Ask Vince – Electric tankless water heaters

Tankless water heater, electric water heaters

QUESTION: My husband and I bought a 20-plus-year-old condominium that is all electric. We inherited a standard electric 50-gallon hot water tank that is over 10 years old and seems to be failing. We have done some research on replacement hot water tanks and systems, with an eye toward longevity, as well as the primary goal of generous amounts of ready hot water at a reasonable cost. We are seriously thinking about putting in a tankless hot water system. We are told by the manufacturer that it will afford us instant and endless hot water at an economical price, we will gain an extra closet where the old tank was, and that this is the equipment of the future.

We are told by the naysayers that it will not heat quickly or hot enough, that we will incur a great fire danger due to the current needed to run through old electrical wires, that no one knows how to install them properly or how long they’ll last, and that they may be good for gas-powered installations but not for electric-powered installations. We talked to people at SMUD, and they were noncommittal, saying they didn’t know much about them. Can you tell me what is known about tankless hot water systems?
Mrs. Lewis Rosenberg via email

ANSWER: “Yes, tankless water heaters are becoming more common,” says Vince McDonald of McDonald Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning in Sacramento. “ I am not sure to what extent that builders are going to tankless water heaters, but certainly it is a growing trend.”


“Retrofitting from a standard tank type of heater to a tankless unit does require additional work and expense. The gas models have the capacity to deliver quite a bit more GPM (gallons per minute) than the electric models. I know of no electrical hazards when it comes to a tankless electric water heater that is properly installed to current building codes,” says McDonald. “However, in the Sacramento area, electric tankless water heaters are rare and only lately have we gotten any interest in them. As a result, I have no track record with them.”

Powering Electric Tankless Water Heaters

McDonald says, “After researching tankless heaters on the Internet I discovered that they require a great amount of power. Many units require more power than most people’s present electric panel is capable of providing.”

Evaluating Electrical Capacity

“After you have selected a model you think will supply your needed GPM delivery of hot water, call a licensed electrician to size up your electric panel to make sure you have the electrical capacity for the larger demand that a tankless electric water heater requires.”

Here are some additional resources for electrical tankless water heaters for Sacramento area homes and businesses.

Consumer Reports Article on Tankless Water Heaters

The following is an excerpt from an article in Consumer reports about tankless water heaters and whether they may be right for your Sacramento home:

“Heating water accounts for up to 30 percent of the average home’s energy budget. Some makers of gas-fired tankless water heaters claim their products can cut your energy costs up to half over regular storage heaters. So is it time to switch?

Probably not. Gas tankless water heaters, which use high-powered burners to quickly heat water as it runs through a heat exchanger, were 22 percent more energy efficient on average than the gas-fired storage-tank models in our tests. That translates into a savings of around $70 to $80 per year, based on 2008 national energy costs. But because they cost much more than storage water heaters, it can take up to 22 years to break even—longer than the 20-year life of many models. Moreover, our online poll of 1,200 readers revealed wide variations in installation costs, energy savings, and satisfaction.” You can read the full article on tankless water heaters at

Tankless Water Heater Video: here is a link to the Consumer Reports video discussing the pros and cons of installing tankless water heaters .

Tankless Water Heater Diagram: If you are considering a tankless water heater for your Sacramento home for the first time, you may not know how they work. This diagram of an average tankless water heater might help.


Advantages and Disadvantages of Tankless Water Heaters from the Department of Energy

When trying to decide whether to install a tankless water heater in your Sacramento home, there is a lot of information out there to read through. The Department of Energy released information on tankless water heaters.

Here is what they had to say: “For homes that use 41 gallons or less of hot water daily, demand water heaters can be 24%–34% more energy efficient than conventional storage tank water heaters. They can be 8%–14% more energy efficient for homes that use a lot of hot water — around 86 gallons per day. You can achieve even greater energy savings of 27%–50% if you install a demand water heater at each hot water outlet. ENERGY STAR® estimates that a typical family can save $100 or more per year with an ENERGY STAR qualified tankless water heater.

The initial cost of a tankless water heater is greater than that of a conventional storage water heater, but tankless water heaters will typically last longer and have lower operating and energy costs, which could offset its higher purchase price. Most tankless water heaters have a life expectancy of more than 20 years. They also have easily replaceable parts that extend their life by many more years. In contrast, storage water heaters last 10–15 years.” You can read the entire article here:

Contact McDonald Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning in Sacramento for Tankless Water Heater Installation.

Since 1957 McDonald Plumbing, Heating Air Conditioning has been replacing water heaters with tankless water heaters for Sacramento residents and businesses. We also serve Sacramento and the surrounding communities with a full line of plumbing, heating and air conditioning repairs such as tankless and regular water heater installation and repair, air conditioning installation and repair, home energy audits, home comfort systems, sewer and drain cleaning, sewer and water line repair and repair of slab leaks.

Sacramento, CA

Sacramento is the capital city of the U.S. state of California and the seat of government of Sacramento County. It is at the confluence of the Sacramento River and the American River in the northern portion of California’s expansive Central Valley. With an estimated 2011 population of 477,891, it is the sixth-largest city in California and the 35th largest city in the United States. Sacramento is the core cultural and economic center of the Sacramento metropolitan area which includes seven counties with an estimated 2009 population of 2,527,123. Its metropolitan area is the fourth largest in California after the Greater Los Angeles Area, San Francisco Bay Area, and the San Diego metropolitan area, as well as the 27th largest in the United States. In 2002, the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University conducted for TIME magazine named Sacramento “America’s Most Diverse City.


Schedule A Technician