Home / DIY Product Review

Is a tankless water heater for you? Here’s what to know before buying

tankless water heater review

I’m in hot water and I love it thanks to my Tankless water heater!

Note: This is NOT a sponsored post. When our old water heater crapped out on us, we had to replace it. Glen and I had decided that when it was time to replace our water heater, we’d go with a tankless water heater instead of a tank. Besides cost (I’ll get into that in a bit), a tankless water heater gives you constant hot water, whereas a regular water heater only has a limited supply, which is why you run out in the middle of your shower if you are like me and take scorching hot twenty minute showers.

tank water heater

My hubs rigged up this temporary fix when our water heater started leaking

What is a tankless water heater?

An easy explanation is that a tankless water has a pipe that heats water as you use it. A regular water heater has a supply of heated water and once that is exhausted, you’re in for a lukewarm shower at best. But with a tankless water heater, you have an endless supply. It’s called tankless since it is much smaller than a regular water heater (easily mounting to the wall) vs. a regular “tank” water heater that requires much more space.

Do’s and Dont’s when purchasing a tankless water heater

Do buy a reputable brand

While I love to save money, there are just some things you don’t want to scrimp on. Two for one Lasik? No thanks. Imitation Sriracha sauce? Um..no. My water heater? We had decided to go with a name we recognized like Rheem or Rinnai, however, when we called plumbers for quotes, all of them told us to go with a lesser known brand called Navien, made by a Korean manufacturer. We were skeptical as we’d not heard of them before, and my Korean Kia car has been a headache, but the reviews seemed favorable and the price seemed just under the costs of Rheem and Rinnai (we paid $3300 including installation) so we decided to go with them.

I’m glad we chose the Navien tankless water heater as one friend told me she didn’t care for the short bursts of cold water with her Rheem. Our Navien came with a buffer tank that ensures a steady stream of hot water. We stayed at a small home that had a Rinnai and I found it to be more noisy than our Navien water heater. Tankless do put out noise every time your turn on hot water, but it isn’t too loud and they are usually in a garage or basement and wouldn’t bother most people. However, the house we stayed in had the Rinnai in the laundry room and I found the sound to be pretty bothersome, so glad we opted not to purchase a Rinnai tankless water heater.

Note that there are countless other brands you can find on Amazon, but I wouldn’t go with them. For one thing, it’s costly if you have to have it repaired and for another, if your water heater breaks you could have water leaking everywhere which will ruin your home.

Do be aware of the entire cost of a tankless water + installation

Most of the prices you’ll see for tankless water heaters are between $1000 – 1250. Tank water heaters run between $400 and $800. What you may not know is that you will have to hire a plumber to install your water heater and the installation cost is about the same as the the tankless water heater itself. So you are really looking at a total cost of around at least $3k. Ours was $3300 installed.

Do know your flow

Your flow rate, that is. Tankless water heaters require a certain flow rate to activate the water heater. Some units will only operate when there is 1/2 gallon per minute of water flow. While not an issue for newer homes, some older homes don’t have the capacity of delivering 1/2 gallon per minute of flow.

tankless water heater adviceDo not try to install a tankless water heater yourself

Glen had this great idea (after watching several YouTube videos) that we’d save on the cost by installing the tankless water heater himself. I squashed that idea immediately. Though he’s very skilled at DIY work (he redid our bathroom with lots of tile and electric work involved, installed hardwood floors throughout the house and even in the ceilings of one of our rooms, not to mention he knows tons about cars and car repair), this installation is very complex and not to mention, if you install your tankless water heater yourself, you void the warranty!

Don’t adjust the maximum temperature unless you want to void your tankless water heater warranty

Though the maximum temperature on tankless water heaters is plenty hot enough some people do have their plumber adjust it higher. I like to take scorching hot showers and have found our max temperature on our Navien tankless water heater of 130 degrees to be sufficient. Though when I asked around some friends that installed theirs had the temperature bumped up a bit.

Don’t believe that you’ll be saving a ton of money

Because you only heat the water you need vs. a tank heater, tankless water heaters advertise that you’ll save money, but when you do that math, it usually works out to be about $50 to $100 per year. I don’t really find that significant, when you are talking about a $3k or $4k price tag, even when you consider the 12 – 15 year life span of a tankless water heater. We only considered the fact that we’d be having continuous hot water.

How do we like our Navien Tankless Water Heater?

When we first had it installed I was a little nervous. The plumber we used (recommended by Navien) tried to install a used one! It had clearly been opened and dirty from being out of the box. Frustrated, my husband called the owner of the company, and he made sure we had a brand new one installed. Still, that should have never happened.

But now, months in, I love it! I can take long, long, hot showers and NEVER run out of hot water, even when the dishwasher or washing machine is running. We did read that sometimes if more than one shower is in use, one person will experience cold water, but that has never happened since installing our tankless hot water heater, thank goodness!

tankless water heater installation

About the author

Malika Bowling

Malika is the author of several books including Culinary Atlanta: Guide to the Best Restaurants, Markets, Breweries and More! and the founder of Roamilicious. She is also a Digital Marketing and Social Media Consultant. Follow us @Roamilicious on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for the content not shared on the blog. And don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter (subscribe box below) and never miss a contest, giveaway or the latest must visit restaurant!