Tankless water heater. Home Depot vs plumber

msroseApril 27, 2014

A plumber gave me an estimate of $4,500 to install a Rheem tankless gas water heater. The most expensive Rheem on the Home Depot website is $1.499. I haven't talked to Home Depot about having it installed yet, but do you think they would be cheaper overall? Do you think a plumber would carry a better unit than Home Depot? I don't want to spend more than I need to, but I also don't want to go the cheaper route just to find out I should have paid more and gotten a better quality.

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If this is a simple installation your plumber is gouging. It should be around $3000. Look on tankless manuf web site and get a guy who is experienced with that brand, has attended factory trainings, etc. oh, and find another plumber.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 12:21PM
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You're being ripped off. If the the water lines and the gas lines already run to that location, all it requires is a little additional piping, some standard parts, and a pair of hot and cold water isolation valves (about $80 on Amazon), plus the cost of the water heater. Add that to the cost of several hours of labor and you should be well short of $4500. Time to get more bids, including Home Depot. Paying considerably less for an install than your plumber wants does not mean you will get a low quality result.

Also, if you buy the water heater yourself rather than let the plumber sell it to you as part of his bill, it'll be cheaper overall. As far as quality, plumbers don't have access to higher quality name brands that you can't get yourself. I suggest you investigate reviews for tankless water heaters on Amazon: some name brands have spotty track records for some of their models, and some lesser known brands have consistently high reviews.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 1:13PM
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We bought our tankless and had a vendor (in RE) install for $1200 Of course he knows he is getting a lot of business, but he had to move the lines for an exterior mount.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 1:19PM
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Thank you! I will certainly talk to HD and Lowes about installation prices.

Jackfre - You're saying I can go to the Rheem website and they will give me a list of plumbers that install their brand?

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 3:48PM
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I typed in Rheem.com and clicked on "Homeowners" and then clicked on "Find Local Contractors."

Took 30 seconds.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 4:18PM
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saltidawg - Thanks! I found it. One of the plumbers I found through the Rheem website has a price of $3495 for a Rheem. Is that still high or about average?

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 4:48PM
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I'm hesitant to say he's ripping you off without knowing the specifics (does it require significant gas line changes, are you relocating it, difficult venting?)

However if it's a straightforward replacement, yes it sounds high and you should get multiple bids.

Here's a tip, get the condensing type (92 % or better) rather than the 82%. The reason is that you vent the condensing units with inexpensive plastic pipe vs expensive stainless steel for the 82%. Although the condensing are more expensive for the unit itself, the cheaper venting lowers the installed cost.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 4:52PM
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It's not being relocated. I have a tank-type in my attic currently, which makes me nervous, so I want to switch it to a tankless.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 5:58PM
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Unless you do a little independent research, you are going to be at the mercy of the plumbers. I just took a quick look at Amazon and searched for the largest Rheem tankless gas water heater they have available. A unit that provides 9.5 gallons per minute -- a huge amount of hot water -- was under $1200. Since this does not involve a relocation, I can't begin to understand how several thousand dollars for the install would be reasonable. By all means, get a bid from Home Depot. They exercise control over the contractors they work with and -- even if you don't go with Home Depot -- it will give you a good idea of what a reasonable installed price is.

Then get back to us...I'd love to hear what your final cost is.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 6:10PM
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I checked the HD website and they're most expensive Rheem is $1,500. Unfortunately they don't have the one from Amazon for me to compare prices. I'll definitely let you know what I find out.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 6:34PM
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A tankless unit can easily have a BTU max that's 4 X or more greater than the tank unit it's replacing. The nat gas pipe may need to be changed to a bigger size. Depending upon the location of the gas meter and other gas appliances in the house, the larger pipe size that's required could run the length of the house and require reconnection of existing gas appliances to the larger diameter main trunk.

Also, I think the better installs include piping and valves around the unit to allow easy "maintenance". It's not a simple cold to cold connection and hot to hot.

