Using Tankless Water Heaters In Cold Climates

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Subject: On demand water heater

We have this on demand unit in my place of work and if had always worked great. The last week it has been beeping a lot and we have ice cold water. It takes a long time to get hot water. Just started to be a problem the last week. Not sure what to do about it. Have you heard of similar problems and is it an easy fix?

Pathmaker Plumbing

Subject: tankless water heater facts

With all respect to Dennis, there are a few facts mixed up in his comment on tankless water heaters. The first is that no matter how long you run the faucet, the tankless unit providing heat will not fluctuate its temperature. It doesnt "heat up" over time. Whatever you set the temperature at, it will produce the moment you turn on the hot tap, unless the temperature rise is too great of demand. The question you need to ask yourself, and your installer is what is the temperature rise for the unit. That is, if the incoming water heater is at a chilly 33 degrees F, and the tankless unit only capable of a 60 degree F difference (the temperature rise) then the water heater is only going to produce 93 degree water (on its first go around).

Yes, i know many adjustments can be made to alter that in different tankless units, but the point is that temperature rise differential is the important question to ask regarding a tankless units appropriateness for a given climate, especially a cold one.

Also, if a house has hard water it can and should be both filtered, and softened to protect not only the water heater, but the piping, and fixtures as well.

Electric water heaters are not more efficient because that heat IS wasted. Its wasted every second it sits there unused, cooling down in the cold weather environment it was installed in, only to kick on again in 20 minutes to regain the temperature it just lost. You dont need to insulate a tankless water heater because it doesnt store hot water. It produces it when the hot tap is turned on, and it shuts off the minute the hot tap is closed.
If installed correctly by a technician who is familiar with them, they are not any more high maintenance than a standard tank type heater. Not many plumbers and HVAC technicians have taken the time to familiarize themselves with this efficient technology. As a result there is often a general and uninformed criticism with the new technology on the block from the older dogs that refuse to learn anything new.


Subject: tankless water heater

I wouldn't go with a tankless water heater in a cold climate area. First of all, the water would have to run quite some time before heated to a desired temperature. Secondly, if you have hard water, or sediment, your tank will clog up quite fast, causing huge maintenance expense. Tankless water heaters are high maintenance and waste water. Electric water heaters are more energy efficient because nothing is wasted, and are better insulated. Tankless are expensive all around and would never save enough to pay itself off, unless it came with the house in the first place.

Shane Johnson

Subject: Response

Sorry Dennis, I had some hopefully useful information that may be contradictary to your statement and felt obligated to share. Tankless water heaters unfortunately are getting a bad reputation and it is my experience to lead me to determine that it is because there are a combination of poor quality units/manufacturers that came on board as soon as they saw a demand in the market for these units with little to no research and development, and contractors that want to capitilze on them however do not want to invest in the appropriate education to apply and install these these units proficiently. Unfortunately this is creating vulnerability to the concept in the United States and is detouring consumers from taking advantage of this technology.

We are a plumbing contractor in the northern Chicago suburbs area dealing with water temperatures in the winter months anywhere around 40 degrees and we have excecuted many installs on a monthly basis with much success! In response to your "wait some time before heated to desired temperature", it does not matter the incoming temperature the better quality manufacturers such as Navien, Rinnai, Tekaji, etc. will not allow the water to leave the unit too far outside the designated temperature set on the thermostat and will not have influence on the time it takes to retrieve your desired temp. If applied appropriately the heater whether it has a staged burner assy. or modulated will achieve the desired temperature almost instantaneously. Furthermore, if you get a system with internal recirculation capabilities, you will not have to wait at all to achieve the desired temperature out the unit itself. Of course, outside of having an external recirculation set up there will be some wait time to get to the tap but that would be the case with any style heater.

It is a fact that hard water will play a factor in premature mechanical failures however again back to the contractor, the good manufactures have very specific water quality parameters that need to be explored when applying these units and can easily be predetermined if the water falls within the parameters or does not. It would be at that point of course up to the homeowner to decide if they feel the need to treat their water to be a qualified applicant for this technology or the contractor to suggest against it. I will state that the tankless required water parameters are very consistent with any other high end appliance that are purchased for most homes these days such as dishwashers, wash machines, ice makers, etc. and would be in the best interest and the protection of the homeowners investment to consider treating their water anyway.

