Nat. Gas Water Htr WITHOUT Pilot Light?

cynicJuly 2, 2008

I'm trying to find a local source for a 30-40 gallon natural gas water heater that doesn't use a pilot light. I have to replace my heater and it seems to me that it would be worth the money to go with an electronic ignition unit. Haven't done anything with water heaters in years.

A plumber quoted me a unit with a pilot light. I started looking for alternatives online. Seems like everything I see has a pilot light. I see conversion kits for $300-$500. Seems to me that if a non-pilot unit were $300-$400 more it would pay for itself easily over the life of the unit. Unless there's info I'm unaware of.

Now the problem. I'm hoping to make a decision today because I have some help to replace it, otherwise I'll have to hire it done.

Need some advice. Opinions please?

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hendricus

The pilot light will keep the water at temperature during non-use periods without the main burner coming on. Also the pilot keeps the area around the burner warm and dry so it reduces corrosion.

IMO you're savings over the life of the unit will be close to zero. Plus you will need an electrical hook-up to operate the unit.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2008 at 1:18PM
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pjb999

An interesting question as I wondered how one would deal with the pilot light question if one went to say, solar hw, understandably the cost arises, but in a situation with an alternate heat source and the tank acting as storage, it's a good question. I suppose electric would be one alternative, or on-demand with a passive storage tank would be another.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2008 at 2:06AM
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lazypup

The actual operating cost of a pilot flame is about $0.40 a month. I fail to see where there would be any significant savings.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2008 at 3:20AM
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shadow700

The actual operating cost of a pilot flame is about $0.40 a month. I fail to see where there would be any significant savings.

For units that I have seen the manufacturer's specs, pilots burn about 800 - 100 BTUs per hour. That is approximately 1 cubic foot of natural gas.

There are 720 hours in a month, which equals 7.2 CCF of gas. For our POCO, that's about $12 / mo.

Instead of looking for a standard gas hot water heater that has an electric ignition, you could look to a power vent unit. I can't speak for all models, but I have never seen one that wasn't an electric start.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2008 at 9:09AM
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hendricus

shadow700---Something isn't right here'

July '07 3CCF
Aug. '07 6CCF
Sept. '07 6CCF
Oct. '07 8CCF

This is in SW Mich. taken from the Consumers Power bill. We have a 40 gal. gas water heater with a pilot flame, only other gas appliance is the furnace. 2 person empty nester household and we vacation in the off season.

The pilot flame cannot be using 7.2 CCF per month if the water heater altogether uses less than that.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2008 at 10:36AM
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shadow700

As I said, "for units that I have seen the manufacturer's specs". I can't (and don't) speak for all units out there.

The point being if you want to know how much something will / does cost you, get the specific model number / fuel cost and ask the manufacturer directly or monitor the gas meter for an hour when only the thing you want to monitor is on and extrapolate from there.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2008 at 11:54AM
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rogerv_gw

It's nice to have hot water when the electric power is out. This doesn't happen a lot, but we sometimes have outages in the winter when a bad storm goes through (windy area near the ocean).

-Roger

    Bookmark   July 3, 2008 at 7:31PM
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cynic

lazypup, can you site some source for the 40¢/mo cost of a pilot light? Everything I see suggests 5-6 therms/mo and at $1.25/thm that's way more than 40¢. This is consistent with my use. I have two pilot lights (1 furnace and 1 water heater) plus water heating uses 16-18 thrms in the summertime. The latter sounds much more reasonable. This would mean an annual cost of nearly $100 to just burn a pilot light. I understand the theory of keeping things a bit drier and there would be some water heating value for maintenance but for my use that is not significant.

There just doesn't seem to be much info out there for pilotless heaters and I don't understand why. Dryers have been long since replaced with electronic ignition for the gas waste. There's no gas lights allowed anymore because of the waste. We really seem to be behind the times here.

And if my power goes out (in Minnesota) during the winter, I'm concerned about many other things before being able to take a hot shower!

I'll check into the powervent. Thanks to all of you for the input. Much appreciated.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2008 at 4:33PM
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zl700

Directly from Honeywell-

"A split flame pilot light with a .012 Nat gas orifice, consumes/produces 600 to 900 BTU's an hour, depending on pressures and setting."

So a pilot light burning at 700 Btu's with a gas cost of $1.30 per Therm (Therm = 100,000 BtuÂs when the BTU content of a cubic foot of nat gas is 1000) = $0.0091 per hour, $0.2184 per day, $6.55 per month (30 days), $79.72 per year to operate the pilot.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2008 at 6:50PM
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zl700

I guess being an on-demand water heater proponent myself, besides the %15-20% EF increase over tanks with standing pilot, the substantiated pilot light usage is reason alone for the nay-sayers to take a second look.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2008 at 6:57PM
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