Tankless water heaters, installation

QUESTION: It’s time we replaced our old water heater, and recently I’ve been hearing about “tankless water heaters.” Are these better than the traditional water heaters? And if so, could a homeowner install one himself or is the job better left to a professional? Thank you for any information you can give me.
Margie Ballenger
ANSWER: “Tankless water heaters have been popular in Europe and Asia for years and sales of tankless water heaters there far exceed tank-type units,” says Vince McDonald of McDonald Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning in Sacramento.
“Sales of tankless water heaters in the Western states are growing like never before because these units provide the following three distinct advantages:
Unlimited hot water supply
Tankless water heaters supply continuous hot water that is activated by water flow. As long as the water is running, the unit will continue to provide a stream of hot water up to its designed flow rate. Providing hot water for those long showers or large bathtubs is no longer a problem.
Energy savings
Traditional tank water heaters require energy to store gallons of water and keep it hot. Tankless water heaters consume little or no energy when they are not in use.
Space-savings size
Small in size (about the size of a piece of carry-on luggage) tankless units mount on the wall, thereby conserving valuable floor space.”
“Outdoor models save even more space and provide more options for new home builders and existing home remodels by getting the water heater out of the house,” McDonald says. “These units are ideal for special situations, such as vacation homes, cabin homes, pool houses and families or singles who travel frequently.”
“Changing an existing gas water heater inside the home with a tankless water heater definitely requires the services of a professional plumber because the gas line and vent through the roof will more than likely have to be upgraded. Tankless water heaters are available in both gas or electric models, though the gas ones are much more efficient and economical,” McDonald says. “I suggest that any consumer that is interested in this type of technology consult with the manufacturer or an educated contractor who can design and system that will meet their needs. The contractor can also inform the consumer of both the product benefits and limitations.”

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