How Tankless Water Heaters Work
When deciding what kind of tankless water heater to go with you should take into account a couple of things:
- The flow rate, or amount of water you’ll need heated at one time
- Temperature rise, or the difference between your groundwater temperature and the desired output temperature
The Federal Energy Policy Act of 1992 set flow limits at 2.2 gallons per minute (GPM) at 60 pounds per square inch (PSI) for household water fixtures [source: U.S. Dept. of Energy]. Some people also use aerators to further limit the flow of water. Tankless manufacturers size their units based on the temperature rise needed for a given flow rate.
To calculate your flow rate, add up the GPM for the household water fixtures you’ll need at one time:
- Bathroom faucet – low-flow faucets use 0.5-1.5 GPM. Standard post-1992 fixtures are set at 2.5 GPM.
- Bathtub Faucet – 4.0-7.0 GPM
- Kitchen faucet – 1.0 – 2.0 GPM – Pre-1992 fixtures use between 3.0-7.0 GPM.
- Shower – low flow rate is between 1.0-2.0 GPM. Pre-1992 heads fall between 4.0-8.0 GPM.
The mean temperature in your part of the country will help determine your tankless water heating needs.Now figure out your temperature rise by calculating the difference between the temperature of your groundwater and what you’d like the end result to be. For instance, if you have a groundwater temperature of 70 degrees and you like your showers to be a pleasant 110 degrees, that’s a rise of 40 degrees.
Your ground water temperature is roughly the same as your average yearly air temperature.
Once you have your temperature rise and know your flow rates, then you know what size and what kind of water heater will work best for your needs. It’s important to remember in this calculation that you’ll be measuring the amount of hot water you’ll need at one time. Tankless systems never run out of hot water, but if you want to turn on every fixture in your house at the same time, the hot water will be split among them. So estimate the number of fixtures you think you’d need at one time — chances are it won’t be every fixture.
Let’s say you live in an older home that has been partially remodeled. You estimate that you’ll need to heat water for your kitchen faucet, one bathroom faucet and two shower heads at one time. One of the shower heads is newer and meets the 1992 standard, while the other is older and has a flow rate of roughly 5.0. The rest of your fixtures also meet the 2.2 standard. Add 2.2 + 2.2 + 2.2 and 5.0 for a total flow rate of 11.6. You live in Miami, so your groundwater temperature is roughly 72 degrees and lets say you like your showers at about 100 degrees. This means you should look for a tankless system that can heat 11.6 GPM at a rise of 28 degrees.
- Most tankless units come with a federal tax rebate of $300.(Energy Star Federal Tax Credit Information)
- You never run out of hot water.
- Increased lifespan, lasting on average 5 to 10 years longer compared to tank water heaters.
- More energy efficient with no standby heat loss.
- They take up less space and can even be installed on walls or outdoors with an anti-freeze kit.
- Smaller units can be installed under cabinets or in a closet, closer to the point of use.
- Only need enough power to heat the amount of water necessary at any given moment.
- You can save as much as 20 percent from your water heating bill.
- Electric models don’t produce greenhouse gases.
- Most units can be operated by remote control and have up to four separate settings available.
- There’s no possibility of flooding and property damage due to a ruptured tank.
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