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New Energy Efficiency Regulations Require Larger Water Heaters

Two inches of space doesn’t sound like much, but if you ask any North Texas homeowner who’s recently had to install a new water heater, you may think otherwise.  

In 2015 the Department of Energy released new water heater efficiency standards that were good news/bad news for homeowners: The updates had the potential to cut utility bills by up to 50 percent, but, at the same time, the increased insulation requirements have made home water heater tanks up to two inches bigger in diameter. Since water heaters are often installed in spaces not much bigger than they are, finding a new unit that will fit in an existing space has provided a major challenge for many homeowners over the past few years. And if you haven’t had to replace your home’s water heater recently, it’s a good idea to start thinking now about how you’re going to solve this future dilemma when the day comes. 

One potential solution would be to enlarge your water heater’s closet. However, even in houses where the closet’s location makes this possible – such as the garage – it’s not an easy or cost-effective fix for most people.  

Enlarging a closet likely means tearing out and rebuilding entire walls, replacing and/or rehanging doors, etc., all of which can easily cost two to four times more than the new water heater itself and result in an investment of well into the four figures. 

Another solution would be to shrink your 50-gallon tank by installing a 40-gallon (plus, add a mixing valve) to make it fit into the narrow space, however, do you really want to take a chance of running out of hot water since the 40-gallon tank will have 20% less capacity than what you’ve been accustomed to? 

What if you could have a solution that was not only cost effective and provided endless streams of hot water AND gives your house BACK some space? That’s where a tankless water heater becomes a smart buying decision.

You’ve probably heard of tankless or on-demand water heaters by now, and yes, they sound too good to be true: 

  • They deliver an endless stream of hot water to any tap, whenever you need it. 
  • They offer savings on your utility bills. 
  • They require an almost ridiculously small amount of space. 

 Let’s take a closer look at these claims… 

Hot Water, Now and Forever

Tankless systems take the incoming cold water and funnel it through a coiled pipe above a gas- or electric-powered burner (yes, today’s tankless systems work with either gas or electricity!). A flow sensor inside the unit triggers the burner when water begins to flow through; the burner then heats the water in the coil and shoots it down your pipes to wherever it’s needed in a continuous flow that is not only efficient, but truly luxurious. It’s a definite improvement on having only a finite amount of hot water just sitting around in a tank.  


Speaking of which, recall that the traditional hot water heater is a tool of preparedness: It keeps a huge tank of water heated to a certain temperature, every minute of every day, whether or not anyone is even home to need hot water. Looking at it from that angle, the energy waste is startling. Plus, you’re paying for that waste in your utility bills.  

A tankless heater, on the other hand, only runs the moment you need hot water.  

This provides energy savings that show up in lowered utility bills: Energy Star estimates a tankless heater can save you a minimum of $100 a year. Your mileage will vary according to your family’s water usage. 

If you have a large family that even occasionally empties your water heater tank, your savings will be greater than for a smaller household that uses less hot water.  

In addition, because it’s not running all the time, a tankless water heater lasts an average of 16 years longer (with proper maintenance) than a traditional tanked heater. A tankless system also has the benefit of easily replaceable parts, so these maintenance costs can be significantly less over time.  

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Give It Some Space 

Tankless units are a fraction of the size of a traditional tanked system and can even be mounted on a wall. 

This means your home no longer requires a closet to hide the hot water heater, opening up an additional 10 to 15 square feet of domestic real estate for hanging clothes. And what household doesn’t need that?  

There’s one more bonus to going tankless worth mentioning that you may not be familiar with: Zillow reports that installing a tankless water heater in your home can increase its resale value by four percent

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Is a Tankless Water Heater Right for You? 

The first thing to consider is whether you have a gas or electric home.  

While tankless heaters are available for both, they have important differences including output rates, so you want to evaluate your options. The Department of Energy has published good information about the pros, cons and installation needs of tankless units.  

Second, we strongly encourage you to hire a reliable installation expert with experience in tankless systems. While some DIYers may attempt the installation themselves, we strongly advise against it as they must deal with potentially dangerous risks like electric requirements, proper venting, hot water needs, and accurate gas line sizing – not to mention local building codes. It just makes more sense to hire a professional to make sure it’s done right. Beyond the safety concerns, a poor installation will cause poor performance and could even significantly shorten the life of your unit (and your investment).  

Like any other home utility, a tankless water heater requires some maintenance over time, so familiarize yourself with how to get the most life out of a tankless water heater

Is it time for a tankless water heater in your home? If you live in the Dallas / Fort Worth metroplex and would like to get a free quote on a tankless system, please contact us at Horizon Plumbing.  


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