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The Best Tankless Water Heaters
The best tankless water heater should be powerful enough to pump out the gallons per minute you need. To find the best units for a range of home sizes and fuel types, we consulted plumbers, combed through user reviews, and compared the specs of every gas and electric series we could find.
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The 3 Best Tankless Water Heater Series
The Best Tankless Water Heaters: Summed Up
Prices subject to frequent fluctuation based on private Amazon merchants
Takagi K4 Tankless Water Heater
High flow rate
Lower energy factor
Why we chose it
High flow rate
Even in cold climates, the Takagi K4 can supply eight gallons of hot water per minute — enough for two showers and a sink to run at the same time. When we calculated price per GPM, we found that it offers the most hot water bang-for-your-buck, around $50 less per GPM than its peers. We like the K4 series for a mid-sized household, but Takagi also produces gas units capable of supplying more than 8 GPM, even with extremely cold incoming water.
Standard features include anti-freeze technology, so its outdoor units run smoothly through all seasons, and a Hi-Limit Switch that ensures water temperature stays within safe levels. This is important for gas units, as inaccurately sized gas lines or venting may produce what’s known as “cold water sandwiches” — unexpected bursts of cold water.
We’re happy to report that calling Takagi was quick and painless every time. Within minutes of dialing, a knowledgeable support rep answered all of our questions — without having to look them up or transfer us. We also appreciated the library of resources on Takagi’s website. It’s chock-full of product specifications, manuals, troubleshooting guides, and even a rebate finder. Whether you prefer to call for assistance or want to DIY the solution yourself, it’s clear that Takagi excels in customer support.
Points to consider
Lower energy factor
The K4’s lower price is in part due to having a lower energy factor than some of its peers. But at 0.79, it still sits squarely at the midrange of gas efficiency. For smaller and mid-sized homes, it’s unlikely that the energy savings from a more efficient model will have enough impact to offset the significantly higher price tag.
Rheem Professional Prestige Series
High energy factor
Smart home compatible
Bare bones website
Why we chose it
High energy factor
The Professional Prestige series can put you in a lot of hot water. Even more impressively, it generates that hot water with maximum efficiency, boasting one of the highest energy factors of all gas models at 0.96 — well above Energy Star’s expectations for gas efficiency. The machine also boasts an impressive flow rate of 8.5 GPM, meaning you’ll be able to run two hot showers and a sink at the same time.
A large part of the Professional Prestige series’ efficiency is due to condensing technology which prevents hot gas from escaping, reusing it to heat more water instead. This feature costs more upfront, but if your household size demands a high flow rate, condensing ensures that every drop of energy is going toward hot water. The more efficient your water heater, the lower your gas bill.
Smart home compatible
The Professional Prestige series is also compatible with EcoNet Smart Home Technology. EcoNet-compatible appliances can be remotely managed via app, meaning that you can turn off your water heater even when you’re far from home. While vacationing in tropical waters, a few phone taps ensures your water heater isn’t producing any of its own.
Points to consider
The top model in this powerful series is the Professional Prestige 96, and its dimensions match its stats. While other manufacturers brag about their tankless units’ portable dimensions, the 96 is not a unit you would want to haul around. At approximately 28 x 19 x 10 inches and 82 lbs, it resembles a heavy piece of checked luggage.
Bare bones website
The Rheem website isn’t as user-friendly as Takagi’s — it requires a fair amount of snooping to dig up the same information. You have to hunt down individual models to find their specifications and troubleshooting documents, but with enough poking around, you can find what you need to make a selection, install your unit of choice, and keep up with maintenance later on.
Stiebel Eltron Tempra Plus
Variety of models
Low flow rate
Why we chose it
Few other manufacturers of electric models can come close to Stiebel Eltron in terms of GPM and energy efficiency — all its models boast an energy factor of 0.99, the highest rating among electric tankless water heaters. While that comes at a higher upfront price, it can also save you a ton in utility bills over the life of the heater.
