Hot water heaters can be dangerous if you're not careful. Thankfully, there are technologies that are making this necessary utility far safer.
Much has been published about how expensive heating hot water can be. According to the Department of Energy, hot water heating is the second most expensive utility in the home, accounting for between $0.14 and $0.18 for every utility dollar spent. In total, this can cost between $400 and $600 per year.
These expenses become even higher if proper safety measures are not followed. When it comes to hot water tanks, the worst case scenario is an explosion. This is not only dangerous if someone is in the vicinity of the explosion but can create further issues in your home if not properly addressed. This includes mold buildup, a flooded basement and other issues. But even if they do not burst, they can be prone to leakage, which creates similar problems, albeit, less severe ones.
Why do tanks burst?
According to the Massachusetts Executive Office for Public Safety and Security, there are a number of reasons why a hot water tank could burst. Improper adjustment of temperature and pressure controls could create strain on the tank that it was not designed to handle. Altered safety or relief valves could also create unnecessary strain on the tank, which not only increases the likelihood of a burst or leak, but hinders the performance of the heater.
Like with most appliances, installation and maintenance work by an underqualified worker can also lead to issues down the road. Just as bad is neglecting to inspect and properly maintain the tank.
Why tankless is better for safety
Typically hot water tanks are stored in your utility closet, which creates its own sort of issues. There are often other important appliances in these areas that could be damaged after a burst pipe, creating a larger wake of damage.
Fortunately, tankless water heaters do not have these same kinds of issues. They are typically designed to last for over 20 years, according to the Department of Energy, making them the most long lasting of any water heater on the market today. This is compared to the just 10 year to 15 year life expectancy of hot water tanks.
But their real advantage when it comes to safety is the lack of bursting or leaking issues. Unlike hot water tanks that store water at a specific temperature, tankless hot water heaters work on an on-demand basis. This means, as water is called for, be it at the faucet, a shower head, or elsewhere, the heater heats the water as it comes through the appliance. As a result, there is no need to use a tank, which decreases the size of the heater and eliminates the problem of the burst tank.
This advantage then extends into the periphery damage that an exploded tank would cause in a utility closet. Because they are much smaller, they can be installed at the point of use, which enhances heater performance. But more importantly, this isolates the hot water heater from the rest of the utility closet. While the tankless water heater won't burst or break in the first place, any issues it may have would be free from harming the other critical components of the utility space.
Finally, because of their long life expectancy, this improved safety can translate into long-term savings. If a tank is improperly installed, it may only last a decade before needing to be replaced – a process that can be quite expensive. So your tankless water heater could last the same amount of time it would take for two storage tanks to run to failure.
So while the safety performance of a tankless is water heater is a major selling point, it can also lead to better savings as well.