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Old 03-07-08, 10:13 AM   #1
jsharr
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Tank or No Tank........ for the water heater

Researching water heaters. Mine is in a hall closet, natural gas. Quite old and getting very noisy, so going to replace it before it fails.

Considering I will have to spend quite a bit to install a conventional tank type heater to bring it up to code (catch basin, back flow prevention, and exterior blow off and maybe more) we are considering going tankless.

Anyone here running tankless gas water heater? Do they need an electrical outlet? How much power to they need if so? Likes or dislikes.

There seem to be two GPM flow rates, around 4 GPM and then around 6 GPM. Should I go with the higher flow rate for a family of 4?
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Phobias are for irrational fears. Fear of junk ripping badgers is perfectly rational. Those things are nasty.
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Old 03-07-08, 10:35 AM   #2
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Researching water heaters. Mine is in a hall closet, natural gas. Quite old and getting very noisy, so going to replace it before it fails.

Considering I will have to spend quite a bit to install a conventional tank type heater to bring it up to code (catch basin, back flow prevention, and exterior blow off and maybe more) we are considering going tankless.

Anyone here running tankless gas water heater? Do they need an electrical outlet? How much power to they need if so? Likes or dislikes.

There seem to be two GPM flow rates, around 4 GPM and then around 6 GPM. Should I go with the higher flow rate for a family of 4?
Not what I was expecting....I was thinking this would be in this thread:
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Old 03-07-08, 10:43 AM   #3
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We just had a tankless installed last Fall...and we love it.

The timing was great as we run ours on propane, and fuel prices spiked over the Winter. We were able to ride out the spike because the unit is so much more efficient....that and the over 4' of snow on the ground didn't allow them to refill our tank for a long while.

To answer your questions, yes...they do require an outlet, preferably a dedicated circuit, although I don't believe the draw is very much. Pretty sure we tapped into an existing 15A circuit for attic lighting that is rarely used and haven't experienced any issues.

Our plumber is an old friend of ours, so I trusted his judgement on the unit capacity. We will at some point add on to our house and told him to plan for that, but now we have just a single bathroom in a 1200 sq ft house with two adults full time and kids on the weekends. He chose this Noritz unit that's rated at 7.5GPM, up to 9.8 GPM with "Turbo-Flow". Ooooh, turbo...

The only difference between the tanked and tankless he warned us about is that the unit kicks on once it senses flow. If you don't have a minimum amount of water flowing, it doesn't kick on and heat it. Once it does, the delay is not much longer than waiting for the water to travel through the pipes like a tanked model.

Other cool stuff to know: The very best tanked water heater, blanketed and in the best conditions is about 60% efficient. It heats the water, the water cools down, then you pay to heat the water again unless you're using it. On-demand systems can be rated as much as 98% efficient (our is). You can make either unit more efficient by installing a holding tank inside the house. The holding tank warms the water to room temperature by ambient heat and when the heater kicks on, it doesn't take as much fuel to get it up to temp.

A tankless unit is more expensive than a tanked type, but I see it as saving us fuel in the long run. For comparison's sake, including $200 for the electrician, our cost was $1800 installed. You may also check into whether your state allows energy tax credits for installing efficient appliances.
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Old 03-07-08, 10:46 AM   #4
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Good advice, thanks. I like the holding tank idea. I am all about efficiency.
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Old 03-07-08, 10:59 AM   #5
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Good advice, thanks. I like the holding tank idea. I am all about efficiency.

Until it rusts out and floods your house with hot water and melts the flesh off you feet. I have been considering the hot water on demand system, not sure on the installation price, but doesn't look to difficult if you where to try and DIY.
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Old 03-07-08, 11:01 AM   #6
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I try to not do DIY plumbing if at all possible.
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Old 03-07-08, 11:08 AM   #7
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I try to not do DIY plumbing if at all possible.
It looks simple, just hook up your utility water main and the hot water plumbing to it. If it fails an you flood your house just hide the on demand system, puncture a hole in you water tank, call homeowner insurance. You get new floors and have them up grade you a tank less system. Thats how you DIY
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Old 03-07-08, 11:14 AM   #8
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My deductible is probaly higher than the cost of having a Pro do it right. And since my plumber/electtrician/HVAC guy lives across the street and four houses up, if it breaks, I go ring his doorbell!
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Old 03-07-08, 11:16 AM   #9
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This is interesting, if you have children.

