Finding a Tankless Water Heater That Works for You
After a long day of fun in the sun or a chilly afternoon of romping through the snow, few experiences can beat the embrace of a hot shower or bath. If you only have a few minutes to bask in the toasty waters, you probably haven’t taken the time to appreciate the hard work your at-home water heater routinely accomplishes. But what if you could draw even more efficiency and quality out of your home’s water heating system?
The secret to even more hot water heated at rapid speeds is simple. To get this and more, you need to add a tankless natural gas water heater like the Rinnai RUC98iN to your home. By taking advantage of the space-saving construction associated with the best tankless water heaters, these modern appliances are able to operate efficiently using an in-line natural gas source. The end result is a reliable hot water source supplied to your faucets and taps in mere seconds.
If you’ve decided to purchase a tankless natural gas water heater for your home or are just interested in learning about what these high-performing appliances have to offer, then you’ve come to the right place. This article features reviews of the top 12 best tankless natural gas water heaters available this year, as well as a Buyer’s Guide detailing the specifications you should seek out in a top-of-the-line water heater. You should also decide whether you need a whole-house model or a point-of-use model.
Do You Need a Tankless Natural Gas Water Heater?
Generally speaking, most folks treat their water heater as the would their general electric and water supply. That is, if they are operating as expected, then there are few reasons to complain or consider an alternative. But when it comes to heating water for your home’s cooking, cleaning, and bathing needs, there’s a great deal of potential lost in homes that don’t make use of a tankless natural gas water heater.
That being said, a tankless natural gas water heater is not an absolute must-have for homeowners who are looking to extract every ounce of efficiency from their home. But still, tankless natural gas water heaters are a thoroughly modern water preparation solution that can allow certain homeowners to both improve their quality of living while simultaneously lowering their long-term energy bills.
Indeed, this latter factor is perhaps the most persuasive for the majority of homeowners. Nearly every tankless natural gas water heater holds the potential to lower its owner’s electricity and water bill within the first month of use. Because of their tankless architecture, these appliances do not store water in a large auxiliary drum. This lack of a storage container means that these water heaters only consume as much water as its owners directly use, making it easier to budget your home’s water usage.
By the same virtue, tankless natural gas water heaters are also cheaper when it comes to heating water as it passes through its purpose-built system. Using a series of internal heating coils, tankless natural gas water heaters convert energy provided by a natural gas source into a rapid heating procedure. Due to this efficient heating method and the overall low cost of natural gas, these specialized water heaters are the clear choice for homeowners on a budget.
That being said, the best way to take full advantage of the savings a tankless natural gas water heater can provide is by using one from day one. Because retrofitting costs associated with the installation of one of these appliances can be pricy, their use is best suited to folks with large upgrade budgets or folks building a new home from scratch. In either case, these slightly pricy water heaters pay for themselves in mere months thanks to their utility cost reductions.
Out of all homeowners, those living in small or otherwise compact living spaces will most benefit from the streamlined architecture of most tankless natural gas water heaters. Their lack of a water storage container makes these appliances comparatively streamlined. This, in turn, provides homeowners with more versatility in the installation location, with everything from interior closets to exterior walls in reasonable consideration.
Though some consider it to be a drawback, the low water heating capacity of most tankless natural gas water heaters actually serves the needs of homeowners with low simultaneous hot water demands with precision. With a 3.5 gallon average capacity, these smaller-than-average water heaters can easily provide enough water to wash dishes or run a warm bath. Also, the low capacity from these water heaters can easily be circumvented by installing multiple units at high demand locations, such as in a bathroom or in the kitchen.
Finally, a tankless natural gas water heater is the clear choice for homeowners with an existing natural gas line within their home. In certain parts of the country, natural gas is abundant and affordable, allowing previously expensive procedures such as heating water to become relatively cheap. These appliances are able to efficiently convert natural gas into energy for heating, making them a no-brainer compared to traditional electric water heaters.
