Tankless Water Heater Maintenance

Tankless Water Heater Maintenance
September 15, 2011 Lorelie

Tankless water heater maintenance is easy, especially if you try to compare maintaining it with regular storage tank water heaters.  Tankless water heaters have gained popularity in the recent decade.  It is an ingenious water heating innovation that has rapidly gained popularity among homeowners because of their long term cost and energy saving potential.  They are a greener way of heating water as water is only heated when it is needed, thus saving valuable energy resources.  This energy saving is more evident on more energy efficient models.

A tankless water heater does not look anything like traditional storage tank water heaters and they also operate very differently.  This means maintaining them can be a challenge if you are not familiar with how they operate.

Tankless water heating systems basically works by passing water directly through its internal piping or heating coils.  It does not heat water by the gallons as compared to traditional storage tank models.  This direct heating allows it to eliminate standby heat loss and also provide you with endless amounts of heated water.  The lag time is also significantly lessened from the time you turn on your hot water tap to the time when heated water is delivered.

One of the main drawbacks to using a tankless water heater though is the flow rate.  A tankless water heating unit has a slower rate of flow as compared to storage tank water heater models as they can only generate 2 – 5 gallons of heated water per minute whereas a storage tank allows you to produce more flow.  In order to alleviate the problem cause by insufficient supply of heated water, homeowners tend to install multiple “point-of-use” tankless water heaters instead of a “whole house” tankless water heater.  It is important to take note that gas-fired tankless types can provide better rate of flow as compared to electric-powered types.

One major advantage of tankless water heating units is that they are able to outlast traditional storage tank water heating systems by up to 5 years, especially if they have been properly maintained.  A tankless system will last from 20 to 25 years while a storage system lasts only between 10 to 15 years.  This makes it very important to properly maintain your unit and to do it regularly in order to keep it in good working condition.  Manufacturers suggest performing regular maintenance practice every 6 months to 2 years.  The main idea behind tankless water heater maintenance is to flush the entire system regularly in order to rid it of any mineral deposits that have build up inside boiler or heating coils.

As mentioned above, tankless water heating systems come in two types – gas-fired tankless units and electric tankless types.  Gas-fired tankless units are capable of generating more rate of flow.  However, if you don’t have a steady flow of natural in your home or are trying to rid your home of gas appliances, then an electric water heating unit will suit you just fine.

Caring for your tankless unit requires both preventive measure as well as annual maintenance.  One of the regular maintenance checkups you need to do with your tankless unit is by checking the inline filter.  The inline filter is responsible for trapping dirt and debris that could enter your heating unit which could potentially cause damage.  The trapped dirt on the inline filter needs to be regularly removed as this will cause a slow flow of water going into the water heating unit.  In addition, if the dirt is not removed and completely blocks the flow of water, this can cause the heating system to overheat and cause irreparable damage to the unit itself.

When performing tankless water heater maintenance, make sure to first turn the unit the unit off.  Once that is done, unscrew the inline filter.  It is certain that some water still stored in the system will drain out.  Remove the filter and clean it with running water from your bathroom sink.  Make sure no dirt and debris are left on the inline filter before returning it back.  As soon as it is tightened, open the water inlet to ensure that the filter is not leaking.  Once you are certain that the filter is not leaking, you can turn the unit back on.

Another tankless water heater maintenance that you can do is by flushing your unit periodically.  This can be accomplished by draining the unit and flushing it with fresh running water.

Hard water is the most common enemy of tankless heating units.  The high mineral content of the water tends to accumulate and build up scaly deposits on the heating units.  This prevents the efficiency of the heating system of the unit, thereby taking more time to heat the water and consuming more energy.  Lime buildup is another common problem.  When this buildup increases, it will cause the heat exchanger to overheat and send error codes which will lock out the system.  Once this happens, you won’t have any access to heated water until the problem has been fixed.  Flushing your water heating unit every 6 months to a year will help to prevent these buildups from occurring.  You may choose to hire a professional to do this for $200, or you can try doing it yourself.  The list below shows the steps in flushing a tankless water heater.

  1. Turn off the unit.
  2. Shut down all water connections.  This includes the water inlet and the water outlet.
  3. Remove the cover to expose the internal circuitry, water connections, and shut off valves.
  4. Open the overflow valve in order to discharge the water pressure.
  5. Connect a sump pump to a 5 gallon bucket and connect the output of the sump pump to the inlet connection of your water heater.
  6. Connect the outlet port of the water heater to the 5 gallon bucket.
  7. Place 2 to 3 gallons of white vinegar on the bucket along with a gallon of water.  Make sure to mix them and make sure the pump is fully submerged.
  8. Start the pump and allow the content of the bucket to cycle for about 45 minutes.
  9. Doing this process will remove any calcium and lime deposits from your unit and will allow your unit to run like new again.

It is important to remember that a properly maintained tankless water heater will work and perform properly for many years to come.  Performing some of the small maintenance tips mentioned above will help ensure that your tankless water heater works correctly and will provide you with heated water for up to 25 years.

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