How to Choose a Tankless Propane Water Heater
Though we regularly take it for granted, nothing beats a hot shower to start your workday or a warm bath to relax you once you return home. What’s more, there’s a great deal of convenience that comes with having an endless hot water supply on demand in our home for cooking and cleaning. All of that is made possible through an in-home water heater.
But for some homeowners and travelers, there simply isn’t enough spare space to fit in a bulky standard tank water heater with their large auxiliary storage drums. For these folks, a tankless propane water heater is the clear alternative for providing an optimal amount of efficiently heated water for your home without taking up an excessive amount of space.
There are a lot of tankless gas models on the market today, so we’ve simplified your shopping procedure by reviewing the top 12 high-performing models here. In addition, you should read our Buyer’s Guide in order to learn about the key specifications and features that make up the best tankless water heater.
Homeowners and home builders alike possess a variety of justifiable reasons to add a tankless unit to their shopping list. They’re compact, energy-efficient, affordable to maintain, and more. But even though their positive qualities are clear, their specifications and features detailed in product listings can be…less so.
But that’s where this Buyer’s Guide comes in! Using industry-specific research and knowledge, this guide will provide you with definitions for a variety of relevant terms, as well as recommendations regarding how those specifications will affect your use of your new tankless propane water heater.
While all tankless water heaters are noteworthy for their compact design, you should still carefully consider their dimensions if you intend to install your new unit in a compact space. Even without the space-consuming presence of an auxiliary water holding tank (as seen on standard water heaters), you’ll need to provide an optimal amount of space around your new tankless water heater in order to facilitate safe and efficient maintenance.
In addition to the dimensions listed for each model, you should also factor in a few extra inches on each side of the unit to provide space for fuel source pipes and safety venting.
Flow Rate and Water Pressure (PSI)
In straight forward terms, a tankless water heater’s flow rate describes the volume of water it can pass through its system in a concise period of time. This is generally measured in gallons per minute (GPM), which can also be treated as a measurement of how much hot water the unit outputs while engaged. If you anticipate higher simultaneous hot water needs in your whole house, you should opt for a model with a higher GPM. Small homes don’t need as much power.
Often, GPM ratings will be listed alongside water pressure measurements, as notated in pounds per square inch (PSI). Folks who have lived in-home or apartments with “weak” showers or faucets know that PSI determines how rapidly water output from a water heater travels through the plumbing and to the exit point. For optimal enjoyment, be sure to choose a unit with enough PSI to accommodate your home’s size and plumbing style.
Heating Capacity (BTU)
Most tankless water heaters will list a heating capacity, as measured in British thermal units (BTU). Because heating capacity itself describes how much “power” a given unit has to heat water, it is communicated using a measurement of how much heat is pumped into the incoming water during operation. A higher BTU heating capacity generally implies that a unit can produce more and hotter water in a shorter period of time than lower BTU units.
Because tankless water heaters are broadly associated with their cost-saving functionality, many leading units will include an energy rating in their listing. Using a percentage out of 100, this energy rating communicates how efficiently the unit converts energy from burned fuel into heat. A higher energy factor implies a greater volume of efficiency in a unit, potentially leading to lower energy bills in the future.
Tankless water heaters today use a variety of fuel sources to produce heat, including electricity, propane, and natural gas. Each fuel source provides different levels of efficiency and cost, depending on localized infrastructure and availability. You should certainly choose a water heater that is powered by the most efficient and cost effective fuel source in your area.
Even with proper maintenance, your water heater is bound to break down at some point. If you or repairman can’t resolve the problem, you may need to call in your warranty to cover the cost of replacement parts or an entirely new unit.
While most tankless water heaters come with some form of warranty, only some trustworthy manufacturers will honor their warranty without delay. Be sure to read customer reviews for your chosen water heater brand to gain an understanding of that brand’s warranty reliability.
If you’re in a hurry to purchase a new tankless propane water heater, keep these quick tips in mind as you analyze each of the following high-quality models. For more details and specification descriptions, be sure to read through our “Buyer’s Guide.”
- Evaluate the Installation Space – Measure your prospective installation site 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 propane water heater, be sure to identify an affordable option for providing the appropriate form of propane to the unit
- Compare Heating Capacity and Water Pressure – Select a model that provides enough water at the proper temperature to meet your family’s simultaneous water needs
- Install Appropriate Detectors – If you are installing a propane or natural gas water heater, be sure to install gas detectors nearby in order to rapidly identify if a leak or condensing occurs
EDITOR’S NOTE: in addition to the tankless propane 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.