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Old 07-06-2014, 04:54 PM   #1
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Help me understand why tankless water heaters are so great


I have a regular natural draft gas water heater that's showing signs of getting ready to give up the ghost, and I also discovered that the roof penetration for its vent is actually leaking ever so slightly. I hate roof penetrations and would love to replace it with a condensing model that vents through the wall instead.

However, the market for condensing residential storage water heaters seems to not exist for reasons that I have failed to discern. Having heard good things about tankless water heaters, I did some research and am not sold on them yet. It seems like there are a lot of disadvantages:
  • My family is very frugal with hot water and we do not use a lot of it, so the "endless hot water!!!!!!" point is irrelevant.
  • They are more mechanically complicated and have onboard electronics, which will eventually die.
  • I'll need to get my gas plumber out to enlarge the pipe feeding it, which won't be cheap.
  • I'm not convinced there will actually be any money or gas savings. My current water heater uses 32k BTUs and is totally sufficient. It currently uses about 10 therms a month (costing about $10). Some math shows that this means it runs for about an hour a day. These tankless units seem to guzzle three times that much gas or more, and while I know they won't be on for very long, a small 100k BTU tankless model would seem to only break even with my current water heater if it were running at full blast for only 20 minutes a day, which seems implausible.
  • I live in NM where the water is very mineral-laden, so it will probably require a lot of annual maintenance to de-scale it. But then again, maybe every water heater does in this area?

Am I overlooking something? Or are these things just all hype?

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Old 07-06-2014, 06:52 PM   #2
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Help me understand why tankless water heaters are so great


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Originally Posted by iLikeDirt View Post
Help me understand why tankless water heaters are so great




Who told you thy were great?
How much did they stand to earn by you agreeing?

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Old 07-06-2014, 06:58 PM   #3
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Help me understand why tankless water heaters are so great


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Originally Posted by TarheelTerp View Post
[/B][/B]
Who told you thy were great?
How much did they stand to earn by you agreeing?
Nobody with any financial interest in me buying one. Mostly friends and relatives. But none of them have really been able to articulate why they love their units, outside of some who give reasons that aren't applicable to me (endless hot water, takes up less space, cheaper to run if 5 people are simultaneously taking half hour showers, etc)
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Old 07-06-2014, 07:13 PM   #4
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Help me understand why tankless water heaters are so great


Using current natural gas prices it would take you over 10 years to recover the cost difference of your instantaneous unit. After 10 years how much life is left in the unit?

You normally get 10 years out of a normal HWT.
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Old 07-06-2014, 07:28 PM   #5
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Help me understand why tankless water heaters are so great


NFI how they sell them.....

I have been involved in two issues.....

The first, the older couple got talked into it as cost savings.... as others above accurately note... BS. Payback maybe in their grandchildrens later years... but replacement before their childrens marriage. Rediculous.

The other was a "unlimited" supply for a 3 children family issue. I did tell the friend/lady my recommendation was a second in series fast recovery, or an 80 gallon conventional.... three months later, after all sorts of miss-install, larger water supply/gas pipe, booster pumps and holding taks and some recirculating piping, it's working allright. Her limited basement space looks like a submarine.

You seem to have an excellent grasp of the issues... in my opinion.

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Old 07-06-2014, 07:32 PM   #6
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Help me understand why tankless water heaters are so great


Tankless water heaters can save money in some situations. I expect your situation is not one of them.
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Old 07-06-2014, 07:32 PM   #7
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Help me understand why tankless water heaters are so great


Tankless hot water heaters are nothing more than technology that people don't need sold by people peddling overpriced units.

Benefits according to the manufacturers

1.). Claim - Never run out if hot water
Fact - On a properly sized system you won't
run out. Even a tankless hot water system can run out if not sized correctly.

You have to clean the thing annually.
( Do you want to do that)

You need to buy an expensive unit

You need to have someone install it who's qualified. If you do it and your not a plumber Gasfitter. The warrenty is void

The unit draws power from electrical grid all the time

They are more expensive to operate than gas hot water heaters

There is a delay upon call for heat

Don't buy one and don't get one.

You have natural gas draft available.

Wait 10 years and the tech will be better and the units less expencive
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Old 07-07-2014, 08:28 AM   #8
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Help me understand why tankless water heaters are so great


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You have to clean the thing annually.
( Do you want to do that)

You need to have someone install it who's qualified.

You have natural gas draft available.
I have a gas tankless unit (propane). None of your statements is true (except maybe the one about a qualified installer), but I installed ours myself about 5 years ago. There is no natural gas available anywhere near us, hence the propane, which is also used for our backup furnace. We have a water softener, so I have never cleaned the water heater (which, buy the way, is not that difficult). Nor have we had any trouble with it in all that time.