How does the Stiebel Eltron Electric Tankless Water Heater prevent scalding injuries?
Scalding occurs when water that is kept at a temperature of between 125-160 F. in a conventional tank-type water heater is allowed to flow from a faucet or shower without being mixed with cold water. When an adult encounters water that is too hot, they have the presence of mind and the ability to adjust the mixture and avoid scalding. When this happens to a child or infant, with or without intervention from an adult, the results can range from mild discomfort to third degree burns. The sophisticated flow sensor in the Stiebel Eltron Electronic Tankless Water Heater controls the temperature of the water by sensing the flow of water through the pipes and adjusting the current to the heating elements accordingly. Whether one or two people are using hot water at the same time, the water is kept at the same temperature. You set the temperature once by adjusting a knob at the base of the unit. Hint: We recommend you set your unit at a temperature slightly higher than you'd like when the hot water valve is full on and the cold-water valve is full off. That way you won't waste energy by heating water and then mixing it with cold water in order to use it.
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Old 03-07-08, 11:16 AM   #10
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Until it rusts out and floods your house with hot water and melts the flesh off you feet. I have been considering the hot water on demand system, not sure on the installation price, but doesn't look to difficult if you where to try and DIY.
No, the holding tank doesn't contain hot water, just pre-warmed water from sitting inside a heated home. If you're on a municipal water supply, the water can be quite cold coming in from the street. What you pay for is the fuel it takes for the temperature differential to be brought up to your desired temp. The tank sits in front of the heater circuit and passively picks up heat from the house, saving you fuel. It's cheaper to heat water to 110F from 55F than from 36F. Also, the tanks are often fiberglass and can't rust.

As for the DIY aspect...our plumber is really good at what he does and has a lot of experience. I've gone into boiler rooms that he's plumbed and they look like artwork. Even with our relatively simple system, he had to call customer support to get it adjusted properly. If you get a more sophisticated model that senses exterior versus interior temperatures, calculates burn duration and intensity....it may be a bit much for the average handyman to handle. He gave us a fair price and now I have someone to call if I ever have an issue with it.
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Old 03-07-08, 11:19 AM   #11
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My deductible is probaly higher than the cost of having a Pro do it right. And since my plumber/electtrician/HVAC guy lives across the street and four houses up, if it breaks, I go ring his doorbell!
Once I make it though my current plumbing nightmares I will post entire event. But insurance co is bailing me out big time and I get all new floors.
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Old 03-07-08, 11:21 AM   #12
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Make sure it's not only tankless, but pilotless as well, if possible. It's been shown that some 40-50% of people's annual natural gas usage comes from keeping pilot lights lit.

The tankless will save you a good bit of money. The lower flow rate will just limit you to one simultaneous person using the shower at full pressure, but 4 people can shower one after another and not run out of hot water (as happens in a tanked system), so it's not much of an issue.
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Old 03-07-08, 11:23 AM   #13
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No, the holding tank doesn't contain hot water, just pre-warmed water from sitting inside a heated home. If you're on a municipal water supply, the water can be quite cold coming in from the street. What you pay for is the fuel it takes for the temperature differential to be brought up to your desired temp. The tank sits in front of the heater circuit and passively picks up heat from the house, saving you fuel. It's cheaper to heat water to 110F from 55F than from 36F. Also, the tanks are often fiberglass and can't rust.

As for the DIY aspect...our plumber is really good at what he does and has a lot of experience. I've gone into boiler rooms that he's plumbed and they look like artwork. Even with our relatively simple system, he had to call customer support to get it adjusted properly. If you get a more sophisticated model that senses exterior versus interior temperatures, calculates burn duration and intensity....it may be a bit much for the average handyman to handle. He gave us a fair price and now I have someone to call if I ever have an issue with it.
Yeah there are a lot of good reasons to go with a pro, which my wife would probably make me. Also good to know about the tanks, I have never had one fail but have always wondered if they rust.
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Old 03-07-08, 11:27 AM   #14
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Make sure it's not only tankless, but pilotless as well, if possible. It's been shown that some 40-50% of people's annual natural gas usage comes from keeping pilot lights lit.

The tankless will save you a good bit of money. The lower flow rate will just limit you to one simultaneous person using the shower at full pressure, but 4 people can shower one after another and not run out of hot water (as happens in a tanked system), so it's not much of an issue.
My house is all electric. Some of what I have been reading says it will handle 2 sink one dishwasher, or one shower/ 2 sinks, etc with other combos. I haven't seen where the pressure would be effected, it would be good know it that is the case, because and I can not stand low pressure showers.
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Old 03-07-08, 11:34 AM   #15
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I get the tank benefit by virtue of a cistern.

There's a pump in the cistern that puts pressurized water into a compression tank where it is held. As we demand water, the compression tank disperses it, then calls upon the pump when the pressure drops below a set level. Even though the "builder" that remodeled this house before I moved in used the cheapest, crappiest steel pressure tank he could find (and the cheapest hot water heater, and the cheapest everything...), it hasn't shown any signs of rust. I do have plans to replace it with a larger fiberglass tank in the future, which will be easier on the pump as it won't start and stop as often, as well as the passive heating benefits.
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Old 03-07-08, 02:21 PM   #16
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I have only used tankless in Europe, but was very impressed with them there.
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Old 03-07-08, 03:48 PM   #17
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We looked into tankless, way impressed by a neighbor's tankless/passive solar combo. Turns out even just the tankless part would be a royal pain for our house (and it does require a 110v ac plug) so we wound up just going w/ yet another gas tank.