Variety of models
Stiebel Eltron’s two series, Tempra and Tempra Plus, both come in the same six models: 12, 15, 20, 24, 29, and 36. Like climbing the steps of a staircase, each one increases in power.
If you want one to supply your whole house, stick with the 29 and 36 models, which can provide over 4 GPM, but check the chart in our guide to find the model that can deliver your ideal flow rate at your current temperature rise.
According to the Stiebel Eltron rep we spoke to, the main difference between the the Tempra and Tempra Plus is that the Plus model uses Advanced Flow Technology. We preferred this option because it means your water will stay warm no matter what, but it also comes with $50 to $200 price jumps.
All its models come in the exact same dimensions. If the Rheem Professional Prestige sizes to luggage, the Stiebel Eltron is a briefcase, at about 17 x 15 x 5 inches and 19 lbs. Installing one in a basement or closet would free up a significant swathe of space. The Tempra and Tempra Plus are sleek too. They feature brushed gray metal covers and detailed control knobs.
We appreciated that getting information from Stiebel Eltron was always a straightforward affair. Its customer service phone number actually brings you to customer service, not impenetrable webs of reconnections and dialing 0 for an operator.
Points to consider
Owning the best of the best comes with a price, however, as Stiebel Eltron surpasses the competition in terms of capacity and cost. Its models typically ring in at $100 to $200 more than units from other brands with equivalent or slightly lower GPM. So is it worth the upcharge? We say yes, based on power, reliability, cutting-edge technology, and customer support resources.
Low flow rate
Electric models generally have a much lower flow rate than gas, and Stiebel is no exception.
How We Chose the Best Tankless Water Heaters
We did our homework before arriving at our top picks, first gathering the brand preferences of market experts — everyone from tech support representatives to professional water heater installers to HVAC office managers. We noted which brands repeatedly show up in reviews and buying guides, and are the most readily available through online retailers.
July 02, 2019 – With innovation comes discontinuation. We did our hands-on testing on the Stiebel Eltron Tempra Plus 36 kW tankless electric water heater, which has now been discontinued and replaced by the Stiebel Eltron 36 Plus Tempra, which offers 27000 watts to the discontinued model’s 26000 watts.
We also intentionally sought out manufacturers of all fuel types, wanting to find the best options for every household’s current and projected energy needs. Ultimately, we considered all the models we could find from Bosch, Eccotemp, Marey, Rheem, Rinnai, Stiebel Eltron, and Takagi — a total of 115 units.
We then waded through existing product research and reviews, dug into consumer feedback, and monitored the bestseller lists on Amazon, The Home Depot, and Lowe’s to find which of these provided the best, most reliable performance from installation through yearly maintenance.
Tankless water heaters supply hot water to your pipes every time you turn on a faucet or start a load of laundry. The more powerful the water heater is, the quicker it can heat and supply. Because they produce hot water on demand, it’s critical to choose one that’s sized accordingly. This is where the gallons per minute (GPM) measurement comes into play.
The larger your household and the colder your incoming water, the higher GPM you’ll need. At the right flow rate, all tankless water heaters will heat your water. But throughout our research, we found manufacturers advertising all sorts of nice-to-have features. We dug deep into what these tech terms mean and uncovered four stand-out features:
Microprocessing (computer-controlled monitoring) reads incoming water temperature and adjust energy output accordingly. This offers two benefits — water temperature at the tap is kept steady and the smallest possible amount of energy is used at all times. Most Stiebel Eltron and Takagi models include this technology.
If you run more hot water than your tankless water heater can produce, it will either reduce the flow rate or drop temperature. Flow control ensures the first option. Showering in a warm but reduced amount of water seems infinitely preferable to being drenched in a full-flow ice bath. Only Takagi and Stiebel Eltron could confirm that their models use this technology.