The primary reason we went tankless was the size of the unit. One of the goals in designing and building our house (which we did by ourselves) was to maximize space. One way was was by hiding as many of the mechanicals as possible. Our water heater is mounted on a gable end wall in the attic. If you didn't know it was there, you'd never know we even have one.

At 66, I don't expect to ever recover the cost difference. But I don't care.
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Old 07-07-2014, 08:54 AM   #9
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Help me understand why tankless water heaters are so great


I would price out a power vented ng and a condensing ng water heater as replacements.

At $10 a month usage, you'll not see any direct energy savings. But venting your water heater directly outside through the side wall (as those replacement options do) draw their combustion air from outside as opposed to burning your conditioned air and inducing unnecessary air changes. So your energy usage will probably be a little bit less due to that. You'll also get rid of that roof penetration which is smart.

I know someone who has a vertex by a.o. Smith. It cost as much as a tankless, but it has performed well for her without issue for several years. She considered a tankless but decided against it it due to our very cold incoming water temps in the winter. There are cheaper alternatives to the vertex by other manufacturers I think. You'd just have to investigate your options for a small condensing gas water heater.
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Old 07-07-2014, 09:30 AM   #10
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Help me understand why tankless water heaters are so great


If you do not use a lot of water and your elec rates are reasonable then a electric heater may be good. We use them in all new houses where I am. You may be able to get special elements called Sand Hog elements which last longer in hard water. In my experience they last 50% to 100% longer than gas and you can eliminate the chimney and make your house more airtight.
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Old 07-07-2014, 10:24 AM   #11
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Help me understand why tankless water heaters are so great


How was what I said about these heaters wrong.

You posted a few things that you said are incorrect.

First, you do need a qualified person to install it or the warrenty is void.

Second, it is recommended that the unit be flushed and inspected on an annual basis. 3-5 years is not a good frame of time to protect the unit from scale buildup. There four damaging the efficiency of the unit.

I also said if he gas a atmospheric vent connection to leave it and not change systems.

Bottom line. The units cost to much and you don't see a payback.

I have installed over 60 of these Bricks.

Maybe these Tankless Salesmen should talk to the customer and explain that a correctly installed and sized Atmospheric HWT with correct manifold distribution could solve there problem for a lot less money than a Junk Brick sold by the money grabbing companies.
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Old 07-07-2014, 10:49 AM   #12
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Help me understand why tankless water heaters are so great


If there is more than two of you, you need to know exactly where your other half is all the time. You do not want to be in the shower when someone flushes the loo, or runs water elsewhere, you will either freeze or get burnt.
When it is cold or freezing outside, the boiler has to raise the temperature of the cold water from near freezing to comfortably warm in an instant, this takes a lot of power = equals expensive.
In order to cope, the boiler cuts down on the amount of hot water it is producing, it goes from the normal, wait all day for the bath to fill, to.....I can read a book from end to end before the bath is ready.
If there is low water pressure in your area..... at busy times, when everyone is using water........it may not delivery any warm water.

Who would want one? Perhaps a hermit?
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Old 07-07-2014, 11:17 AM   #13
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Help me understand why tankless water heaters are so great


So much anger here. If you don't want one, don't buy it, why do you have to pick fights about it?

We got one for our camp. 70% of the time it is vacant, so it was easier to have an "on-demand" system than to have a tank. For a home? I'd have a hard time justifying it, but if it turned out it wasn't for me I can't say I'd go on a tirade berating anyone who ever bought or considered one.
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Old 07-07-2014, 11:37 AM   #14
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Help me understand why tankless water heaters are so great


You won't get burnt if you have a proper pressure balancing valve for your shower. Tankless do not use more gas as a standard one continuously radiates heat and keeps firing up to maintain the tank temp so it equals out in gas usage.

I don't like them as they are wickedly complex and expensive to fix and hard to get parts for. For rich people who want never ending hot water and cost is no issue then let them have it. You also need a recirc line to get instant hot water so the ads for that are misleading. All depends how rich you are and what you want IMO.

I think they work great for restaurants and places where lots of hot water are needed for short periods of time so there is a market and use for them. When you see the size of a couple 80 gallon commercial tanks then they make sense quickly.
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Last edited by yuri; 07-07-2014 at 11:44 AM.
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Old 07-07-2014, 03:06 PM   #15
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Help me understand why tankless water heaters are so great


I would also mention that a tank less heater is always full on, or off.
In winter you cannot just dribble warm water to wash vegetables, without frozen hands.
After you have turned off the water and want it hot again, you have to go through the whole start up routine, where it checks, is there water, it there gas, is the fan working, all this time freezing water is arriving...... then you have to wait while it warms up.....if it ever does.

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