We spent over 14 days researching and testing 10 different brands of tankless water heaters and found that ease of installation, performance, and efficiency were most important. The Ecosmart Tankless Water Heater scored high marks in all categories and is our top pick. The features this tankless water heater has helps home owners save money while heating their water efficiently. This space saving water heater saves as much as 12 cubic feet of space by changing from a regular water heater to the tankless variety. It is a great way to reduce water heating costs by as much as 50%.
Introduction to the Tankless Water Heater
Souring power bills and an increase in awareness for the need to conserve energy has spurred growth in the tankless water heater industry. These units are small and can be placed on a wall rather than taking up a large amount of space in the form of a traditional water heater. Instead of heating and maintaining 40 to 60 gallons of water at 140 degrees at all times, the tankless water heater has a heater that warms the water as it passes through the system. This allows you to save space, to save money on your electric bill, and to use an environmentally friendly option for your hot water needs.
Perhaps the most significant advantage to a tankless water heater is is the ability to heat water for multiple uses at a higher capacity for as long as needed, where a traditional water heater only allows you to use a finite amount of hot water at a time. No more cold showers because the dishwasher or laundry is running. These hot water heaters are able to maintain both a consistent flow and a consistent temperature for all of your hot water needs. With a tankless water heater you can have all the hot water you need when you need it, without ever running out of hot water. They do not require nearly the amount of space as a traditional water heater and you only pay for heating the water you use saving you money with an additional environmental benefit.
Top Rated Tankless Water Heaters Summary
All three units have a compact design and are built to run efficiently. Each unit will provide significant savings in the use of power or gas making it both economical and uses minimal space. The Eco Smart and Stiebel systems both work on electrical 240 voltage where the Takagi system works with natural gas lines. All have good warranties, although both the Takagi and Stiebel units must be installed by license contractors in order to validate the warranty. A handy homeowner would want to choose the Ecosmart system if you wanted to complete your own work.
The Ecosmart unit has the longest warranty which is a lifetime warranty as opposed to the 10 year for the Takagi and a three year for the Stiebel. All units are made from top quality materials and have excellent temperature controls designed to reduce hot or cold spots. The Stiebel unit offers the highest flow rate at 8 GPMs and the only one that does not require venting. The Ecosmart can accommodate up to 6 gallons and the Takagi can accommodate 6.6 GPM. All units can accommodate the average size home with typical water usage.
Regardless of which unit you select you will be able to save significantly on both your water and electric bills, save space with these wall units and have continual hot water for as long as needed.
Tankless Water Heater Buying Guide
What is a Tankless Water Heater?
When looking for a tankless hot water heater there are a number of factors which will determine which is the best tankless hot water heater for your needs.
How much water do you use simultaneously? Family size and the number of appliances you run or showers you take at the same time will determine what load you require. Smaller families who only use one shower at a time and do not run the washing machine and dishwasher at the same time will not need as large of a unit as one who have multiple people getting ready for work and school at the same time. Consider your maximum capacity when deciding what size unit, you need for your home. Jacuzzis, hot tubs and other appliances may have heavier load requirements. It may be economical to get a dedicated unit for higher need applications.
What temperature do you need? Tankless water heaters are based on the increase in temperature that is required over your demand or flow rate. Knowing the temperature of your ground water can help you determine this. For example, if you need to raise the temperature by 70 degrees with a flow of 6 gallons per minute (GPM) then you need a water heater that can accommodate that demand.
How much do you want to invest? Systems range from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars. The upfront costs will eventually pay for itself in water and energy savings, however the initial costs are a factor. Only buying what you need based on home usage will keep costs in check. It is not necessary to buy the largest possible unit because most homes do not use massive amounts of water at once, like a business might require. Most home units are between $500 and $700 dollars. Smaller units that will handle one or two appliances or a single shower can be as low as $200.
Include the cost of installation in your budget. Many warranties do not cover personal installation due to the risk of overburdening the electrical system. The cost of both a plumber and electrician may be required in order to gain the savings from a tankless water heater.
Do you want the unit to be inside or outside? Indoor units generally require venting to the outside of the house much like a dryer. This may increase the cost of installation or require the unit to be placed in a less convenient location.
Features to Consider
Gas or Electric? Tankless water heaters are available in gas, electric or solar. Solar units are less common than gas and electric units. Solar requires the installation of solar panels and a way to store the energy that will be used to heat the hot water. These units have the highest initial cost but eliminate the electric portion of heating the water because it will then be heated with the sun. Many consumers make the choice of gas or electric depending on what the home currently carries. If you do not have a gas hot water heater, dryer or stove, installing gas lines can be cost prohibitive. All homes are able to accommodate an electric tankless water heater. The benefit of gas is that they are generally able to handle a higher flow rate.
Amp Requirements is another important factor as it may be necessary to increase the amperage in your electric box and install larger copper wires. This will add to the installation costs but may be necessary. Increasing the breaker amperage without increasing the line capacity could result in a house fire. Because of this, often warranties for tankless water heaters are only covered unless the unit is professionally installed. Both plumbing and electrical work may be required in addition to the cost of the water heater.
Water Flow Requirements. Units range in size from whole house units to heaters that will run one appliance at a time. To figure out what your flow requirements will be calculate the flow rate for each appliance and then get a unit that can handle a flow that may include all or multiple appliances being used simultaneously. This information can be found online.
Do You Want an Automatic Flow Modulator? This feature will maintain a constant temperature even when more than one shower or appliance is being run at the same time.
What Are the Temperature Control Options? Controls that allow changes within smaller increments will help you save even more money because you will be able to adjust it based on your personal preferences.
Tankless water heaters can save energy and money, although they do have a higher upfront cost than a traditional water heater. One of the biggest advantages to a tankless water heater is the constant flow of hot water regardless of the demand. You will never run out of water because the water heats as it is pumped through the system. Rather than heating 50 or 60 gallons and keeping that at a high temperature all of the time, the tankless water heater only heats exactly what you need when you need it, making it an excellent choice when you are ready to replace your existing system.