Portable Tankless Water Heaters
for Van-lifers and Tiny Homes
Hey y'all, what's up? We know everybody pretty much wants to live in a van or tiny home these days. One of critical things you really need is a hot water heater, so let’s talk about the pros and cons of the commonly used small portable type tankless water heaters that are so common for van remodels and tiny home construction.
First off, let's talk about the pros.
One of the biggest advantages of the portable tankless water heater is its compact size and space-saving design. We all know how valuable space is especially in vans and tiny homes so it’s a big plus that the tankless takes up minimal room. Plus, since it's tankless, it only heats water on demand, so you don't have to worry about storing and heating a large amount of water.
Portable tankless water heaters also offer even more flexibility for users. They can be used outdoors, at campsites, and in other remote locations where access to hot water may be limited.
Another pro of the tankless is its energy efficiency. Since it only heats water when you need it, you're not wasting energy on constantly heating a tank of water. This can save you a lot of money on propane bills in the long run, especially if you're living in your van or tiny home full-time.
Now, let's move on to the cons.
One of the biggest drawbacks of the portable tankless water heater is its flow rate. It's not designed to handle high-flow appliances like a showerhead or a washing machine, which can be a problem if you're trying to take a hot shower or do laundry in your van. The portable tankless water heater specifically has a low flow rate of less than 2 gallons per minute, which may not be enough for some users. Additionally, some users have reported issues with the water temperature fluctuating or being inconsistent.
The tankless water heater can also be more expensive upfront than a traditional tank water heater. While it can save you money in the long run, the initial cost can be a barrier for some van-lifers who are on a tight budget.
Another con of the tankless is its complexity. Unlike a traditional tank water heater, the tankless requires some technical know-how to install and operate. This can be intimidating for some van-lifers who aren't comfortable with DIY projects or working with gas lines. we didn’t realize it required a large-capacity propane tank–too big and too heavy for our little 20-foot tiny house trailer. As a result, we replaced it with a smaller, more efficient model.
It's also worth noting that the portable tankless water heater requires a certain level of water pressure to work properly. If you're in an area with low water pressure, you may need to install a pump to get the most out of this type of water heater unit.
Lastly, common problems with tankless water heaters also include mineral buildup and scale in the unit's heat exchanger. With travel the water sources can vary a lot and can cause extra strain and stress on critical parts of the portable tankless. Hard water can cause mineral buildup, which can lead to decreased efficiency and even damage to the unit. For this reason, regular maintenance and descaling is advised to help prevent these issues. Repairs to tankless can be quite tricky and costly so it’s not an ideal long term solution without steady maintenance.
Overall, the portable tankless water heater has both pros and cons, and whether it's right for you will depend on your individual needs and preferences. PlumbSmart does have experience working with these tankless water heaters but typically the cost of repair is more than the price of a new heater. Altho this is commonly a DIY project, if you feel like you want an experienced tech to help you with your install just give us a call at PlumbSmart (828) 761-6921