Most of us get hot water from a hot water tank. It’s handy to have hot water whenever we need it, but normally that’s only for an hour or two each day, at most.

And when it comes to doing dishes, you might never even use hot water from your hot-water tank if you own a dishwasher that’s ENERGY STAR certified since newer models heat water inside the unit.

So having a water heater that works around the clock results in a lot of wasted energy and extra greenhouse gas emissions.

How tankless works

A more energy-efficient solution has been popular in Europe for decades. Tankless units heat water on demand, using gas or electricity, when you turn on the hot tap. While there is a delay of about 30 seconds before hot water begins flowing, tankless units use up to 30 per cent less energy than conventional tanks.

While you can get small point-of-use systems for showers and sinks, most Canadians prefer a central unit for the whole house. A suitcase-sized unit can be wall-mounted and located just about anywhere. This flexible, smaller footprint is the reason many builders are putting energy efficient tankless water heaters into new condos and townhouses.

Tankless costs

Tankless water heaters are more expensive to buy or lease than conventional hot water tanks, but are less expensive to run when it comes to energy costs. People with hard water will also need a water softener, so it’s important to look into the costs for your specific situation.

Whether or not the energy savings of a tankless water heater will cover the extra installation cost also depends on your situation. While it’s not possible to guarantee how much money you’ll save with a tankless water heater, you can be confident tankless heaters can help make your home more efficient and more environmentally friendly.