5 Reasons Not to Buy a Tankless Water Heater Now

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Paul A

Subject: Electrical upgrades

I think Scott (commenter above) is confused or uninformed about the electrical requirements of whole-house electric tankless water heaters. A point-of-service unit can be simply plugged in to an outlet, but one providing all hot water to the house could require three 40amp double-breakers (240v) and three lines of heavy-gauge cable from box to heater (e.g., Ecosmart 27). That could mean a new panel would be needed, also.

Lincoln Caplin

Subject: tankless water heaters are awesome

The initial cost and installation is more expensive but they will save you up to $500 a year in energy savings. Definitely have a licensed plumber install it. Must have a 3/4 inch gas line feeding and has to be first branch off main gas line. Also has to be vented properly to outside. Easy to maintain as long as proper valve kit is installed for flushing system. Electrical is a normal 110 outlet. Never run out of hot water and save money in the long run!!!

Greg

Subject: Agreed 100%

We are definitely saving $500 a year with ours.

We have a family of 4 and replaced two hot water tanks with a tankless system. Our motivation wasn't cost savings but home damage avoidance. Many homes in our NC neighborhood have the tanks in the walk up attic. After the houses got to about 10-15 years old, many of the tanks failed and the overflow drain provided very little protection. These failures caused major damage, and report after report from our neighbors came in of this happening.

Since neither our garage nor crawlspace could accommodate a gas tank, to avoid this risk we replaced our tanks with a tankless unit. The compact size fits perfectly in our crawlspace.

After 10 months, we've saved $471 on our gas bill. While it's true usage can fluctuate, our bill has been lower every month since installation.

I just checked our gas bill and after 10 months we've saved $471.

Scott Stantial

Subject: Yes the initial cost is

Yes the initial cost is greater that is true. Most are electric fired and do not have a pilot light, so that statement is for the minority. A person living alone can still see a big savings because there isnt a huge amount of water being kept hot all the time waiting to be used. A tankless water heater is descaled very easy and simple to do by the homeowner -- a tank style water heater needs to be drained and descaled just as often for proper maintenance! There are no "electrical upgrades" aside of having a regular outlet nearby to plug it in! I am guessing that the author has never owned a tankless hot water heater and was fed all this info from a bad source. They are much more efficient, do not run out of hot water, and take up a fraction of the space. The negative point I will point out is what is called the "coldwater sandwich effect" which occurs when hot water is turned off, the heater stops burning and has to let a small amount of water thru to cool the element. When the next call for hot water occurs, that small blast of cool or cold water will travel and reach the endpoint creating a short blast of cold water for each time the hot water is shut off then back on. I installed a 1 gallon tank inline of the sink which buffers out the temporary drop in temp.

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You have to put your self in the shoes of a business that is in business to turn a profit of some sort. All businesses have different overhead which in turn decides what their bottom line would be on their services. I personally would not go with an unlicensed professional for this type of install. You are messing with gas, venting issues, electrical wiring{electric water heater} and updated code issues such as a drain pan and tempature and relief drain lines for heaters that currently do not have them. I do agree that there are some companies that are way out of line for their installs but most of these companies are the really big companies that have very high overheads  I would assume. Tank type water heaters have changed over the last several years and with these safety changes come bigger prices. The price of steel thanks to China is skyrocketing and tank type water heaters are made of steel. Most wholesale plumbing supply companies cannot match what the big box stores are selling at retail to consumers. I happen to think from research that heaters such as Rheem, Bradford White and AOSmith who have been in business forever make a better product than what you can buy in the big box outlets. You also have to take in consideration the location of the water heater that is being replaced. Is it in the house, basement, garage or attic. Most 40 and 50 gallon water heaters that are purchased in a plumbing wholesale store in Texas cost between 300-340 for a 6 year warranty heater with 6 year on parts and tank. Speaking of warranty. Most big box companies will take a least 24 hours to a week to get your warranty problem taken care of. Most reputable plumbing companies will give same day service if they installed the heater.

So lets break down a typical install at cost to a licensed plumber in Texas

Heater: $315, water shut off $6.50, water flex lines or unions to code $20, gas flex line and cut off to code $12, misc fittings $15, Total $368.50 Lets add a 35% profit which is some what low  for a business $129, Total 497.50

This doesnt  include permits, pan and drain or any venting issues. The vent must go from the heater to the outside of roof using double wall vent.

Cost of permit on average $60

Most plumbing companies allow for 3 hours of time for a water heater. This includes picking the new one up. Delivering out to house. Draining and removing old water heater. Hauling off old heater. Installing new heater up to code. Going down to city and pulling permit.

Average Labor charges for heater installs $400

That would make this install run without extras on any code issues $957.50

I just had a 50 gallon gas water heater installed in my house for $1200 but I needed a pan installed. I used a licensed plumber.

 

 

 

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I've seen and heard mixed reviews.  They aren't really popular here due to our super hard water which clogs and rots everything it sits in.  A company I used to work for tried electric units about 10 years ago in several homes but had to replace many of them within a few years because the build-up from the hard water hindered their productivity to little more than enough supply to run a sink.  I've heard better success with gas units since there are no electric elements to burn out and gas can get hotter, faster to get through the deposits on the tubing walls inside the unit.

 

Standard electric water heater usually take a 30 amp circuit so they are often wired with 10 guage wire.  Electric on-demand units large enough to service an entire house usually take 50 amps (or more) from what I've researched in the past.  That means they need a 50 amp breaker and will be wired with 6 guage wire.  By the time you factor in the initial cost of buying the much more expensive on-demand unit and rewiring for it I'm not sure you'll save money in the long run. 

 

A better and cheaper option would be to put a timer on your standard water heater so it only kicks on during typical demand times.  They have override switches so you can turn it to cycle normally when you are off of work or need it during the day/night if not during the preset times.  A cheaper point of use water heater at the kitchen sink will ensure you have hot water there even when the main heater is off.  This is usually the point that requires hot water the most frequently.  Remember that your water heater will hold hot water for over an hour once it has cycled off.  Take advantage of that.

 

Todd Shell

Todd's Home Services

San Antonio, TX

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Depends a lot on your configuration - he may have been including direct outside venting because your existing heater/furnace duct was not large enough to handle the added load, and may have figured running larger piping to the jetted tub and maybe upsizing the valve and flex tubing at the gas line. This all assumes you have adequate access and installation space for the larger tank - they tend to be fatter rather than much taller.

I would talk to several plumbers - if you get quotes from 3 or more, it should become obvious right off if one is high-balling you. Of course, do not tell the others what the other's bids were.

The water heater itself will cost about $1000-2000 for that size - about double a 50 gallon, which usually costs about $800-1500 installed (replacing an existing plumbed-in one). The larger heater may take a bit of beefing up of the support platform for the added weight, but assuming you have adequate headroom, installation cost using existing ductwork and piping would not be any more than for a 50 gallon, so say $2000-3500 range installed. The $4500-6000 definitely sounds high if it assumed using existing hookups.

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There could be. Different municipalities have different rules (codes). However, I have never heard of a plumber being the code enforcement guy. I have never heard of a plumber being able to collect a fine from a homeowner. It may cost you $150 to bring it up to code, but that should be included in the repair cost. You would need to check with your city (usually Department of Code Enforcement or Plumbing Commission). If he put it in writing, you need to send them a copy.