Author Topic: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?  (Read 1947 times)

red_pill

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Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« on: August 19, 2018, 10:16:57 AM »
Hi there- looks like my hot water tank is on its last legs.  The T&P valve has a constant drip and the tank is 10 years old so I'm concerned that it is a sign of corrosion or, even if it's not, the tank is so old a new valve wouldnt be worth it.  My five closest neighbours (our houses were built at the same time by the same builder so probably same tank) have all had their tanks fail.  They have all replaced with tankless systems.

Questions:
1) Am I right to be thinking of proactively replacing the tank before failure and to deal with the constant leak?
2) Do the lower energy usage (natural gas for us) and increased life span make the tankless system worth it?

Thanks

Telecaster

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2018, 10:32:17 AM »
For me it wasn't.  Tankless becomes more attractive the more hot water you use.  So if you have a big family or something it be worth it.  If you have natural gas currently, you can tease out (pretty close) how much you are currently spending on hot water, by comparing your summer and winter gas bills.   Then you can make the calculation. 

red_pill

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2018, 11:27:48 AM »
Yeah, I'm starting to think that you're right. 

I just got a quote (submitted a quote request on the guy's website and he called me a few minutes later - on a Sunday morning. There's a guy who understands customer service.  But I digress...)

To replace my tank with a similar model would be $1400 installed.

I could upgrade to a high efficiency tank for $1600 installed, but then get a $200 gov't rebate so it would also be $1400 installed. That should save $10/month on natural gas.

The tankless system would be $4000, and he only sells Navien (which he said is the top line) since he's had issues with others.  He says that a lot of the energy savings are offset by required yearly maintenance, and that the longevity of the systems really aren't established. 

He did not recommend the tankless system and said I'd never get the return on investment from it.

Hmmm....


gaja

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2018, 12:42:34 PM »
The main reason it didn't make financially sense for us when I looked into it, was the number of units we would need.

Fishindude

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2018, 01:06:00 PM »
No, tank-less water heaters are more expensive and you will need a large electric service to them.   They are also more prone to failure than tank type water heaters.
Only reason I could see installing one is if you needed hot water somewhere a long way away from your main tank type hot water heater, such as a restroom at the far end of a large house.

daverobev

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #5 on: August 19, 2018, 01:18:12 PM »
$1400-1600 seems like a pretty big rip off, considering you are basically buying a big kettle.

https://www.homedepot.ca/en/home/p.performance-plus-39-imperial-gallon-electric-water-heater-with-9-year-warranty.1000792899.html - $500 for the tank.

red_pill

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #6 on: August 19, 2018, 01:41:44 PM »
$1400-1600 seems like a pretty big rip off, considering you are basically buying a big kettle.

https://www.homedepot.ca/en/home/p.performance-plus-39-imperial-gallon-electric-water-heater-with-9-year-warranty.1000792899.html - $500 for the tank.

Maybe, but I'm on natural gas, not electric and an opting for a higher efficiency model which run more expensive than the one you linked.  And I'm not a gas fitter, so this isn't a DIY job.  A few hundred bucks for someone to come and do the removal and instal of the new one doesn't seem too bad. 

solon

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #7 on: August 19, 2018, 02:17:21 PM »
There are two main features of these water heaters: 'tankless', and 'endless'.

If you have low hot water usage, you'll benefit more from the the 'tankless' feature. You don't have to keep lots of water continuously hot.
If you have high hot water usage, you'll benefit more from the 'endless' feature. 6 kids showering every morning, plus 3 loads of laundry, and 2 cycles of the dishwasher, and you still won't run out of hot water.

We had one in a previous house. It used gas, we had it for five years before we sold the house, we never had any problems with it. We bought it because of the 'endless' feature, and it didn't disappoint.

Jon Bon

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #8 on: August 19, 2018, 02:20:20 PM »
A new pressure release value is like 20 bucks, 40 bucks if you count the big pipe wrench you need to replace it.

10 years is not super old for a water tank depending on the environment it lives in. Its one of those rules like 3000 mile oil changes that does not really apply anymore. I think I have about 15 water tanks over the years, every one of them was old, but they just kept on ticking, so I never replaced them.

Now to the question is a Tankless hot water heater worth the money?

No, it is not.

1. Cost, the unit itself costs 2-3x
2. Install, costs probably 10x more? Tankless uses different venting and gas requirements that all need to be installed brand new
A regular water heater uses 40k BTUs a tankless uses about 200k BTUs. Your tankless is probably going to put your entire gas system over capacity, and there is the rub.
3. New gas meter - odds are you need this, hell you might even need new gas lines run from the street. My gas company offered me a larger one for the low price of $800 bucks (for something that should be free IMO)
4. Usage - Yes you will heat 1 gallon of water more efficiently with a tankless, however if you are like me that is just going to mean a longer shower anyways, so it offsets any savings.

The logistics of this install are a HUGE pita, you involves many trades (gas, electric, plumbing, etc) So that means you get to have lots of different guys as well as a more complicated permit.

Electric is a little easier (no venting) but the issues are the same, you probably need a bigger electric panel, and its less efficient to savings are even lower.

That being said, they are kind of awesome to have!

