There is no doubt that tankless water heaters are becoming more popular in homes all around the world. One of the biggest questions I’m asked in regard to tankless water heaters is whether or not they need a condensate drain.
A tankless water heater does not require a condensate drain as long as the water heater is a non-condensing type. If the tankless water heater is a condensing type, then it will require the installation of a condensate drain to function properly, since condensation is produced when utilizing the second heat exchanger inside a condensing tankless water heater.
Although a condensate drain is not required in all case, condensing tankless water heaters are generally much more energy efficient than non-condensing types and have a number of different benefits that make them a more popular choice for homeowners.
Why Do Tankless Water Heaters Have A Condensate Drain?
Tankless water heaters have a condensate drain to properly drain the excess condensation produced by the second heat exchange unit installed inside of condensing tankless water heaters. Condensing tankless water heaters use a combination of two heat exchangers in the heating process.
The first heat exchanger provides the initial heating of the water, while the second acts as a capture point for any heated water that was not used up. When the heated water that was not utilized reaches the second heat exchanger, it is cooled so that there is minimal wasted heat.
The cooling process produces various levels of condensation inside the tankless water heater that will need to be drained to avoid damage to the internals. Because of this, all condensing tankless water heaters will require a condensate drain to work properly.
While you can choose to install your own water heater condensate kit, most will opt to hire a plumber to do the installation to ensure that it is compliant with the plumbing codes in your area. Choosing the use a condensing tankless water heater without a condensation drain installed will eventually lead to your water heater not working properly.
What Is A Water Heater Condensate Drain Kit?
A water heater condensate drain kit is a specialized kit that contains all of the items that you need to install your own condensate drain for your water heater. The kit includes all of the essential items like tubing, screws, washers, and fittings that you will need to successfully install the condensate drain.
There are many different types of water heater condensate drain kits available. You should check that your tankless water heater is compatible with the specific condensate drain kit you have purchased before attempting to install it.
Typically, the installation while using one of these kits is relatively simple and can be done easily on your own. If you are unsure of the installation process, it is best to hire a plumber to come and take a look at your water heater and let them install the drain kit for you.
Low-end universal water heater condensate drain kits can usually be purchased for around $25. Higher-end universal water heater condensate drain kits may cost up to $50 to $70, depending on the components included in the kit.
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Tankless Water Heater Condensate Drain Outside
Your condensate drain should not drain outside into the grass or onto the ground. Although this is a common approach taken by people installing their own drainage systems, it can cause several issues. One of the most pressing issues allowing your condensate drain to drain outside can cause is slip hazards in the area of drainage.
This is especially true if the area of drainage is concrete, as there will always be pools of standing water in that area. These pools of standing water are not only an eyesore but will make for dangerous walking conditions if you have to frequently walk through that area.
Standing pools of water in general are breeding grounds for bacteria and pests, all of which are drawn to the stagnant water that is produced when draining your water heater outside. Allowing your tankless water heater to drain directly onto the grass or dirt in your yard will encourage moss and create mud pits that will pose their own hazardous walking conditions in that area.
The condensation produced by your water heater may also be filled with acids and chemicals that could damage the environment if they are allowed to leech into the ground. All of these issues are why it is vital that you installed your condensate drain so that it drains directly into your plumbing system.
In most cases, it is not code compliant to have your tankless water heater drain outside. Choosing to do so can result in legal issues, depending on the area that you live in.
Tankless Water Heater Condensate Line Freezing
The best way to keep your water heater condensate line from freezing is to install weather-proof sleeves around the tubing and the drain. Condensate lines are extremely susceptible to freezing like any water lines in your home.
When this happens, your water heater is at risk of becoming damaged or will simply not heat up water properly due to the frozen lines. If you cannot get your hands on weather-proof sleeving right away, shortening the drainpipe will lower your chances of the lines freezing.
If your water heater condensate line has already frozen, a hot bottle of water can be placed on the pipe to encourage quick thawing. Heat wraps and pouring warm, not hot, water over the lines can also quickly that the frozen lines.
What Is A Condensate Vent For Tankless Water Heaters?
A condensate vent is a component of a condensate drainage system that allows for the safe and proper release of water vapors and exhaust gases. Proper venting will ensure that the water vapors are funneled down into the plumbing of your home while the exhaust gases are released somewhere safely outside.
Keep in mind that if your tankless water heater is installed outside, you will not require a condensate vent. This is because the gasses will already be released into the atmosphere outside your home safely. You should consult a plumber in your area to find out more about the exact venting needs for your specific water heater setup.
We hope this guide has provided you with all of the information that you need to better understand how condensate drainage systems work for tankless water heaters. You now know exactly how they function and whether or not you need one installed for your particular unit.
To recap, you will not need a condensate drain for your tankless water heater if you do not own a condensing tankless water heater. If you are not sure what type of tankless water heater you have, check the manual or contact the manufacturer for more information.
As always, it is best to consult with a professional if you are unsure of the installation method for your condensate drain. They will be able to offer you the most insight into what is best for your specific setup.
Nick Lopresti is the founder of YourH2Home and a home improvement expert. He has years of experience writing about various home improvement topics, mostly as it pertains to water systems.