I've never heard anyone give rave reviews to contractors who "work with" the likes of Costco, Lowes or Home Depot. In your shoes, I'd do some more calling to find another plumber. Sometimes Yelp ratings can be helpful, sometimes not. Are recommendations available from friends or neighbors?

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 6:49PM
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Instead of starting out with price I would recommend starting out with asking how many full house tankless heaters the plumber has installed, and can you have the names of at least 3 satisfied customers.

I have looked into switching to tankless gas, and the total process can be complicated. Its not really that hard, but some plumbers don't take the time to read the directions, and you don't want them to learn about tankless at your expense.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 8:47PM
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I had a guy at Home Depot tell me I couldn't put an electric tankless water heater in my house if I had electric heat, Don't know if that is true or not.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 9:06PM
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This post was edited by Kippy-the-Hippy on Sun, Apr 27, 14 at 21:34

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 9:33PM
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Electric tankless water heaters require a lot of juice. Electric heat also requires a lot of juice. So the issue of whether the Home Depot guy was right depends entirely on how large your electric service panel is...that is, is it big enough to handle both the water heater and the electric heat if they are both on at the same time, as well as whatever else is running in your house at the time? I don't have electric heat and just had a small, electric water heater put in for a bathroom: it draws 75 amps and the size of the panel recommended was a minimum of 150 amps. A whole-house electric tankless water heater could easily draw over 100 amps and require a minimum 200 amp panel. There is no way to know whether you could install one unless you do a load calculation specific to your situation.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 1:09AM
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As Kudzu9 advises, electric tankless and electric space heating surely can co-exist depending on the capabilities of the household electric service. Retrofitting an electric tankless to an existing tank and/or to an older house can be a problem if the electric service isn't capable, whether or not electric space heating is involved.

My whole-house tankless draws 120 amps at maximum output (which doesn't happen very often but the circuit must deliver it when required). My house has 200 amp incoming service, with electric space heating (heat pump + backup strip heating).

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 6:56AM
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You really should have started a new thread.

That said, you want to think long and hard about an electric tankless heater. They can be appropriate for Point of Use (one sink, for example) but they are never the right answer for whole house water heating. The efficiency gains over an electric tank water heater are just 2-3% which can't justify the cost of going to a much larger electrical service.

If you don't have gas available to you, consider a heat pump water heater. They are particularly appropriate in warm weather climates.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 8:38AM
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I went to HD yesterday and they had a Rheem tankless water heather with a sign on it that said something like "Get this for $3,495". I asked the guy if there's any way it would be cheaper than that price and he said "no" and it would probably be more if they had to make any changes to make my house ready for it. He said it usually cost around $5,000. I'm going to call at least one more plumber and see what they say.

My water heater is in the attic, which is why I'm thinking about switching to tankless. The guy at HD said I could add a shut off valve to a tank type water heater and then I wouldn't have to worry about a leak. Would that really solve my problem? The thought of having a tank full of water in the attic that could cause major damage if it leaks still makes me nervous. Is it worth spend several thousand to replace it or is it a nonrational fear?

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 8:24AM
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Adding a shutoff valve might stop a leak only after you walk into the house and find yourself ankle deep in hot water. Tank or tankless heaters can leak. Best to install a drain pan under either type of heater wherever it is located.

I had a water heater in my attic, the rest of the story involves a shopvac and lots of money.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 12:16PM
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Re: "Get this for $3,495".

Really?!? do you get a $2,000 rebate then?

The 199,000 BTU/H indoor condensing direct vent is $1,200 + $60 for a vent kit + $80 for service valve kit

Granted, you might need some SST or black pipe and fittings if you need to re-run the gas line... but let's get real folks, this should be a straight forward install.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 1:40PM
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I'm all for tankless water heaters...I have one. However, with an attic install you also need to consider whether the pipes to/from it can freeze and burst in the winter since there is not a big tank full of hot water sitting there to provide any warmth to the pipes.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 3:09PM
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weed_cutter - Are you saying shutoff valves don't work? I'm afraid to just count on the drip pan, because I've heard stories of the tank springing a leak higher up and not dripping in the pan.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 6:24PM
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All water heaters have an insulation blanket and a metal outside. If the tank itself LEAKS it will be contained and go to the drip pan as long as it's not large enough of a leak to overflow the pan.

