Home & Garden

Ask a plumber: Heating water can be a ‘tankless’ job

On demand: Most tankless water heaters come on only when they’re in use.
On demand: Most tankless water heaters come on only when they’re in use. MCT

Q: We want to build a small vacation home. I’m thinking of installing a tankless style water heater to supply hot water for the shower and faucets. Our plumber says the choice is up to us, but there may be additional costs involved over a standard water heater. While we are still in the planning stage can you please give us some basic information on tankless water heaters?

John, Maine

A: I have worked with wall hung natural and propane gas-fired tankless water heaters. So, this is the type of tankless unit that I'll address.

First off, I always say it’s important you work with a licensed master plumber/pipefitter when installing any type of heating equipment. With a tankless water heater your plumber can also locate, size up and properly install the unit for maximum efficiency. So, while the upfront costs can be higher, your operating costs can be lower.

Most tankless water heaters provide hot water “on demand” so if hot water is not being used, the unit is basically off. This is a great feature, especially for a vacation home. Finally, since the water is heated on demand, tankless water heaters can supply continuous hot water for one shower after another.

Bottom line: There may be some pros and cons to consider, but tankless water heaters are now a hot commodity for many homeowners.

Master contractor and plumber Ed Del Grande is the author of the book “Ed Del Grande’s House Call” and the host of TV and Internet shows. Visit eddelgrande.com or write eadelg@cs.com.