Whether you’re building a new home or looking to upgrade, choosing the right water heater system can be challenging. In order to find the best option to meet your needs and budget, you’ll need industry-specific knowledge of key specifications and features. You’ll find exactly that in this Buyer’s Guide, allowing you to parse through both online and in-store product listings with ease going forward.
Before you read our reviews of this year’s top 12 tankless natural gas water heaters below, be sure to read through this Buyer’s Guide so that you can understand all of the market terminologies that describes what makes those options the very best on the market today.
When it comes to purchasing a new water heater, size really does matter. Traditional water heaters are bulky due to their inclusion of a massive water storage drum. Tankless water heaters, on the other hand, forgo this auxiliary tank, allowing them to take on a much more compact form factor. As a result, many tankless water heaters can be placed in closets and on exterior walls without hogging up valuable space.
When choosing a water heater based upon its dimensions, always be sure to measure your intended installation location before completing your purchase. In particular, make sure that there will be plenty of clearance around the prospective water heater so that fuel lines can be inserted easily and maintained without major special modification.
Flow Rate and Water Pressure (PSI)
Flow rate (sometimes referred to as water capacity) describes how much water a given water heater is able to warm and output in a given period of time. Because tankless water heaters lack a reserve chamber, they are usually only able to provide a flow rate of around 3.5 gallons per minute (GPM). A higher flow rate or supplementary tankless water heaters will be necessary for homes with high simultaneous hot water needs.
If you’ve ever used a shower or sink with “weak” flow, then you’ve directly experienced the effects of low water pressure. Though most modern water heaters output water at around 60 pounds per square inch (PSI), some are able to output are higher rates to meet unique architectural needs. In any case, having an optimal water pressure rate is essential to the full enjoyment of fixtures attached to your new water heater.
Heating Capacity (BTU) and Maximum Temperature
Being able to efficiently heat water to the desired temperature is an essential function for a water heater, one that prospective buyers should focus on while comparing product listings. Heating capacity is generally measured in British thermal units or BTU in order to demonstrate how much energy that particular model uses to heat a gallon of water. A higher BTU rating leads to more rapid heating and temperature rise.
Some water heaters also include a maximum temperature in their listing to communicate its overall heating capacity. Prospective buyers should use this metric to evaluate whether or not a given model is appropriate for use with cleaning, washing machines, dryers, bathing, etc.
Water heaters can be powered by a variety of fuel sources today, including electricity, propane, and natural gas. Each fuel source provides different levels of efficiency and cost, depending on the localized cost and infrastructure used in your area. You should certainly choose a water heater that is powered by the most efficient and cost-effective fuel source in your area.
Though few ever consider it when making a purchase, your at-home water heater is bound to break down eventually. That’s when a quality warranty comes into play, providing you with financial incentives to seek out repairs and continue using that particular water heater. When comparing listings, be sure to prioritize models that include a warranty that is comparable to its overall expected lifespan.
Many water heater manufacturers like to brag about what types of certifications their latest models have received. These certifications run the gambit from safety qualifications to marks of energy efficiency, such as the EnergyStar certification awarded by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Remember that all certifications are not equal though, so you should only prioritize those awarded by reputable industry-specific organizations.
If you’re in a hurry to find a new tankless natural gas water heater, keep these quick tips in mind as you analyze the top-of-the-line models listed below. For more details and specification descriptions, be sure to read our “Buyer’s Guide.”
- Evaluate the Installation Space – Measure your prospective installation sight so that you can select a water heater that can be operated and maintained within the desired space
- Determine your Fuel Source – If you intend on purchasing a tankless natural gas water heater, be sure that you are able to pipe natural gas from your mainline to the installation location
- Compare Heating Capacity and Water Pressure – Select a model that provides enough water at the proper temperature to meet your family’s simultaneous needs
- File the Warranty after Purchase – If a warranty is available, immediately file the appropriate paperwork to activate said policy
EDITOR’S NOTE: in addition to the tankless natural gas water heaters listed in the first half of this article, we also reviewed the following:
This page will be updated with reviews of new products as they are released.