Tankless Water Heaters !!! Ok where do I start.

So often i am invited into a home to give estimates on water heater replacement or to give my 2 cents on tankless water heaters to a customer sitting on the fence about wether to invest in one or not. I may be biased but growing up in England we had so many tankless water heaters (called combi boilers) back home that i really do love them ! They save space, they do not run out of hot water, they do not store water the list goes on and on so let me emphasize on some of these points.

In my home i have a Noritz NRCP1112 which is a big model tankless unit that can provide 11.2 gallons per minute of hot water in the home at any 1 time, a shower being an average of 2.5 gallons per minute. I have a 3 bathroom home so i can comfortably run all 3 showers at once when I’m getting ready for work at the same time my 2 children are getting ready for school. Believe me that saves a lot of fighting in my home !!!

The space i saved when i removed my standard 50 gallon tank is huge. I removed the pedestal the heater once sat on and freed up space under my new tankless for storage and we all know how much we need to store in our garages ! Every little extra space we can generate goes a very long way.

Then their is the efficiency of the units. They are only using gas when water inside the home is running. The water enters the unit cold and leaves at the desired temperature that you have the unit set at. Once all showers etc are finished, the tankless shuts down and goes completely dormant until the next time you need it ! They have a flow sensor inside them that sense when water is running, in turn igniting a flame and heating the water that is running through the heat exchanger. I also love that they do not store any water inside as no matter if the water is on or off to a tank type heater, if it leaks its going to leak at least the amount it is storing which does a lot of damage in most cases.

 

I hear all to often that people have done research on them and they have bad reviews like.

My tankless doesn’t get hot enough.

my tankless goes hot and cold during showers.

my tankless makes a lot of noise.

 

Every time i have encountered these problems, they have been due to install error.

Depending on the brand and the size of the tankless water heater they require a different install method! For instance the model i have and where it is installed in conjunction to where my gas meter is situated i needed a designated 3/4″ gas line to feed the unit its gas supply. If that was undersized to a 1/2″ line it would feel like warm at times and would definitely fluctuate in temperature as more fixtures were to be run. What I’m trying to say is so many plumbers become incompetent and do not check the requirements of the tankless during the install. It’s sad that it gives the tankless a bad name as the bad name really should be given to the lackluster plumber that installed said tankless.

Another brand I’m falling in love with is the Navien brand. They can come with a built in recirculating pump that is compatible with the thermostatic tee that comes with a comfort system pump, meaning you can recirculate the water in your hot water system even without a designated recirculating line and better yet, it does it by just priming the lines with 120 degree water and once it drops below a certain temperature it kicks the pump on and primes the line again meaning it can do this without compromising efficiency too much !

All tankless water heaters pair brilliantly with soft water systems also and most manufacturers give a 12 year warranty on the heat exchanger if you have treated water running through them. Most people forget to mention this but soft water can decrease the life of a tank type water heater. Due to the brine water wearing down the anode rod inside them prematurely. An anode rod is a sacrificial rod made out of a softer metal (sometimes zinc) which is put inside the tank and designed so impurities in the water will attack that rod and wear it down before the tank. They last on average a couple years and really should be replaced every 2-3 years to increase the lifespan of your heater and the integrity of your tank. These rods cost anywhere from $120 to $250 to replace. Every 3 years that’s not so bad but i have seen anode rods in systems with soft water wear down after 6 months leaving the tank exposed and at risk of damage as nobody is going to replace the anode rod every 6 months. It just wouldn’t be cost effective. Tankless water heater do not have anode rods as they do not have a holding tank meaning they pair very well with soft water.

Now, i can not say as many good things about electric tankless water heaters. They are great for space saving but in my opinion they are still not optimized very well. Ive seen pressure drop a lot after install and nobody wants a weak shower pressure! Also in order to power an electric tankless, you need to have additional electrical work done. The power to run a standard electric water heater tank is not enough to power a tankless. One i installed recently needed an electrician to run 3 50 amp breakers worth of power to the tankless all the way from the electrical panel. That itself is a very expensive job, before any work is performed on the tankless water heater.

What i recommend when it comes to looking for an efficient option when you are restricted to electric only and do not have access to gas is the hybrid water heaters! They are excellent. They normally come with an upgraded 10 year manufacture warranty instead of a 6 year which is huge. Also there is the annual cost! A standard 50 gallon electric water heater runs an average of $555.00 a year in energy costs. That is not factoring in the scale inside the unit. If you have bad water quality, a 1/4″ of scale on an element inside your heater can reduce efficiency by 40 % ! In Phoenix, Arizona i rarely find a water heater with less than a 1/4″ of scale!

The hybrid water heaters on the other hand has a yearly energy cost of $160 to $180 that is a massive difference. Up to $400 a year less, over the span of the 10 year manufacture warranty that’s a potential savings of $4000.00. The hybrid units themselves do cost more than a standard heater and do require a little more on the install side but even after all of that you will a save a lot of money. They work by having a separate smaller unit on top of the reservoir tank that generates a warm air to heat the water and exhaling a cooler air sometimes cooling down its surroundings if put in a closet etc. it works like a reverse air conditioning unit that you would find outside. If you hold your hand above the fans on the A/C units the air extracted is hot but if you was to feel the air released by a hybrid water heater its very cool. They also come very customizable and have different settings for your needs. You can set them on full efficiency setting for lower usage meaning it just uses the air to heat but you can also set them to hybrid meaning it will use the unit on top generating the air but if its struggling to keep up with demand it will kick on its back up elements and sacrifice some of its efficiency for a quicker recovery time. It has a few other modes, one being the vacation mode for when you are on your travels, just keeping it hot enough to decrease the risk of any water born bacteria growing inside your tank.