I think what you are concerned about is a catastrophic tank failure, not a leak. As in the tank splits and dumps 40 gal + 12 GPM all over the house.

I'm a big fan of tankless when they can be installed reasonably (and $3,500 isn't at all reasonable). Combine that with a drip pan and an automatic shutoff and you would be good to go.

Alternately, you can do a drip pan with an automatic shutoff valve (put the sensor in the pan) on a standard water heater and simply replace the water heater every 12-15 years if it needs it or not.

Marathon also makes fiberglass tank heaters (electric resistance only, not gas) that would eliminate the possibility of corrosion - the major source of catastrophic tank failure.

To be fair, usually catastrophic tank failure happens when heaters are neglected and are significantly past their useful life span. The 20+ year old heater that never gets a second thought is usually the culprit.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 8:14PM
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Manual shutoff valves work to shut off the water...when you are there to turn the handle. They don't magically shut off if something springs a leak. A tankless water heater has no tank to leak. However, it has a cold water pipe that runs to it, piping as part of its internals, and a pipe that carries heated water out. If there is a leak that develops in any of this piping you'll have water released, just like any other appliance that has water piped to it under pressure. A hot water tank generally leaks when it rusts through after a number of years because it's typically made of coated steel, whereas a tankless water heater typically has innards of copper and is less likely to corrode away. All a shutoff valve will do for you is to let you stop further water leakage after you notice a leak.

This post was edited by kudzu9 on Sat, May 3, 14 at 20:24

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 8:22PM
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I'm assuming Msrose is talking about an automatic shutoff such as the one below

Here is a link that might be useful: Automatic shutoff valve

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 9:01PM
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You may be right. I just made an assumption based on the fact that it was advice from Home Depot.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 12:57AM
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Yes, it was the automatic shutoff valve I was referring too.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 8:46AM
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See my response a couple back - I think that's probably the best answer for you.

Anytime you have plumbing in the attic you have some risk, albeit very small, that you could have a leak.

Putting an automatic shutoff valve, along with a drip pan (required by code) will give you some peace of mind. Maintaining your water heater - including replacing it at the end of its lifespan will reduce the likelihood of a problem to very near zero.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 8:56AM
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jake - Thank you so much for the advice. I'm still wondering why I'm getting such high estimates. Do you think my area has anything to do with it? I'm in Texas.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 6:50PM
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If they have to do significant gas line work it can increase the cost of the install. But I think that you were getting $3,500 as the cost of the heater and base install, meaning that it was more than $2000 for the installation... that's just crazy.

For grins and giggles, let's just say it's another $200 in parts. That leaves 18 hours worth of work at $100 an hour.

uhhh, no. I don't think so.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 9:26PM
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Dont expect to get an electric tankless water heater without upgrading your main service amps.

If your changing from a tank to tankless there is alot of work to do. Moving water lines, moving gas lines (possibly upgrading gas line size too) and running a new intake/exhaust if using gas, upgrading the main service amps if using electric.

This is an older thread but I personally like my tank heater. It costs less, is easier to maintain, and I dont feel I will save any money for the cost of a tankless compared to a tank. Yea they are more efficient but waaay more expensive, it would take too long to recover the money spent on it via energy savings. Also you need to try to clean those tankless heaters out every year with a descaler so they stay working efficiently. Tank water heaters are much easier to flush out every year. There is also no guarantee the tankless will last longer than a tank version, the heat exchanger can go bad and that is the most expensive part of the tankless.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2015 at 5:31PM
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