We had 3-4 contractors out to talk options, and each one found different reasons they could or couldn't do different things, so it's worth getting multiple opinions if there's anything remotely nonstandard about your house.

If we had gone for it, we would have pretty much had to mount one on the outside of our house, and run an electrical outlet near it (apparently not supposed to plug tankless into extension cord).
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Old 03-07-08, 03:51 PM   #18
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I work for a gas company and we sell quite a few tankless water heaters. Rinnai is the one most requested. We did sell Aqua Star and Bosch a few years ago, but had to do a lot of repairs on those. We have never had to work on a Rinnai yet, and have been selling them since 2001. I have heard that Noritz makes a good unit but don't have any experience with them.

Venting a tankless system can be expensive, mats. only are $30.00 per foot. We exclusively try and mount ours on an exterior wall,no venting is required. There is freeze protection on the unit, but I'm not sure how low temperatures it is quaranteed for. I live in Mississippi so that is not an issue.

Rinnai makes a 8.5 gpm unit, that is what we sell the most of, never had a customer complain on not having enough hot water.
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Old 03-07-08, 04:08 PM   #19
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I work for a gas company and we sell quite a few tankless water heaters. Rinnai is the one most requested. We did sell Aqua Star and Bosch a few years ago, but had to do a lot of repairs on those. We have never had to work on a Rinnai yet, and have been selling them since 2001. I have heard that Noritz makes a good unit but don't have any experience with them.

Venting a tankless system can be expensive, mats. only are $30.00 per foot. We exclusively try and mount ours on an exterior wall,no venting is required. There is freeze protection on the unit, but I'm not sure how low temperatures it is quaranteed for. I live in Mississippi so that is not an issue.

Rinnai makes a 8.5 gpm unit, that is what we sell the most of, never had a customer complain on not having enough hot water.
Is the venting related to gas, since it doesn't need a drain I don't see how it is related to the plumbing?

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Old 03-07-08, 04:34 PM   #20
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Most of the venting cost is in special stainless steel vent line for the positve pressure ventalation systems that these things need. They put out close to 200K BTU's and they use fans to vent off gases after the burner turns off I believe.
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Old 03-07-08, 04:48 PM   #21
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Most of the venting cost is in special stainless steel vent line for the positve pressure ventalation systems that these things need. They put out close to 200K BTU's and they use fans to vent off gases after the burner turns off I believe.
Ok, the vent is for the gas, since my house is all electric, I should be able to bolt one to the wall. Man I'm really thinking about doing this. If you get one let me know how you like it.
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Old 03-08-08, 08:40 AM   #22
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jsharr,

A few years back our 15+ year old tanked natural gas water heater died...spilling its guts all over our basement floor (ugh). Rule #1...never, never install a tanked water heater without a drain pan.

I looked into tankless units at the time, after seeing one installed on "This Old House", but I couldn't find one at with enough GPM to feed my teenager's nearly unlimited hot water needs (e.g., 30+ minute showers and laundry that needed plenty of hot H20 to combat that gym smell). While I suspect, given Wordbiker's post, that technology might have finally caught up, you might need to be increasingly careful not to run more than one (or two) items that demand hot water at a time (e.g., clothes washer, showers, and dishwasher). I'd discuss your needs with a reputable plumber, particularly one who's installed one of these units before. Good luck!
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Old 03-08-08, 09:32 AM   #23
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When my current water heat croaks, I'm going tankless.
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Old 03-08-08, 09:35 AM   #24
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If you're concerned about capacity...my plumber told me that my system could even be used to run a hydronic heating loop in addition to hot water needs.

He told me that he set up a system for his ex wife that heated her small home with baseboard hydronic radiators, though the manufacturer of the unit hadn't designed it specifically for that purpose. Once he'd told the manufacturer what he'd done, they contacted his ex and she charged them to come and look the system over. Apparently they were satisfied and now include hydronic heating as one of the uses of this system in their literature.
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Old 03-08-08, 11:10 AM   #25
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I have only used tankless in Europe, but was very impressed with them there.
When I lived in Germany, I was very unfavorably impressed with the tankless heater I had. The threshhold flow setting was all wrong. It took too high a flow to start heating, with the result that I got either completely unheated water or way too much heated water at the tap. I had a choice of freezing or scalding when taking a shower. The only way I found to make it livable was to turn on the hot water at another tap, too, so that the flow was above the threshhold and I could control the temperature of the water in the shower.
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