Energy factor measures a water heater’s efficiency. Electric tankless energy factors typically hover between 0.96–0.99, while gas tankless options range between 0.64–0.94. The higher the number, the more efficient (and expensive) the water heater.
Here’s a gas-specific feature to look for. Condensing technology ensures that hot gas is recaptured and used to heat water instead of escaping as exhaust. A condensing unit extracts the heat from the gasses, returns it to the water, and releases gasses far cooler, around 100° F, which also allows for the use of less expensive venting material.
We wanted our top picks to come from companies that support customers well after their initial purchase. No matter what unit you buy or what seller you purchase it from, there’s always a chance you’ll need to contact the manufacturer at some point — to clarify an error signal’s meaning, to locate replacement parts, to cash in on your warranty.
To find out what it would be like if we needed help, we called each manufacturer’s tech support line. We were impressed if, within two reconnections, we were put in touch with a knowledgeable rep who could easily talk about the company’s water heaters and the HVAC market as a whole.
Top series for each household size
Customers often complain that their low-GPM water heater makes it impossible to take a hot shower in the wintertime. Cold showers are not an option. To home in on our top picks, we chose the most capable series from the most reliable brands, with flow rates that can easily power mid-sized households (of two or three people) and large ones (with four or more).
If you need help picking the right size and fuel type, check out our guide below.
How to Find the Right Tankless Water Heater for Your Home
As mighty as these mini machines are, manufacturers invariably exaggerate their capabilities. They crow that you will “never run out of hot water,” but the truth is you can run out if you overtax the unit’s flow rate — measured in gallons-per-minute (GPM). Purchasing a unit with the right GPM for your household is key.
So, how much hot water do you need? A tankless unit has to quickly heat incoming cold water and supply it to your pipes every time you turn on a faucet or start a load of laundry. The more powerful the water heater is, the quicker it can heat and supply. But a big house in Minneapolis is going to need a lot more power than a condo in San Diego. Using the steps below, we’ll help you choose the unit that’s best for your home.
Calculate your temperature rise
Water temperature varies by region and season. The colder the water coming into your home is, the more your unit will have to work to bring it up to temperature, so it is best to size your unit based on winter conditions.
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Note: To find the exact water temperature of your area, check with your local utility company.
Tankless units sense incoming water temperature and heat it to match your water heater’s thermostat setting. The standard is 120° F, unless you’re running a sanitizing cycle in your washing machine. The greater the difference between groundwater temperature and 120° F, the greater the demand placed on your unit.
Find your flow rate
This is a measurement of how much hot water your household uses. Sites like Compact Appliance say to add up the GPM of only the fixtures you plan on using during a time of peak demand — like when your entire family is getting ready in the morning. Buying a tankless unit with a capacity lower than that means you’ll quickly exceed its limits and feel the icy effects.
However, the Bosch representative we spoke to insists you should add up the GPM of every fixture in your house. This way, it’s impossible to run out of hot water. But how often do you run every single fixture at the same time? We recommend a moderate approach: Add the GPM of the fixtures you simultaneously use, then round up generously.
*Older fixtures tend to have higher GPM than modern, water-saving designs.
GPM recommendations adapted from The Engineering Toolbox
Choose a model that meets the flow rate you need at your local temperature rise
In all the customer reviews we read, the number one complaint was clear: The purchased unit was not as powerful as manufacturers led them to believe. Many manufacturers list the max flow rate — how many gallons of hot water the unit would produce if it was, for example, working with the lukewarm groundwater of the Gulf states. This optimistic GPM will not apply to the vast majority of homeowners.
Robert Dishman, General Manager of Alliance Plumbing in Portland, Oregon, reports that homeowners need to do their research and choose a unit that is “sized and designed correctly for their household hot water demand. Then they’ll be a happy customer.” While it may be tempting to go with a cheaper, lower-GPM model, we garnered from reviews and expert input that these will likely fail to supply the hot water your household needs.
