Tankless Hot Water Heaters

kathy81054October 1, 2006

Does anyone have a tankless hot water heater? I would love to hear how much you save on your electric bill. I have been hearing it could be close to 30%, which sounds phenominal to me. In theory it sounds like a great idea, especially now that its only my husband and myself. Please let me know how you like it and if its worth the savings you see. Thanks

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I'd like to hear more about peoples experience with tankless hot water heaters. I've been thinking about going to a tankless heater. Not so much about the utility bill savings, but the cost of installing them and if the installation got complicated. Did you have to rip out a lot of walls and pipes? What about the chimney? I have a gas water heater right now vented up the old chimney.

A new high efficency furnace was installed years ago and is now vented out the side of the house rather than up the chimney as the original furnace was. The only thing the chimney is used for right now is the gas water heater.

Would I have to hire someone to rip the chimney out? Or can it just be sealed or boarded up?

Another question, does the tankless fixture need to be installed right near the appliances? Right now my laundry room is right below the kitchen so everything is in one area, but the bathroom is on the other side of the house. Do I have to buy two different units?

Sales clerks are only knowledgable about the product they sell and can't give any tips about the practical aspects of the installation. I don't want to have a contractor come out for an estimate without knowing what I am going to be up against.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 12:07AM
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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana

There is a thread on the plumbing forum...a thread that just won't die, that has been around since Jan 06, with 114 replies so far.

My own conclusion is that in theory, they sound great.

I now think they are very expensive to install.
Parts may not be readily available once they break down. Parts for 'regular' heaters are pretty well available at the big box stores (I think) or plumbers have them on hand.

I particularly did not like the wait time for the water to heat and arrive at the faucet. I think that translates to a lot of unheated water being wasted, and there being the cost of the water 'and' sewer, if they are 2 separate bills. I think it would take a very long time to recoup the additional money spent up front for the unit itself and installation.

After reading the thread, Id be curious to know what you think as well.


Here is a link that might be useful: Tankless water heaters thread at Plumbing

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 8:25AM
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Thanks for the link! I didn't know there was a plumbing forum. How did I miss that?! Duh.

I didn't have to read all 114 threads. I made up my mind after reading the first five, and after twenty, I am convinced. No way.

This is what I was worried about - installation and maintenance. The sales guys keep pushing these things emphasizing the utility bill savings, but I knew if these things were all that great everybody would be running out to buy one. There had to be a catch. They wouldn't go into detail about installation and knew nothing about maintenance and breakdowns or else they weren't telling.

I'll get another gas heated tank.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 8:27PM
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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana

You're welcome.

Have you seen the list of all of the Home Forums? I think there is a board for about every question I have about anything. If there doesn't happen to be an appropriate board, I'll often ak at The Kitchen Table. Someone there always is in the know about whatever I'm asking.

Sometime when you have some time, go read all 114 posts...it is quite entertaining. Some of those guys are really passionate about what they believe to be the best.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 10:45PM
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The ones that I've seen are a small tube sort of like a tank, a foot and a half or so high and about a foot across, installed just under the hot water tap at a lavatory.

One would need one for each outlet, I think (or maybe one would serve two or three systems, e.g. in the kitchen, bathroom. But if the appliances served were very far apart, depending on the length of piping between them, there would be cold water loss until heated water arrived. Which would be less, of course, than one would suffer from a distant one-location water heater.

I think that one would be more than half of the cost of a water heater.

But then - many of us rent a water heater, rather than buying ... usually costs more in the end, I think - sort of like the phones that we rented from the phone company, years ago, that lasted for many years (but I think would have cost more in the first place than the cheapie phones do, now).

I see that you've received enough info that you've pretty well made your decision.

Hope you are happy with it over the long term - and it only gets you in hot water in the way that suits you.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   October 6, 2006 at 3:37PM
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Hot water costs money. The cheapest may be solar.

Innovation and market choices are there for the taking. Something for everyone.

Investigate. Compare. Make a selection appropriate for your individual situation.

