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They gave me the price quoted on the website for their existing deal for replacement of an electric water heater.
We then determined a tankless wasn't a good idea, and he suggested going with an electric but that he needed a 240 Vac line. He told me to get back at him once I had that installed, and he can come and give me an estimate.
I have the manual for the hot water heater, and being an engineer, I set out to try to troubleshoot it myself. Granted, I'm an electrical engineer with hardly any tools so my extent of testing was quite small. For my tankless hot water heater, the manual said I should check some things: check for plumbing cross-over, check to make sure contacts are seated properly, check to make sure that you have enough water flow (i.e. I needed at least 0.5
I got about half of the things checked off (and it was okay), but I didn't want to mess around with the gas myself being unqualified to do so. I called
When the guy came, I repeated to him again what the issue was, the symptoms, etc. He asked a few questions. He poked around the heater himself for a bit, then 10 minutes later he told me the fee for the diagnostic was $167. Since I was desperate, I didn't argue with him, and I thought maybe there were some tests he needed to run that were not mentioned in the manual. I was nearby doing work, but about 5-10 minutes later, I heard him talking on the phone with the hot water heater manufacturer -
'fine.' I thought to myself 'I hate that stupid tankless hot water heater, having had problems with it a few times in the past.' I asked about installing another version, and the plumber said I didn't have the gas capacity. Something about my gas lines not being fat enough. I asked about a non-tankless heater. I had space in an HVAC closet, but unfortunately it was behind a furnace. I also offered the alternative which was to remove cabinets and get access to the space behind the cabinets. He then looked at my gas supply lines and crunched numbers. He came back to me with a $6000 estimate. $2500 to take the furnace out and put it back in, and $3500 for the new heater, which included parts and labor. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and believe them when they say that that included labor for both installing whatever plumbing is required.
Anyways, I told them that I would think about it and get other estimates.
Meanwhile, I review the tankless hot water heater manual in greater detail, and I find out that it can actually be installed in small spaces. However, you need venting to the outside. I looked in my bathroom and apart from the fan that was installed I saw that there was indeed another vent space cut out that goes out to the building exterior. I think I was given erroenous information. I paid $167 for an assessment that took about 45 minutes, which included a 15 minute phone call to the manufacturer. I
The next day, I also received the receipt for his services, and here's what was written about his diagnostic:
'(.4/0) Diagnostic - Plumbing Water Heater. Thorough inspection of the gas or electric
water heater. Gas includes - test of thermocouple safety device, gas valve /
thermostat, carbon monoxide, and proper flue draft. Electric includes - test of both
heating elements, both thermostats, proper amps, and proper voltage. Included in
both - test of water temperature. water pressure, gallons of hot water provided,
pressure safety relief valve. Owner understands that per manufacturers instructions
the pressure relief valve is to be tested annually. Should the valve not reseal, it is
considered failed and must be replaced at Owner’s expense. 1-Year Warranty'
I called some other companies. It was a pain - I ended up talking to about a dozen plumbers, most of whom don't really know much about tankless heaters and finally got someone competent. Apparently, my real issue was that since my neighborhood is very old, I actually have variable gas pressure. He says that it's especially a pain in the winter when gas pressure is low. He zeroed in on this issue, and he gave me examples of the associated problems, and what he said was spot on.
In the end - here's what I did. I called my normal plumber/handyman - who I had forgotten did this kind of work. I think he is semi retired and doesn't often respond to stuff. I ended up getting an ELECTRIC hot water heater installed. Materials - $700. Install was $550. For this price he also removed the old tankless, replaced some copper pipes, ran a 240 Vac line from the main power breaker, and he patched up the walls that he ended up cutting holes in to get access to stuff. He did a good job.
*** Update. ****
I need to clarify some of the things I said here. I just realized the manufacturer posted a pretty inflammatory response. First of all - I bought my condo as-is with the tankless hot water heater installed. I did not have it installed illegally. Secondly, prior to my second appointment with
I also should clarify that the 240 Vac line wasn't a new line. I used to have a hot tub installed on my roof deck, which I have since removed because it turned out to be a pain. It was a happy accident that THAT line was still around and accessible. We literally just had to re-route those lines. The plumber/handyman had it hard-wired to the heater. Whether or not that was illegal - I can't say as I do not know the rules. But I am an electrical engineer with over 10 years of experience, and I have personally wired 240 VAC lines on million dollar government labs, and I didn't see any issues with what my plumber/handyman did. As for the hot water heater install itself and whether that was illegal - you can have a look at AngiesList, and $700 to $1000 is in line with hot water heaters if you get coupons. Sure, maybe my plumber/handyman loves me and cut me a break. Or maybe he just didn't
My issue with this company:
- bait and switch on the diagnostic fee. I was told one price over the phone and was given another price when they got there. Sorry I didn't read the fine print on the emails they sent, but I know what they said over the phone. I called a bunch of people and I kept a record of what each one said. And I know that the price they quoted me didn't match the price they gave me once they got there.
- secondly, the invoice they gave me listed all these tests they supposedly did and things they said to me, which I have a hard time believing actually happened. There's no way in h*** they did all those tests for 10 minutes (I was nearby the whole time), and if they did do the tests in 10 minutes - why did they charge me $167?
- third - they gave me wrong information on the issue with my heater. They told me it was a matter of air capacity - the tiny bathroom it's in is too small. Fair enough - but the very manual I had stated small spaces are okay if you are vented, which it was. Bottom line is that I think that both technicians they sent me know nothing (probably as much as I do) about tankless hot water heaters. And yet they happily took my money.
- fourth, the pricing on the new gas hot water heater they gave me was insane. I won't dispute the labor costs involved with
The nerve of these people.
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College Park, MD
Bryans Road, MD