Are Tankless Water Heaters Environmentally Friendly?

From an incredibly young age, we’re taught that all we do must be environmentally friendly. We need to save our planet, they say. I mean, we were supposed to drown in rising sea levels fifteen years ago according to their predictions, but it never happened. But let’s just assume they’re correct this time round, and that we really do need to protect the environment.

But how do we do this? Well we can’t drive petrol or diesel – that’s pollution. We can’t drive electric, either, since making the batteries for those creates more pollution in manufacturing than a petrol vehicle produces its lifetime. We shouldn’t really be cooking food because – some reason.

Anyway, what about heating water? What’s the most environmentally friendly way of doing it? Can we use a fire under a tank of water? I suppose, but fire is bad. Can we use propane gas instead to heat a tank? Sure, and that’s where you get a tank-based water heating solution, found in millions of homes all over the world.

But, what about if you don’t like that idea either? You switch to a tankless water heater.

A tankless water heater is the most energy efficient, most environmentally friendly way of heating water for your home. But how, and why?

Tankless water heating solutions came about as a result of people wanting to save money on their water heating and similar utility bills, such as gas and electricity. Naturally, as a result of this, what has happened is that when you want to save money, the best way to do so is to use less. And by using less, not only do you save money, but you also take up less resources, and therefore you are better for the planet in terms of the environment.

So, the short answer is that, yes, a tankless water heating system or unit is much more efficient than any other alternative out there on the market, with the exception of solar heated water. However, that really is something beyond us, as the sun might not come out, and in that case, you’re going to have to use the more pleasant alternative – gas or electricity.

Let’s begin by talking about the physical product – the actual machine itself – the tankless water heating unit, purchasable through so many different retailers, made by so many different manufacturers, and branded in such incredibly diverse ways. The actual unit itself is often manufactured with nothing but metal and plastic, and that includes all the wiring and piping and internal systems.

Since it doesn’t actively store water, and doesn’t need it until the tap is turned on, the system is significantly less prone to erosion and general wear and tear. For this reason, it lasts a lot longer than its tank-based alternative, and that means it won’t go to landfill as fast, making it much more environmentally friendly in those terms. Also, when it does go to landfill, it will take up significantly less space than a huge, mostly empty tank-based water system.

So in terms of the physical manufacture of the product itself, tankless water heaters are much more environmentally friendly.

But what about functioning? What about when they’re actually in your home? Well, here, they’re also much more environmentally friendly.

You see, to understand this fully, we need to consider how a tankless water heater actually works. When nobody in the household is trying to access hot water, they sit idle. Nothing happens, for they only turn on when a tap comes on.

When this does happen, and someone is, let’s say, taking a shower, you will find that the unit or system is fired up, and begins to heat water. It does this by pushing high pressure cold water from it’s cold water inlet through a long and complex coil of pipe and tubing, which is surrounded by heating elements either powered by electricity or another form of power, or it is pushed around a combustion tank, where (usually propane) gas is ignited, and reaches roaring hot temperatures of thousands of degrees, heating the water as it goes around. This water that has been heated is now released from the hot water outlet, and goes towards the outlet where the hot water is demanded.

Now, let’s look at a traditional, tank-based water heating unit. These are far more inefficient. Hot water gets poured into a huge, usually 100-gallon tank, where it is exposed to a constant roaring heat from a propane gas source. So yes, whilst some tankless and tank-based water heaters may both be powered by propane gas, there is a key difference. This roaring heat warms up the tank to a hot enough temperature, and then switches off. But if the water is not used, and the temperature of it drops again, the heater will roar up again and heat it all over again, even if the owners are on holiday and not planning to use hot water in their household for many weeks.

See that? A tankless water heater only uses energy when it is absolutely necessary. So not only do you save on your gas, water, and electricity, as well as your heating bills, but you also help to protect the environment around you, and isn’t that the point of everything these days?

Yes. Again, a tankless water heater is more environmentally friendly than any other heating solution in this respect.

So to recap – not only does a tankless water have the ability to save you literally thousands on your heating and utility bills over your entire lifetime, but it can also help to save the environment, through technologies likely never seen before on fantastic systems such as these.

They’re far more efficient than their traditional counterparts, and only use energy when is absolutely necessary, and only when hot water is demanded. They also last a lot longer, some boasting lifespans of up to 35-40 years, so less material will fall into landfill.

Yes, they’re environmentally friendy.

About the author

Steve Bates

Hi, I'm Steve and I currently reside in Chicago, Illinois. Although for most of the last 20 years I was a partner in a HVAC company down in Austin, Texas.

I understand the frustration involved with dealing with water heater repairs and replacing or upgrading to a new, more efficient model.

My aim is offer some basic advice on fixing home hot water systems. And if a repair isn't possible, then to make the process of selecting a new water heater – be it gas or electric - as simple as possible.

So that you can save money and have a safe and reliable hot water system in your home for many years to come.