For each of our preferred series, we have provided their GPM capacities at a range of temperature rises, allowing you to see their power as it applies to your climate.
If you opt for a different unit, you can find the same information in specification PDFs on the company website or farther down the page on sites like The Home Depot. It may take a few extra clicks, but finding a unit’s flow rate for real temperatures will give you much more accurate expectations.
Unlike our other two top picks, Takagi’s series only include the two standard gas types (natural gas or propane), not a range of different GPM. To show you more options, we have pulled in the stats of a few neighboring Takagi series in table below. We chose the K4 because it offers a high GPM at a good price, but if you live in a one-bedroom, one-bath in the Arizona desert, you can get away with a less powerful piece of equipment.
Rheem Professional Prestige models
We were blown away by the high power of the Professional Prestige 96, but if you live in a warm climate, you can easily get away with one of the lesser models.
Stiebel Eltron Tempra and Tempra Plus models
Each model in the series reaches a different GPM based on the temperature rise. If you’re looking for a whole-house water heater, stick to the upper models — 29 or 36. If you only want a point-of-use water heater or live somewhere tropical, check out your options on the smaller end of the GPM scale.
Pay attention to fuel type
Natural gas and propane models are generally identical in terms of cost, Energy Factor, and GPM, but they are not interchangeable. Be sure you’re buying a unit that’s compatible with your home’s gas type, as well as the correct model for your desired install location — indoor or outdoor.
Tankless Water Heater FAQ
Tankless water heaters are known to have a significantly longer lifespans than tank water heaters, thanks in part to their superior energy efficiency and their scale (tankless heaters are traditionally 1/5th the size of traditional water heaters). Traditional tank heaters have a lifespan around 10 years and typically include a 6-10 year warranty, while a tankless heater is known to last upwards of two decades and include a warranty of 10-15 years. And, of course, their smaller size means the water heats up much faster.
Smaller and mid-sized homes can choose between gas and electric, but larger homes should stick to gas.
Electric units are by nature less robust than gas, with flow rates maxing out around 5.5 gallons per minute — enough to simultaneously power a shower and a washing machine in most climates.
Gas units often have GPMs soaring toward the double digits, but there’s a drawback to all that power: You pay for it. Top-of-the-line gas models crest $1,000, but those options use condensing tech, so they’re significantly more energy-efficient.
That said, every home’s heating system runs on either natural gas, propane, or electric. Whatever your current water heater is hooked up to is very likely the easiest and most cost-effective fuel option for your next one.
There’s a lot of hairsplitting when it comes to warranty coverage; companies accept responsibility for parts, labor, and replacements for different amounts of time — around five years, three years, and one year, respectively. Often, the aspect of the water heater that comes with the longest warranty is the heating chamber (electric) or the heat exchanger (gas); after that: parts.
Unfortunately, many warranties only apply if the unit is professionally installed and, in some cases, regularly serviced. Manufacturers should make all this information readily available to you as you go through the purchasing process — another reason we prioritized good customer resources in our selection process.
Hard water is water with a higher mineral count, and according to Ryan Gardener, a tech support representative with HomePlus Products, “By far, the most common thing that can kill a tankless water heater is excessive hardness.” In plain terms: hard water’s tendency to deposit scale over time, and tankless’ vulnerability to it. As the minerals in hard water calcify, scale begins to insulate the heating element, forcing it to work harder and harder to get its job done.
You can run at-home tests to check the mineral composition of your water supply, or you can make an approximation using geological maps. Experts recommend performing active treatment on your tankless unit before calcification becomes a problem. Every six months to a year, flush it with store-bought descaler or clean white vinegar.
Most tankless water heaters have a default setting of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Some people prefer to keep the default as high as 140 degrees, but be warned that that setting can scald skin in as little as 6 seconds. Water heated at 120 degrees, however, takes around 10 minutes to cause burns. The recommended temperature for bathing is between 96-110 degrees, and showering is recommended at 105 degrees.