Instant hot water heater, or on-demand water heater

Instant Hot Water Heater Questions Answered!

Is an instant hot water heater right for you? These models aren’t a brand-new concept, but they’ve certainly grown more popular recently.

An instant water heater — also called a tankless or on-demand water heater — is a replacement for the conventional storage water heater. For many homes, they’re a great option due to their energy efficiency and low operating costs. They also have some disadvantages, however.

Let’s look at the difference between an instant and storage water heater, pros and cons of instant water heaters, and whether or not this type of water heater is appropriate for you and your family.

What is an instant hot water heater?

An instant hot water heater is a heating system that warms water on-demand, rather than storing hot water in an insulated tank. That means instead of measuring the volume of hot water produced by the unit, as we might with a storage water heater, we measure flow rate in gallons per minute. Typical units can heat between 2 and 5 gallons of hot water per minute. Instant water heaters use either electricity or natural gas to rapidly heat water as you use it. That means your water heater sits idle until you need it to work. Storage water heaters, by comparison, heat a large volume of water and store it for instant access as needed.

Gas instant hot water heaters are typically less efficient than electric, but usually provide more gallons of hot water per minute. Electric models are extremely efficient — up to 99% of the electricity gets converted directly to heat. Compare that to older storage heaters that can operate at as little as 67% efficiency, and you start to get an idea of why many families are interested in switching to tankless instant heaters!

Instant water heater pros and cons

Instant water heaters aren’t necessarily better or worse than a conventional storage system. They’re just different! Whether or not they are appropriate for your family depends on what you need and expect from your heater.

First, let’s look at what instant water heaters are good at. Because they don’t need to store dozens of gallons of water, they’re much smaller than a storage heater, and can be mounted on the wall of your kitchen, bathroom, or wherever else it’s needed. Gas models typically last longer than a storage heater, as well — sometimes longer than 20 years with proper maintenance.

Another benefit of an instant heater is the speed with which they can heat your water. In many cases, you’ll have hot water within seconds of turning on the tap. This reduces wasted water and improves home comfort and convenience — no more standing around waiting for the shower to heat up!

Instant hot water heaters are typically cheaper to operate over the span of their existence than storage heaters. They use far less energy than older storage units per gallon of water heated. Since many tankless heaters need to be replaced half as often as a traditional storage water heater, the increased up-front cost of installation will usually be offset over the life of the unit. Instant water heaters are also safer. There is less risk of flooding or water damage since these units don’t have a tank that could spring a leak. They’re also easy to shut off if you leave for vacation and don’t require draining if you plan to be away for a long time.

Finally, more than one instant water heater can be installed in a single home to provide dedicated hot water to each appliance or faucet. You might also add one to a storage heater setup to provide more efficient hot water for a single purpose. While it can get expensive (see the cons below), multiple water heaters can ensure that your whole family has instant access to hot water at all times, while still saving on your energy bill.

Instant water heaters aren’t perfect. The up-front cost of installation can be quite a bit higher than a similar storage system, particularly for natural gas powered units, which require additional ventilation for safety. Since they don’t store water, they may fail to produce enough hot water if multiple appliances or faucets are running at once. As we mentioned earlier, adding additional heaters for each area of your home can rectify this issue while providing all the benefits of a tankless setup. Of course, this increases the initial setup cost by quite a bit.

Should my family consider an instant heater?

Based on the information above, you probably have a good idea of whether or not an instant hot water heater is appropriate for your home. If your water heater is in need of replacement, you should definitely weigh the pros and cons of upgrading. For smaller homes or families that don’t use too much hot water, an instant water heater system makes a lot of sense. For large homes or heavy water users, you’ll need to weigh the added cost of installation versus the potential savings and convenience.

See more water heater questions or learn about our repair and maintenance services.

Tips on how to keep pipes from freezing

Frozen Pipes? How to Keep Pipes From Freezing

Picture this: You’ve just come back from a winter vacation in Cabo. You’ve got a tan, you’re relaxed, and life is good. You step into your home, unpack your clothes, and start drawing a bath — except when you do, the water barely trickles out of the faucet. Great. You try the bathroom sink, and it’s the same issue. What’s going on?

In a scenario like this, the culprit could be a frozen pipe, which can be a big problem for anyone living in an area with cold winters — something Denverites are familiar with!

If you suspect that your pipes are frozen, call us right away! We can help get your water running and prevent further damage to your plumbing system!

Frozen pipes are a relatively common plumbing issue during the winter months, but there are steps homeowners can take to reduce or even eliminate the risk. We’ll give you our top tips on how to keep pipes from freezing below, but first let’s look at the symptoms you might encounter in your home.

Are My Pipes Frozen?

Frozen pipes can cause a variety of issues. Many problems caused by frozen pipes could also be caused by another plumbing issue. A trained plumber can easily diagnose and repair any issue you experience. When in doubt, give us a call!

The first issue you’ll likely notice is inconsistent water flow to your appliances or from taps and faucets. Pipes get clogged by ice and slush. If the clog is too severe or the water pressure is too low to clear the ice, you’ll see little to no water flow. You may also see inconsistent or sputtering flow from faucets if the pipes aren’t fully frozen or the pressure is sufficient enough to clear the blockages.

If your pipes are severely frozen, you’ll be able to tell immediately when you inspect them. They often become covered in frost or ice, as water condenses then freezes on their surface. You can check pipes beneath your sink or from anywhere that pipes may be visible in your home: the utility closet or basement, for instance.

ice and cold pipe of central air conditioning cooling system

Another sign of frozen pipes is inconsistent water temperature. If you try to take a shower and the water doesn’t seem to warm up quickly enough (or at all) you may have a frozen pipe.

