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What is a tankless water heater?

Posted on: January 12, 2015

And How Does It Work?

Tankless water heaters are an incredibly popular option for homeowners in the MD and DC area. They’re extremely efficient and require little space compared to traditional water heaters. However, most people have a lot of questions about tankless water heaters. Namely: what are they? It’s exactly what it sounds like really—a water heater that does not require a storage tank to heat water. Also called “on-demand water heaters,” tankless water heaters use gas or electric burners to heat water as it flows past. The result?

  • A nearly unlimited supply of hot water
  • No energy wasted keeping unused water hot
  • Less risk of lime scale buildup on water heater components

Using tankless water heaters also allows you to set your water heater to a slightly lower temperature—since you don’t need to worry about hot and cold water mixing, you don’t need to worry about keeping the water extra hot to compensate!

Do you want to learn more about installing a tankless water heater? Schedule a consultation today by calling 240-399-5051240-399-5051 or filling out the form to the right.

Why choose tankless?

Many people choose tankless water heaters because they solve most of the problems faced by traditional storage tank water heaters, including:

Problem: thermal heat loss

Heat radiates out from a hot water storage tank, which can result in thermal losses of 20 – 40 percent.


Tankless water heaters heat water on demand, completely eliminating radiant heat loss. This could reduce your water heating costs by as much as 50 percent!

Problem: limited supply

With traditional storage tank water heaters, you have a limited supply of water. So, if you need to draw a lot of how water over a very short period of time, you will run out and have to wait for it to refill.


Since your tankless water heater will produce hot water on demand, you’ll never have to worry about this issue. You could run the shower all day and not experience a change in temperature (although we don’t recommend this!).

Problem: high equipment temperatures

Most traditional storage tank water heaters are set to very high temperatures (130 F or hotter) to ensure a reasonable hot water refresh rate. This uses up considerable amounts of energy and increases the risk of scalding.


Tankless water heaters allow you to set the temperature much closer to what you would actually use. This helps save energy (approximately 3 – 5 percent for every 10 degree drop) and significantly reduces the risk of scalding.

Problem: hard water minerals

When water is kept hot for extended periods of time, hard water scale forms and quickly coats the internal components of a traditional water heater. This results in loss of efficiency, frequent leaks, and ultimately a shorter life for the machine.


Tankless heaters are able to handle hard water and sediment much better than storage tank water heaters. This makes them far less likely to leak or rupture and thus makes them able to maintain their efficiency throughout their whole lifecycle.

Problem: bulky size

Due to their large storage tanks, traditional water heaters are bulky and take up a large amount of space.


Tankless water heaters are about the size of a briefcase.

Problem: short life and disposal

Conventional water heaters usually last anywhere from 6 – 12 years before they need to be replaced. Unfortunately, their large size makes disposing of storage tank water heaters difficult and they are costly to recycle.


Tankless water heaters can last for up to 20 years, and are much smaller and easier to dispose of than storage tank water heaters.

Schedule a consultation today!

Want to learn more about installing a tankless water heater in your Montgomery County, MD or NW Washington, DC home? Let the experts at James A. Wheat & Sons help. We’ve been handling the plumbing and HVAC needs of area residents since 1978, so you can rely on us for professional service.

Contact us online or by phone at 240-399-5051240-399-5051 to schedule your tankless water heater consultation!