new construction - water heater help!

mommytocMay 21, 2013

We're working on plans for a new home (hoping to break ground this Fall), and need help with our water heater "plan". Our builder has gotten one (plumbing) bid so far, which included 1-50 gallon hot water heater, and an optional recirculating line.

We have this set-up currently (without recirculating line), and don't find it meets our needs. (We "lose" the hot water in our master shower if water is running anywhere else in the house.) We're a family of 4, with 2 daughters ages 4 and 7 - so will definitely be needing more hot water as the years go by :).

Our new home will be a 3200 s.f. ranch, with master bath, girl's bath, and powder room on 1 end, and kitchen, laundry and a second powder room on the other. (For reference, current home is a 2600 s.f. ranch, with centrally-located kitchen and laundry, master bath on 1 end, and girl's bath/powder room on the other.) Both new and current homes will have a basement (guest) bath, with infrequent use. Both will also have master bathtubs with infrequent use (albeit higher in the new home, as we've selected a smaller soaking tub), and two showerheads in the master shower, with 1 used 90+% of the time.

We would be interested in a tankless system, and would love any insight into how well it might work for us (we live in central WI, and have (cold) hard well water, which we soften). If we went this route, would it be best to have two tankless units at opposite ends of the house? Or would 1 tankless unit with a recirculating line suffice? Alternatively, what "tank" setup would you recommend?

Thank you in advance for your help! We'll obviously be seeking additonal plumbing advice and bids, but would appreciate any and all help you can provide!

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SnidelyWhiplash

You haven't said whether the heaters are gas or electric - that matters for recovery time. BUT

A standard 50 gallon tank is probably too small for 4 showers unless the showers are quick and you have very low flow shower heads. Although, this could work if you got one of the gas units that features a high recovery rate.

Planning-wise, it might pay to get a larger or higher performance heater for the bathroom end of the house, and a smaller one to serve the kitchen and laundry

A tankless unit would be a solution, if it would be compatible with the hard water you have.

I'm just an "experienced" homeowner, not a builder or plumber, so consider the sources of the advice you get. Good luck.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 12:26PM
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mommytoc

Snidely,

Thank you for your response!

Our current water heater is gas, and we'll have gas in our new home as well.

Assuming we don't "go tankless", I've been pondering the same, a larger &/or high-performance heater at the bedroom end of our new home, and a smaller heater at the kitchen/laundry end. Would you, or anyone else, have suggestions for sizes/models?

Tankless definitely has appeal (albeit less so if we'd need 2 units), but I do worry about our water quality, and about hot water output, especially in the winter months. (It looks like the "average" (annual) groundwater temperature in our county is 48 degrees.)

Thanks again...mommytoC

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 2:26PM
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SnidelyWhiplash

You know the household patterns. Could it happen a few years from now that 4 not short showers get taken within a 30 minute interval, like in the morning? If there's a lot of all at once, I'd get a 60 and a 40 and send one of the kids on the adventure to shower downstairs (with a shower connected to the smaller water heater).

If not, maybe one 75 would be enough? So long as you don't fill a top loading washing machine on a hot cycle until showers are over!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 6:53PM
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mommytoc

"Could it happen a few years from now that 4 not short showers get taken within a 30 minute interval, like in the morning?"

Yes, this is our future, I'm afraid...with 2 short showers (Mom & Dad), and 2 not short showers (girls), despite Dad bellowing that they're filling our holding tanks :).

I'll have more questions for you, but I think I need to do "my homework", i.e. search the forum, first. In the meantime, I'd appreciate any additional advice...on how to ensure that I get a hot shower (after DH), with two (future) teenage girls in the house!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 11:54PM
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SnidelyWhiplash

The more I've thought about it, the more I think I would go with one 75 with a high-ish btu burner to allow a higher output recovery. I'd try to located it centrally (if possible) to serve both ends adequately without a recirc pump. It should be more than adequate.

I know some people who've been unhappy with hot water loops. What kind of issues - noise from the running water as well as leaks from the wear and tear of the repeated circulation of hot water through the system. Maybe your experience or that in your area is different.

Nothing works better to end a too-long shower than cold water. If Mom and Dad get in first, the kids will learn how to share and be happy with what's left.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 2:02PM
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