Tankless water heaters offer greater convenience, performance, and energy savings with compact units that produce hot water on demand. While conventional tank and gas water heaters sustain standby heat losses while hot water is stored in the tank, tankless on-demand water heaters only use energy to heat water when you need it. Just like tank water heaters, on-demand water heaters can use a variety of different fuel sources including electricity, natural gas, and propane.
But will a tankless water heater powered by propane or natural gas work without electricity or do they need a connection?
How Does a Tankless Water Heater Work?
Tankless water heaters don’t store any hot water like conventional tank heaters. Instead, when a hot water faucet or appliance is used, cold water travels through a pipe into the heater unit. An electric element or gas burner heats the water as it moves through the unit, producing a steady flow of hot water. Water can be heated by natural gas or propane, or using an electrically powered element, with gas-powered water heaters often producing a higher hot water flow rate.
Do Tankless Water Heaters Work Without Electricity?
It may be obvious that electric powered tankless water heaters won’t work without an electrical supply. However, natural gas and propane tankless water heaters rely on electricity as well, and won’t work without electricity.
Tankless water heaters depend on a PC board and digital remote powered by electricity that acts as the “brains” of the water heater. They help to sense the flow of water and activate the burner/element to produce hot water when needed. Additionally, most gas and propane tankless water heaters also don’t use a standby pilot light and use direct electric ignition. Tankless water heaters requirement is usually 120V AC, which is the standard power outlet in U.S. homes.
Tankless water heaters are easy to install and connect to the home electricity supply, and are still between 8-50% more efficient than conventional tank-style water heaters. Natural gas and propane tankless water heaters use minimal electricity, allowing for an efficient and economical hot water supply.
Can I Operate My Tankless Water Heater During a Power Outage?
If you experience frequent power outages, or want to choose a water heater that doesn’t require electricity, you should discuss your options with a professional plumber. Tankless water heaters can be installed in combination with other water heater types that don’t rely on electricity, such as a solar water heater. In some cases, the computer component of a tankless water heater can be powered using a battery backup sold for computer systems. This can allow a gas or propane powered tankless heater to continue running for some time without an electricity supply.
Whether the fuel source is electricity, natural gas or propane, all tankless water heaters use at least some electricity to power the computer controls and ignition. If you need to choose a water heater that doesn’t rely on electricity, or you’re looking to upgrade to a tankless water heater, talk to your local plumber about the best water heater for you.