Maintaining Tankless Water Heaters

Without a doubt, one of the most frustrating headaches that arises from homeownership is paying for repairs when something breaks. While some of these are simply unpreventable and the result of regular wear and tear, the truth is a lot of these failures could’ve been avoided with a little routine maintenance. Add in the fact a solid chunk of these could be plumbing-related too and you’ll understand why we preach “maintenance” so consistently here on the blog.

Here at Stine-Nichols Plumbing, we work in both the residential and commercial plumbing world. Since the bulk of plumbing looks the same time and time again, there is certainly some overlap between the two sectors. In this week’s blog, we will be taking a look at a topic that we discuss on a regular basis and that subject is water heaters, more specifically tankless water heaters. No matter if you have a traditional storage tank or a newer tankless water heater, these are appliances that we depend on day in and day out. They provide hot water whenever we need it and for the most part, are very reliable. However, they are definitely not invincible. Both types have estimated lifespans for functioning and with the appropriate maintenance, can even last a little longer. We’ve discussed this before with the traditional storage tank options, but will take a deeper look at the modern tankless models today!

Do I need to descale my tankless water heater?

Throughout this post, we’ll run through a handful of questions you should be asking yourself about your tankless water heater. Some of these will depend on other variables, such as location and age. The first question we’ll examine involves the process of descaling and flushing your water heater. Descaling is essentially the act of removing gunk that builds up inside your system. Enter the topic of hard water. Water hardness is dependent on the state you live in. Check out the map below from the USGS for water hardness in the United States.

Hard water is regular water that has higher-than-normal mineral content. It’s still safe to drink and wash with, but does have various side effects capable of arising. As seen by the map above, the Kansas City area is on the high side when it comes to water hardness. The higher the concentration, the more likely the minerals are to build up and create a mess inside your water heater. Vinegar will help break up this mess and get you back into working order. 

Descaling or flushing it is a fairly straightforward process, but each manufacturer does have slight variances. Linked below are step-by-step instructions for descaling some of the most popular tankless water heater brands:




Like we say with most plumbing projects, some of these easier jobs can be DIY jobs. However, unless you feel 100% confident in your ability to get the job done, we recommend leaving it to a plumbing professional. This will ensure everything gets fixed the first time and no headaches arise a few months down the road!

Want to solve the entire issue of water hardness without dealing with everything listed above? Consider getting a water softener system installed in your home! Reach out to our team of plumbing experts to discuss what all this entails!

Why is flushing/descaling so important?

Before we dive into the frequency in which you should have your tankless water heater cleaned, it’s important to analyze why flushing is so important in the first place. The element that’s most likely to be negatively affected is the heat exchanger. This piece contains narrow water passages that can easily get blocked up from the lime scale. When you don’t flush your water heater, the heat exchanger can quickly get worn down from this buildup, since not as much water will be passing through. 

All in all, regular descaling and flushing can ensure your water heater meets or exceeds its estimated lifespan. Since they require a much higher up-front cost, this is critical to make the most out of your investment.

How frequently should I have my tankless water heater serviced?

Considering most plumbing problems aren’t usually detected until something goes awry, it can be tough to know how often you should schedule service. You obviously want to avoid having to repeatedly hire a plumber, but if doing so can prolong your water heater to an extra 5 years, it’s well worth it! 

A key first question is going to be whether you want to try and do it yourself or if you’ll hire a local plumbing professional to complete the work. Since we perform these types of jobs all the time, we would recommend making the investment in a professional. They’ll know exactly what to do and should have it all flushed in no time! At the same time, a professional will understand what constitutes having the system completely cleaned, as opposed to just following the instructions and calling it good.

Nonetheless, a major determining factor for water heater service is always going to be the water hardness level of your particular state. With Kansas City possessing a higher-than-average concentration, we recommend scheduling a cleaning service at least once a year. Depending on when your last service was, any experienced plumbing technician will be able to provide an estimate on suggested frequency.

To further back up this implication of water hardness having a major impact on the maintenance of tankless water heaters, we found an interview with Jason Fleming, who serves as the marketing manager at Noritz. For those unfamiliar with Noritz, they are one of the market leaders in the tankless industry. Fleming stated, “There’s no set time frame to service a tankless water heater. It all depends on the hardness of the water. The harder the water, the quicker those mineral deposits will build up in a water heater, be it tank-type of tankless.” While tank-style water heaters contain that mineral buildup at the bottom of the tank, tankless models are going to push “most of the scale through the system.” In short, there’s no perfect answer to the frequency of service needed. With Kansas City possessing higher levels of hardness though, we still recommend every year. However, for those states with softer water, you could be looking at a few years in between.

Want to go tankless?

If after reading this blog, you are all of a sudden considering going with a tankless water heater, feel free to give our team of expert Kansas City plumbers a call at 816-348-3481. Our licensed technicians work with both types of hot water heaters. For quite a few years now, tankless has quickly become an attractive option in the Kansas City area and for good reason! They take up a fraction of the space and are able to heat water on demand. 

If you’re curious about learning more in terms of sizing, we encourage you to check out our Water Heater Sizing Guide. We took a deeper look at both tankless and storage tank water heaters to break down the various qualities affecting your purchasing decision!

Don’t Go Without Hot Water!

While it sounds like a nominal inconvenience in the grand scheme of things, it is certainly still an “inconvenience.” After all, just think back to the last time you woke up, hopped in the shower and was greeted with just cold water. I’m going to guess it wasn’t the greatest start you’ve ever had to a day! In any case, hot water is something we all take for granted and if you could limit the odds of not having it, why not?

We hope you learned a little more about tankless water heaters throughout this article. While the traditional storage tank water heaters are still more common, tankless models are making a dent in that difference. As evidenced in this article, the key caveat is always going to be about maintaining them and keeping them operating at an optimal level. If you want to get on our schedule for routine maintenance or even just book a one-time service to see the process, don’t hesitate to fill out the form HERE. We’re always more than willing to provide a free quote to ensure there’s no surprises!

By |2020-02-26T15:15:48-06:00February 26th, 2020|Residential Plumbing, Tips and Tricks|