Opinions and facts are useful. No need to bash/flame others who choose a different solution.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2006 at 5:28PM
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Nobody was flaming or bashing anyone.

It looks like a nice little set up that you have there. Nice and compact. Could you share your experience with tankless?

The original poster was interested in utility bill savings and I was also interested in the cost of installing and maintaining one. Yours looks like it was installed as part of a new construction and not a remodel or replacement.

Any tibits on real experience using one would be helpful to a lot of people. I, for one, do not care to rely soley on the info the sales guy gives.

No one is going to bash or flame anyone for talking about their tankless water heater. We're all nice people.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2006 at 8:02PM
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There is a lot of flaming and bashing in the old thread linked by chemocurl. Seems to be standard procedure when tankless questions are asked.

Yes, my tankless was installed as part of a new construction finished in mid-2004. I bought the house in January 2005. I did not choose tankless, it was already in the house. I have no idea how much it affected construction costs. Honestly, I was leery of it. Turns out the tankless works perfectly fine. The closest usage point is the washing machine and heated water reaches it in about 30 seconds, a bit longer to reach full temperature. Other usage points take longer according to the distance involved. My house is an L-shape, with the master bath at the long end and guest bath at the short end, the kitchen is a little off-center toward the guest side, and utility/tankless a little further toward the guest side. The distance to the master bath is quite long, and it takes several minutes for heated water to arrive.

The distance issue is not directly related to the tankless. It's a "flaw" in the plumbing design and still would be an issue if the one water heater in the house was a traditional tank unit. A possible solution is adding a retrofit circulation pump, which I've considered one suited for tankless situations, but it's only a matter of convenience for quicker access to hot water, which is no big deal to me.

Temperature stability is fine, I don't have the variations about which I've heard others complain. I think electric tankless is better than gas for temperature stability in use.

I like that I can adjust the temperature to exactly what I need for the task at hand, so I'm not overheating the water and using excess energy. I don't often use it, but I can fill my jacuzzi tub and not have a drained tank that must recover if another heated water task needs to run immediately (or concurrently). I like that hot water does not exist until I need it. I don't have to pay "up front" for 50 gallons of water heated to 120°F or 130°F if I need only 15 gallons of 102°F water for a shower ... but I can get 140°F any time I want it for zapping a load of white clothes.

Another thought for people who have youngsters (or elderly) in the household -- being as tankless produces an endless supply of water at "task temperature" and doesn't have to be set higher to insure sufficient capacity as does a tank heater ... the temperature can be dialed-down to prevent risk of scalding.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2006 at 8:10PM
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I've never had a tankless water heater--only a tank. And I have to wait a bit for the hottest of water to reach me. Except for the time they forgot to install a check valve, and the water heater was heating all the water in the pipes.

For the point about setting the temperature lower to cut down on risk of scalding--one benefit of putting a tankless is that you can often put it closer to the point of use, which means you can heat the water to 102 degrees (optimum shower temperature), and NO HIGHER. Then, you take a shower using only hot water, and don't mix in any cold water. That's maximum efficiency.

W/ traditional tanks, they're often set in the utility area, farther from poit of use, and so you have to set it at 120 degrees just to get enough hot water on the other side of the house. And, we often set ouf heaters higher, because we're used to mixing in cold water for the shower (which wastes energy--why heat the water and then cool it down?)

dadoes, do you change the setting on your unit when you want a higher level of heat? There's no way to change its settings at the tap, right? And what do you keep it on normally? when you aren't zapping whites?

    Bookmark   October 12, 2006 at 10:20AM
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It appears that my earlier message made a false (or incomplete) assumption.

I assumed that the tankless water heater would be a different unit at each location where hot water would be needed, similar to what they have in the bathroom at a church that I attend, with the unit right under the lavatory sink, which provides hot water within about 2 seconds.

It appears from dadoes message that they have one unit, cnetrally located (since it takes several seconds for hot water to arrive, as it does with my tanked heating system).

Sorry if I led anyone astray - or left them assuming only part of what's really a larger system.