In response to your high maintenance, it is indisputable that there are certainly more mechanical components in a tankless water heater than a tank style that will increase the possibilities of enduring expensive repairs. However, in the 8 years I have been installing tankless heaters, my average maintenance cost is approx. $150.00, most of which are a highly suggested $128.00 annual clean and inspect. This is a recommendation and a cost I inform all of my customers of upon considering having us furnish and install a tankless unit. To include both the companies that we are a dealer of have a 5 year parts warranty, and a 12-15 year heat exchanger warranty (which is the big cost item).

As far as being expensive all the way around, and not paying for itself... This one I hear allot and I challenge on a regular basis. Facts that sometimes go unrecgonized is tankless water heaters are expected to exceed the life expectancy of a tank style heater by 2 times. Which means you will have paid for and installed 2 tank style water heaters in the same amount of time you would have installed 1 tankless. To include, most condensing tankless units have an energy factor of between .95-.98 compared to power vented tank style units that are generally around an energy factor of .65. Which means you will also be taking advantage of some substantial gas savings on an annual basis and wont be subjected to the standby heat loss that is associated with tank style heaters. To put this statement to numbers, we charge approx. $1482.00 to install a 50 gallon power vent water heater and about $2800.00 for a 199k btu tankless water heater. As stated above, you will have installed 2 tank style heaters in the same amount of time you install 1 tankless. With that being said, you have spent $2964.00 on tank style heaters, as opposed to the $2800.00 to immediately take advantage of the tankless technology. Keep in mind, this is not taking into consideration inflation or additional adjustment that the department of energy (DOE) will most likely enforce thus-forth continuing to raise the costs of tank style heaters. In my opinion, as long as you intend to be in the house for an extended period of time, you are money ahead day one, and then you get to start embracing the cost savings these very efficient units will bring.

Please know, my intent here is to help maintain interest in this technology and gain awareness that it is important that potential buyers be more diligent about what product they choose and who they hire to perform these installs

Thank you!

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I second the original question (still unanswered). Speaking as someone who logged in today to try to find an attorney, I see this category as one that's exactly what I have my Angie's List membership for:

1. It's important that I find a good one
2. I'm not an expert enough to know myself who is a good one
3. The industry is full of advertisements and misinformation
4. I wish I knew what experiences other people have had

I don't care about lawns--I planted mine in clover and don't have to mow it. When I do need to mow I use a rotary Fiskars mower, which is great--or a scythe. That's right--a scythe (the European type, which is smaller, and it's very good exercise). Gas-powered mowers, chemical fertilizers and weed killers--all nasty stuff that gets into everyone's air, soil, and water. I'm sure my neighbor doesn't like my wildflowers, semi-wild pockets of fruit bushes, and unmown areas and yes, dandelions (I have 10 acres) but that's too bad. It's better habitat for wildlife, especially the pollinators on which our food supply depends. I think this obsession with the Great American Lawn is a waste of time and resources. Plant some food instead.

I'm not sure Angie et. al. want you to have a complete answer to this question. By re-subscribing at the Indiana State Fair in 2012, I think I paid $20.00 per year for a multi- year subscription. Maybe even less. At the other extreme--and I hope my memory isn't faulty about this--I think the price, for my area, for ONE year was an outrageous $70.00. And they debited me automatically without warning. I had to opt out of that automatic charge. I like Angie's List, but if some of the companies they monitor behaved the way they do in this respect, they'd be on some sort of Pages of Unhappiness. I'll be interested to see if this comment gets published or censored out of existence.

That's very difficult to answer without seeing the house. As one poster said, the prep is the most important part. On newer homes that don't have a lot of peeling paint, the prep can be very minimal even as low as a couple or a few hundred dollars for the prep labor.

On a 100 year old home with 12 coats of peeling paint on it, then the prep costs can be very high and can easily exceed 50% of the job's labor cost.

A 2100 sq ft two story home could easily cost $1000 just for the labor to prep for the paint job. That number could climb too. Throw in lots of caullking  or window glazing, and you could be talking a couple or a few hundred dollars more for labor.

Painting that home with one coat of paint and a different color on the trim could run roughly $1000 or more just for labor. Add a second coat  and that could cost close to another $1000 for labor.

For paint, you may need 20 gallons of paint. You can pay from $30-$70 for a gallon of good quality exterior paint. The manufacturer of the paint should be specified in any painting contract. Otherwise, the contractor could bid at a Sherwin-Williams $60 per gallon paint and then paint the house with $35 Valspar and pocket the difference. $25 dollars per gallon times 20 gallons? That's a pretty penny too.

That was the long answer to your question. The short answer is $2000 to $4000 and up, depending upon the amount of prep, the number of coats, the amount of trim, and the paint used.