TIPS FOR TANKLESS WATER HEATERS: Improve hot water delivery and efficiency with these smart system additions

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Nothing’s worse on a chilly morning than an unexpectedly cold shower, and there’s no greener, smarter way to prevent such a rude awakening than a tankless hot water heater. A great solution for delivering cost-effective hot water to your home, a tankless hot water heater is energy efficient because it only heats water as it’s needed, and is also controllable because the water temperature can be changed instantly.
Here’s how it all works.

Nothing’s worse on a chilly morning than an unexpectedly cold shower, and there’s no greener, smarter way to prevent such a rude awakening than a tankless hot water heater. A great solution for delivering cost-effective hot water to your home, a tankless hot water heater is energy efficient because it only heats water as it’s needed, and is also controllable because the water temperature can be changed instantly.

Here’s how it all works. With a traditional water heater, the 40-gallon capacity is being heated all day long (as your energy dollars are being burned away), and when the contents are used up on showers and household appliances, you have to wait for the next round to be heated. In a tankless hot water heater, however, water is heated on demand.

The very compact tankless units attach to the plumbing system via either an interior or exterior wall mounting, and heat water as it runs through the unit’s heat exchanger. As a result, when you open a hot water tap, the appliance begins to heat water within a few seconds and continues to deliver at a constant temperature for as long as is needed. Once you shut off the hot water tap, the tankless water heater shuts off, too, eliminating standby loss and conserving a substantial amount of energy in comparison to a tank-type heater.

The convenience of adjusting water heat settings is another advantage of tankless hot water heaters, especially for households with small children and elderly family members where scalding accidents are a worry. Contemporary units have easy-to-use digital controls and even remote control options for dialing warmth up or down as needed, from anywhere in the home.

As good as tankless water heaters are, though, they can’t overcome the problem of the physical distance between the water heater and the bathroom. When you turn on your hot water, all the water in the pipe between the faucet and the water heater has to drain out. As a result, the water runs cold until it’s replaced by the hot water being fed by the water heater.

There is, however, one other advantage of a tankless water heater that can help in this situation. Tankless units are small─very small─compared to traditional water heaters. As a result, they can be installed practically anywhere, and it’s easy to use multiple tankless units to divide your domestic hot water supply into two zones. One can be fed from the basement or first floor, where it’s a short distance to the kitchen and powder room, and another can be fed from the attic or a second-floor closet, where it’s just steps away from the bathrooms. As a result, you can have both a cost-effective and convenient source of hot water.

Tankless hot water heaters are at their most efficient when powered by propane or natural gas, and typically need gas lines larger than their inefficient tanked counterparts. So if you’re considering working one or two into your home’s plumbing system, start by consulting with a service professional or the appliance manufacturer

Want another good reason for going tankless? Tax credit. Along with saving money on your monthly energy bill, you can also receive a $300 tax credit from the Department of Energy toward the purchase price of a qualifying tankless unit─a heartwarming and wallet-warming bonus to the comfort and convenience you’ll receive from this smart heating alternative.

Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the show's podcast or sign-up for Tom's free weekly e-newsletter, visit the program's Web site.

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