We learn new things daily (I hope).

ole joyful

    Bookmark   October 12, 2006 at 12:38PM
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TallySue, yup, my standard temp setting is 101°F to 102°F in summer, and a tad higher at maybe 105°F in winter. Some tankless units have remote control capability, which I don't have one. It does have a digital control panel, easily set to a specific temp, and the unit is easily accessible in that broom closet in my utility room behind the kitchen. Manual override (by simply changing the temp without permanently programming it in) reverts back to the setpoint after a specific time period (I have it set for 30 mins). I typically change it only for washing clothes, to 115°F for a warm load (the temp my washer "wants" for warm), up to 140°F for those whites. And 110°F to 112°F for the jacuzzi tub on the rare occasion. I don't change it for dishwashing, my dishwasher has internal heating (gets high as 163°F) and can work with cold water anyway.

I've brought up the point of maximum efficiency gained by not overheating the water for the task at hand in other tankless discussion threads, and the naysayers never acknowledge it as a valid concept. I liken overheating to floorboarding a car's accelerator and using the brake to maintain driving speed.

Joyful, there are of course small point-of-use tankless units as well as the larger whole-house systems.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2006 at 9:38PM
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I think the advertisement for these units have turned many people off or at least should have. "Instant hot water" isn't possible and neither is "unlimited hot water with all appliances and faucets running." I also question someone that can tell you exact temperatures at the outlet or appliance. What do they do in their spare time? I am a person that loves new technology and would have had one of these units in my home if not for the over the top claims.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2006 at 9:00PM
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I have turned on five water faucets in my house at the same time, and all had heated water, and the tankless unit wasn't running at full capacity.

My tankless water heater has an LCD panel. Pressing Temp Up or Temp Down adjusts the setpoint in 1° increments. By pressing another button, it cycles through displaying the setpoint, the incoming water temp, the temp in each of two heating chambers, the output temp, the flow rate, and the percentage of full output capacity. In either English units or metric units. I certainly don't stand there throughout the day watching the numbers, but I have looked at it on occasion. Adjusting the temperature for a load of clothes involves all the effort of opening the closet door, poking the Temp Up button a few times or holding it until the desired temp scrolls up, then closing the closet door and continuing on my merry way. Kind of like setting an oven to bake a cake.

The user manual for my dishwasher details the target temperatures to which it heats for each cycle selection. Nothing tricky about knowing that. Same for the washing machine.

Furthermore, the washing machine has a diagnostic mode that reports the temperature of the incoming water while it fills, along with the target temperature that it wants to meet by mixing the hot and cold inputs. Being myself interested in technology, I have taken a look at this diagnostic, and confirmed that if I set the tankless at a particular temperature, that IS what the washer reads as well.

If you feel anything or everything I've said is "over the top" or questionable, so be it.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2006 at 1:01AM
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They say that there's no free lunch but it seems to me that many folks get a good deal of useful information, here - and all free.

Even when it was "pay as you go", people could read for free - it was the folks who wanted to open their trap to talk that had to pay.

Imagine - getting useful information free ... but the purveyor has to pay!

Who said that the world was fair?

Whether the listener/reader makes use of the information ...

... well ... that's a whole other story!

Have a great week, everyone.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   October 15, 2006 at 2:28PM
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I just installed mine about a month ago and am really happy with it. Am not waiting any longer for hot water to start flowing than I did with the tank. After a month of showers haven't noticed any temp fluctuations and I haven't had any problem getting my lukewarm showers either. We were more concerned with having a steady supply of hot water seeing as (having only one shower) our daughter is getting close to shower age along with my wifes addiction to ridiculously long hot showers. We were going to have to do something to avoid someone getting stuck with a cold shower every morning. Didn't see a downside to the tankless with just one shower in the house. It's getting pretty cold outside and I still have it turned to the lowest possible heat setting, though I think she's got it to just about 100% now, so with lots of power to spare I have no doubts at all that it's going to be enough for us. I doubt I'll see any drastic savings over the tanked (which I had pretty well insulated) but any at all coupled with all the hot water we can use in the mornings is everything we were asking for.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2006 at 10:44PM
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