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Condensing vs Non-Condensing Tankless Water Heaters: Which is Better?

A few months of online research and shopping have led you to the decision to purchase a tankless water heater. The idea of getting rid of your old massive fifty-gallon water heater that occupies a massive amount of space in the laundry room sounds a bit thrilling! Just think about how you could use all that extra space once that tank is removed? But first, you need to figure out if you’re going to buy a condensing or non-condensing water heater. Making the selection involves more than just choosing one because your neighbor suggested it, and she always makes smart decisions. Take a moment and learn the difference between them, then make your choice. Let us at Nick’s Plumbing & AC help you decide.

1. What Is A Tankless Water Heater?

Just as the name would indicate, a tankless water heater does not have a tank with it that stores water and heats it like traditional water heaters. Instead, cold water is heated as it flows through a heat exchanger and gets used directly without storage. The heat exchanger uses combustion to warm the water. Cold water warms and then becomes hot as it passes through the stainless-steel pipes as it is directed towards your taps. 

This type of water heating system has become very popular because it is incredibly efficient and cost-effective compared to traditional water heater tanks. These are large and expensive. There are two types are tankless water heaters:

  • Non-condensing tankless water heaters
  • Condensing tankless water heaters

What’s The Difference Between Condensing And Non-condensing Tankless Water Heaters?

Water heaters produce steam as a byproduct of using fuel. The vapor or steam cools and condenses on a surface.  The condensation water is acidic and will corrode all sorts of traditional home appliance materials.

  • Non-Condensing

The vast majority of gas-powered tankless water heaters are non-condensing models. These systems are usually the first type people choose when converting from a traditional tank model to a tankless system because they can use a home’s existing ventilation.

A non-condensing tankless water heater can vent the steam, which cools down outside the unit. This steam must be vented through heat and corrosion resistant channels. A non-condensing tankless water heater is the more basic form of a gas-powered tankless water heater. As such, it only has one heat exchanger. The exhaust gases are at a much higher temperature as they leave the unit.  When we say hot, we mean temperatures upwards of 302 degrees Fahrenheit. The gases are vented directly instead of being looped back through the heater.

  • Condensing

A condensing tankless water heater can recycle that extra heat. It only vents the vapor when it is no longer useful for the heating process, and is known as a closed system. 

The vapor from a condensing tankless water heater is much cooler. Therefore it doesn’t require the same expensive and elaborate venting material. A standard PVC pipe is often used to endure the heat and corrosiveness of the steam.

Condensing systems have a second heat exchanger. They’re designed to loop exhaust back through the system before releasing it. Compared to the temperature of non-condensing gas, condensing gases are not particularly hot. 

The exhaust gases are cooled inside the unit, and the condensation water is collected inside as well. The collected condensation water has to be neutralized, which is done inside the unit, and then it is drained.

Which Tankless Water Heater Is More Efficient?

If efficiency is vital, the condensing water heater models will outperform the non-condensing ones at 90% compared to 80%. Yet bear in mind that both are more efficient choices than electric models, regardless of either one you choose.

Which Type Of Tankless Water Heater Is More Expensive?

Due to the extra heat exchanger, condensing tends to be the more expensive tankless water heater. These extra components may also result in additional maintenance throughout its lifespan, which will also cost more money. While this balances out with regard to long-term utility savings, the initial investment may stun some individuals on a restricted budget. Non-condensing units tend to be the cheaper option.

Which Tankless Water Heater Lasts Longer?

If properly maintained, the lifespan of a gas-powered tankless water heater can easily surpass 20 years. However, t’s important to remember both condensing and non-condensing models have components that will wear out faster.

For example, in a condensing tankless water heater, the pipes which handle condensing must be constructed of a high-grade, corrosion resistant material. These may degrade over time and need replacement.  Non-condensing tankless water heaters have much higher temperatures of steam passing through their exhaust and ventilation systems. This can cause degradation and leaks over time.

Which Tankless Water Heater Produces More Savings?

Condensing tankless water heaters save more money by recycling their byproducts to produce extra heat. Depending on how you’ve connected the condensation line, this byproduct can potentially be recycled back into your water lines, thereby reducing your water bills (slightly). 

Is One Tankless Water Heater Better For The Environment Than Another?

Both tankless water heaters release negligible amounts of toxic vapors into the air. This is one of the drawbacks to using natural gas. Yet, condensing units do have a much lower carbon footprint than any other tankless water heater currently on the market.

Condensing Vs. Non-Condensing Water Heaters

You thought selecting a water heater would be such a simple task, that was until you discovered tankless water heaters. Suddenly you were overwhelmed by condensing and non-condensing water heaters.  We hope the following information answered your questions and made your choice clear. For more clarification, do not hesitate to reach out to Nick’s Plumbing & AC. We are Houston’s premier dealer of condensing and non-condensing tankless water heaters. 

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