts. These elements must be constructed with materials capable of resisting corrosion, such as a stainless steel alloy. The condensation that has collected within the unit needs to be neutralized through special filtration or dilution before it can be drained outside.

“Tankless water heaters have come a long way since first hitting the market,” says Andrew Tran, marketing manager for Noritz (noritz.com). “Improved heat exchangers have allowed for a more efficient heat transfer. A major improvement in our [tankless] heaters’ design [has] allowed for the industry’s strongest stainless steel to be used in the heat exchanger, which improves the heaters’ longevity.

When they improve

Even though tankless water heaters provide reliable performance and savings, manufacturers continually look for ways to heat the same quantity of water with a smaller amount of energy. For example, an integrated pump can recirculate cooled water languishing in a hot water pipe back to the unit through a dedicated return line, so that users in a house receive hot water quicker.The most recent product offering from Stiebel Eltron, who invented the first electrical tankless water heater in 1929, can be installed on either the inlet or outlet side of any hot water tank, gas or electric. It supplies greater amounts of water than a tank can yield by itself and reduces recovery time, says Erika Knerr, marketing coordinator for Stiebel Eltron (stiebel-eltron-usa.com). “MegaBoost is especially useful for installations where a smaller capacity tank must be used to replace a larger tank,” she adds.

AUTHORS Kyle Clapham




Tom Beauchamp

Growing up in New York, I spent my teen years working with my Dad, after school, nights and weekends helping him in his Construction Company building residential homes. Periodically, he would take on smaller side jobs of remodeling or repairs, where I was his assistant
I am a retired ARMY Sergeant, having served in numerous locations, to include the Republic of Korea. I currently live in Houston, Texas, and have lived in New York, California, Georgia, Washington State, Indiana, and Missouri!
Upon retiring from the ARMY in 1995, I joined ACE Hardware in San Diego, CA as the Service Manager.I left Ace Hardware in 1999 to join The Home Depot (HD). I worked in numerous departments which included Electrical & Lighting; then I was promoted to Department Manager for the Plumbing Department, Kitchen and Bath Department and Appliances. Later, I also managed the Millworks Department (Doors, Windows & Molding). Occasionally assisting in the Paint Department, as needed.
I moved to Houston Texas to start school at the University of Houston in 2004, studying Architecture, then Construction Management, while I continued to work Full-Time at a Home Depot sister company called EXPO Design Center. Eventually, the EXPO division closed and I transferred back to the HD to begin work as a Kitchen and Bath Designer after completing Kitchen and Bath Design training. I continued work with the Home Depot until I decided to start my own business in 2014, Beau Maison Homes LLC.
I have completed training with Fortune Builder’s, the premier real estate education company in the country. I also regularly attend Real Estate Investor Association (REIA) group meetings, to keep current in the industry.
I have learned a great deal throughout my life about construction, remodeling & repairs, building materials, as well as costs related to the above, and am now well prepared for my current venture!

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