Strange noises when flushing toilets or running water, such as bubbling, whistling, gurgling, or clanking, could also indicate a frozen pipe. In some cases, frozen pipes may cause backups in your system, causing odours to waft from open drains.

Finally, damp drywall or puddles forming near pipes in your home can indicate a leaking or burst pipe, which could be caused by freezing.

Pipes nearest to the exterior walls of your home or in attics and basements are most likely to freeze. Check these areas first if you suspect frozen pipes.

What Do I Do?

If your pipes are indeed frozen, the first thing you should do is call a plumber. Unless you’re experienced at working with plumbing systems, you could end up inadvertently making the issue worse by trying to fix it! A plumber can diagnose the extent of damage to your system and safely fix the issue. When it comes to the integrity and safety of your home, don’t take a risk.

If the issue is not severe, there are some ways to safely help thaw your pipes. If the pipe is easy to access, you could use a hair dryer, space heater, or other source of gentle heat to slowly thaw it. Never use a blowtorch or other source of open flame or intense heat to thaw a pipe. Not only is this dangerous, but it may actually cause more damage to your pipes than the freezing has already done.

If you cannot reach a pipe  — for instance, if the pipe were hidden behind your drywall — you can try thawing it through ambient heat. Turn up your thermostat by a few degrees and the pipe may eventually thaw. We don’t recommend doing this unless advised by your plumber. If the pipe in your wall has burst without your knowledge, you could cause water damage and flooding in your home. You may want to shut your water line off temporarily as you attempt to thaw your pipes. This will ensure that any water damage is minimal, and will reduce pressure in the line.

How to Keep Pipes from Freezing

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Let’s take a look at how to prevent frozen pipes.

The most common time that pipes freeze is when you’re away during the winter. When you’re away, your pipes sit unused. The water in your system isn’t flowing, which increases the likelihood that it will ice up. Furthermore, most people turn the thermostat down (or even turn their furnace off) when they leave for an extended trip. This also increases the chances your pipes may freeze by lowering the ambient temperature of your home.

You can greatly reduce the risk of pipes freezing while traveling by shutting off your water supply before you leave. If frozen pipes have been an issue for you in the past, you may also consider installing additional insulation around problem areas. There are many products available specifically for heating or insulating pipes. Our plumbers can help you select the right option for your home.

Homes with outdoor plumbing fixtures such as faucets for garden hoses and underground sprinkler systems should drain their systems or have them blown out by a professional as needed each Fall. Be sure to leave the valve open for outdoor faucets. This will allow any remaining water room to expand within the faucet. Otherwise, remaining water may freeze, damaging the faucet.

Older homes may be particularly susceptible to frozen and burst pipes due to poor insulation or poor plumbing system layout. If frozen pipes seem to be an issue for you each year, you might consider renovating your home to improve insulation or redirect problem pipes away from areas exposed to cold.

Frozen pipes are an issue that many homeowners face each winter. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent the issue altogether. You can avoid costly repairs in the future with a little preventative maintenance.

 


Check out some of our related plumbing tips!

What is a P-Trap, and why is it an important part of your plumbing

Plumbing Tips to Protect Your Home and Wallet!

plumbing tips to protect your home

Plumbing Tips to Protect Your Home and Wallet!

Most homeowners realize the importance of home maintenance to protect their investment. But when we think of routine tasks around the home, the plumbing system might not be top of mind. Here are some plumbing tips to keep your drains and pipes well maintained and working properly.

Plumbing Tips to Protect Your Home

Bathroom Plumbing Tips

  • You can fairly easily check for hidden slow leaks in your toilets. All you have to do is apply a few drops of food coloring into the toilet tank. You will see color appear in the bowl in about half an hour if the toilet is leaking.
  • To prevent sticking, turn the water supply valves underneath your toilets and sinks.
  • Manually check if your toilets are flushing properly. If you find that the handle must be held down in order to flush the entire bowl or you need to jiggle the handle to stop running water, you probably need to replace old, defective parts in the tank. Consider a low flow toilet or HET.
  • Clean any mineral build up apparent in your shower heads. Unscrew the head and soak it in a plastic bag filled with vinegar. You can also apply the bag of vinegar to the shower head directly without unscrewing it, using a rubber band. Let the shower head soak overnight and then gently brush out any built up sediment.
  • Check faucets and drains for leaks. Some repair can be done by yourself, but you may need a professional plumber for others.  In the long run these plumbing tips will save you money as you lower the cost of your water bill.

Tips for Appliances

  • Slowly drain a few gallons from your water heater in order to clear sediment build up. This plumbing tip will help increasing the life of your conventional water heater and increasing energy efficiency.
  • Check the washing machine, dishwasher and ice maker supply hoses for leaks or bulges. Any hose over 10 years old or showing a defect should be replaced. Stainless steel hoses are much more dependable, if you’re in need of a replacement.

Outdoor Plumbing

  • Make sure your gutters and downspouts are open, cleaned out and free of sediment build up.
  • Check for bird nests in unwanted areas in or near pipes and gutters.
  • Check outdoor faucets and pipes for any cracks or leaks.

Miscellaneous

  • If your home has a sump pump you can make sure it is working correctly by pouring some water into the pit of the sump. It should turn on fairly soon and pump out the water, then turnoff without a hitch.
  • If you have ever had a problem with sewer back-up consider having a plumber install a back-flow valve. This will help prevent any subsequent sewage backups.
  • Run some water into drains that aren’t used very often in order to prevent nasty smells.

While many of these plumbing tips can be done by yourself, some homeowners might need or prefer to have the expertise of a plumber for routine maintenance tasks.

Ensure efficiency, safety and save the cost of plumbing malfunctions with your own checklist or an annual appointment with a pro.