4 Common Tankless Water Heater Defects and How to Spot Them

Tankless water heater defects
Tankless or on-demand water heaters haven’t overtaken standard tank-style appliances just yet, but they are gaining popularity. With recent legislation that updated efficiency requirements (and drove up prices substantially), you might see them more and more often. They’re already the more popular and common style of water heater in Europe where fuel prices are much higher.

For at least a while longer, tankless water heaters might only be an occasional observance. But the more you see them in your home inspections, the more likely you’ll find defects.

Here are 4 of the most common complaints and defects when dealing with an on-demand residential water heater:

#1: No Hot Water

You had one job, water heater, and you haven’t done it properly. That’s what homeowners who turn on both taps and only find chilly water probably think. When there’s no hot water, but adequate water pressure, Inspectapedia says the most likely culprit is the fuel.

Tankless appliances are available in gas and electric. Either way, they need a constant supply of fuel. Where no hot water is present, the wiring or sensors might be to blame. If it uses gas, it might have a bad burner or the line might be damaged.

#2: Scale Buildup

For all of the convenience of on-demand hot water, there’s one especially annoying issue: de-scaling. With an ordinary tank-style water heater, the homeowner might go for years without draining the tank to remove sediment. It’s not advisable, but it is possible. With a tankless water heater, descaling is required at least once a year.

Minerals can build up in the small lines, and that can reduce water quality and pressure. If left unattended, scale can damage the whole appliance. If water pressure is low, chances are there’s debris in the system. Flushing it should solve the problem, and that’s a professional job with some models.

#3: Dirty Water Filter

Tankless water heaters usually have an in-line water filter that needs regular cleaning or replacement, depending on the style. The frequency of attention depends on how often the water heater is used and the manufacturer’s instructions, but Inspectapedia recommends it once a month.

If water is impure or pressure is low, the filter might be the problem. Because it’s an in-line filter screen, it should be easy to locate and remove.

Tankless water heater defects
#4: Cold Water Sandwich

There’s nothing quite like a nice hot shower with an unexpected freezing blast here and there. If a tankless water heater isn’t installed properly, that’s what the homeowner might get. It’s called a cold water sandwich. And on a cold morning, it’s about half as fun as the knuckle variety.

The cold water sandwich happens when cold enters the line without being properly mixed in before it reaches the tap or shower head. While it’s not technically a defect, it’s certainly uncomfortable. Many homeowners remedy the problem with a small, accessory, electric-heated water tank that mixes cold with the hot as it’s used.

Tankless water heaters, or hot water heaters as some folks like to call them, are on the rise. They save energy and the technology is always improving. And when used and installed properly, they really can provide a constant supply of hot water. But Americans love tank-style water heaters, so it might be a while before tankless overtake tradition.

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