Why are they selling me a power vent hot water heater?

cindywhitallJune 24, 2012

I have a regular vent hot water heater that has a metal chimney that goes from the basement and out the roof of my 2story house. I will be getting attic sealing and a new high eff furnace as part of the njcleanenergy program. The program gives rebates based on energy efficient measure you take, air sealing is mandatory. To achieve the required level,I have been told I need a new hwh. My current one has efficiency in the mid 50's range. They are suggesting either a .63 or .66 power vent, or a .98 tankless.

Do they make more efficient direct vent (like I currently have)? If so, is it true when they tell me I will need the power vent because the sealing they will be doing will make it so there is not enough draft for the normal kind? I don't think they are sealing the basement. I am trying to figure out if they are selling me the power vent because I need it, or to make more money. I like the tankless option and am considering it, but if I can gain efficiency without going power or tankless I would probably choose that.

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I used the term direct vent in my post. I though that meant plain old water heater like I have. Do they make high efficiency water heaters without power vent is what I meant. I have just read negative things about power vents being noisy and wearing out early. Sounds more like the tankless would be preferable if they are my only options above .63 efficiency.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 12:36AM
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Atmospheric vent (what you have) are limited to an energy factor of about .55 and there's nothing really that can change that.

Condensing tankless is a good option if it's installed properly - and will achieve an energy factor of .95 or so.

The cost of a powervent heater is about the same as the cost of a tankless.

I was faced with the choice of powervent vs tankless and I'm glad that I went tankless.

Congrats on your energy efficiency measures. I've cut my energy bills to less than half by insulating and adding energy efficient furnace, water heater and other appliances as they have worn out.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 8:41AM
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They are really overcharging me. My neighbor is a plumber. He paid 1700 he said for a navien. He put it in himself. They want 3700! I get that there might be more parts...but that is 10 hours at 200/hr!

Don't know how to tell them they are ripping me off with that quote. I wonder if I should ask them to break it down into parts and labor.what is a reasonable mark up on 1700? 500? Then 1000 labor I've heard... Which is still a lot.

That jacked up price is holding me back.

Do I NEED power vent or tankless if my house is sealed to the max per BPI guidelines? That's what I was told. I would save it for later if I don't have to do it now for safety reasons .

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 8:50AM
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We don't know the particulars of your installation:

-Do they need to re-run gas line? (tankless needs 3/4")

-Do they need to do extensive flue work - for example through the roof? They can install this through the side wall of the house. They can't use the existing flue - they must install pvc pipe.

-Are they moving the heater?

-Do they have a new boat to pay off?

I would go over it with them and ask why it's so expensive. The new heater itself is ~$1200-1700, depending on model.
If you don't get a satisfactory answer, get a different quote.
I think there's a lot of price gouging on tankless still.

FYI: many of the things that you would have to do for a tankless installation (electrical outlet, PVC vent) you would have to do for a power vent heater. The only big difference is potentially not having to run 3/4" gas line for the power vent.

There is another option - a heat pump (hybrid) electric unit.

I would go with the tankless if you can get the price down.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 9:54AM
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And you will be limited to a single tank of hot water when the power goes out.

And with a tankless possibly NO hot water.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 4:06PM
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Since hardly anybody in the neighborhood will have one I will take my chances on the power failure....I can get some if I HAVE to, or heat it on my gas grill.

Can they be hooked to any kind of small generator in an emergency or are they only hard-wired in?

My neighbor, who did his own, has the same type of house as me (different model, but same builder etc) so I don't think it's complicated. It is in the corner of the basement, not far from the gas inlet to the house. Not too far of a run to vent it. Another neighbor, who fancies himself a handy guy did his own too. I was surprised! The one I mainly discussed it with is a plumber. Point is that they are charging $2000 for markup on the part and installation. Plumber neighbor paid 1600-1700 for his (same model and size)

I just feel awkward opening up the conversation of how much of it is pure profit on the part and how much is labor, and how much labor is tooo much..

I'm leaning towards telling them i will hire them to do the job if they will do it as quoted, but for "x" dollars instead..

I did do more reading and tightly sealed houses do have to be concerned with air quality, and indoor air pollution, CO problems etc, that is why power vent is suggested. (or tankless)

    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 2:12PM
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To answer your question, the reason goes like this:

Any gas burning water heater requires air for the combustion process. In the past, houses were very leaky and combustion air was easily available. Now you are paying to seal up the leaks and the combustion air will be blocked. This has several bad consequences which I will not go into unless you want to hear it.

The power vent water heater has a dedicated duct to supply the combustion air and that is why it was recommended to you.

Tankless water heaters also have a air duct to supply combustion air.

No one here seems to have pointed out that many installations of Tankless water heaters require an annual maintenance (descaling). This depends on your water quality and hardness.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 11:44PM
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