YMMV

Prairie Stash

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2018, 03:55:07 PM »
$1400-1600 seems like a pretty big rip off, considering you are basically buying a big kettle.

https://www.homedepot.ca/en/home/p.performance-plus-39-imperial-gallon-electric-water-heater-with-9-year-warranty.1000792899.html - $500 for the tank.

Maybe, but I'm on natural gas, not electric and an opting for a higher efficiency model which run more expensive than the one you linked.  And I'm not a gas fitter, so this isn't a DIY job.  A few hundred bucks for someone to come and do the removal and instal of the new one doesn't seem too bad.
Home Depot (canada) is cheaper, they also will do the install. Go in and price check, you'll be surprised. My natural gas tank was about $600 from home depot with install and removal. Being a jerk, I forgot to drain the tank before they got there (I felt bad).

You can calculate an estimated total hot water bill by looking at your summer month gas bills, presumably you weren't heating your house (just water). In my case, it about $90/year. My old tank was roughly 80% efficient (look up your tank online), new one is 90%, so 0.8/0.9*$90 says I should spend $80 now, a whopping $10/year savings!

The price difference wasn't very large between the tanks, so I got a mid range one, to get an extra 2% was something like $100 more, not worth it. Theres no way I would save enough over 15 years to justify going from 90 to 92%.

Tankless are sexier, tanks are better value.

red_pill

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #10 on: August 20, 2018, 09:22:44 PM »
Ended up just replacing the faulty valve.  The plumber guy inspected the tank and said it was in great shape and no need to replace it.  Plus, it is a direct vent which is more $$$ to replace than what he had initially quoted.  From now on I will drain a bit out every few months which he said would increase it's life span.

Decent outcome - I had to eat a service call cost but got some peace of mind, a non-leaky valve, and learned how to better care for my water heater, and the day was over $1,000 cheaper than I thought it was going to be.

JoJo

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2018, 09:42:53 AM »
Tangent question - how long can hot water heaters really last?  I've also heard 10 years is standard but the tank in my unit appears to be from 1992!  (That's what the yellow energy guide states).  The unit next to me also has the same tank.  both are running great, plenty of hot water, perfect temp. 

eljefe-speaks

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #12 on: August 21, 2018, 09:50:34 AM »
Ended up just replacing the faulty valve.  The plumber guy inspected the tank and said it was in great shape and no need to replace it.

Keep that plumber's card! He's an honest guy.

When my tank had a leak, I mentioned a leaky valve and the plumber said I needed a new entire unit before I even finished the sentence. Then he charged me $100 for that opinion. On some occasions plumbers can make about $3000/hr.

MilesTeg

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #13 on: August 21, 2018, 10:16:48 AM »
Tangent question - how long can hot water heaters really last?  I've also heard 10 years is standard but the tank in my unit appears to be from 1992!  (That's what the yellow energy guide states).  The unit next to me also has the same tank.  both are running great, plenty of hot water, perfect temp.

IMO, a 26 year old water heater is a ticking time bomb. And the problem with water heaters is they tend to leak for a bit and then fail catastrophically, as in dump all of their contents (50 gallons +/-) into your house. The tub rusts through eventually. Unless your tank is in a place that won't suffer water damage, it's better to be on the safe side.

Slightly premature replacement of a tank is a small waste of money; having to replace all the carpet, fix the drywall, repaint (and possibly worse) is a much, much bigger waste of money.

Mgmny

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #14 on: August 21, 2018, 11:18:05 AM »
My father is installed a few dozen water heaters in his life, and refuses to put in tankless. He did a few tankless water heaters when they first came out, and he ran into problems with water mixing at the faucet. Something about triggering the tankless to cycle on / off made for a weird user experience and inconsistent temps out of a faucet. This issue may be resolved now, but he still refuses to install them.

GuitarStv

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #15 on: August 21, 2018, 11:23:05 AM »
Tangent question - how long can hot water heaters really last?  I've also heard 10 years is standard but the tank in my unit appears to be from 1992!  (That's what the yellow energy guide states).  The unit next to me also has the same tank.  both are running great, plenty of hot water, perfect temp.

My hot water heater is running fine.  It was installed in '89.  I was originally planning to replace it when we moved into the house eight years ago, but am glad I didn't.  That said, it's right next to the basement drain and I am expecting that sooner or later the bottom will rust completely out and it'll dump a lot of water in the basement.

:P

daverobev

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #16 on: August 21, 2018, 12:02:29 PM »
I fully drained my quite old tank a couple of years back when we went away in the winter. I saw no sediment at all. I think we're also talking 20+ years.

Should I replace it? I "know" the new ones don't last as long as the old ones. No evidence of leaks or any issues with the current one...

Prairie Stash

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #17 on: August 21, 2018, 12:08:20 PM »
Tangent question - how long can hot water heaters really last?  I've also heard 10 years is standard but the tank in my unit appears to be from 1992!  (That's what the yellow energy guide states).  The unit next to me also has the same tank.  both are running great, plenty of hot water, perfect temp.

My hot water heater is running fine.  It was installed in '89.  I was originally planning to replace it when we moved into the house eight years ago, but am glad I didn't.  That said, it's right next to the basement drain and I am expecting that sooner or later the bottom will rust completely out and it'll dump a lot of water in the basement.

:P
Water sensor attached to an automatic valve turner. It also prevents flooding from any other burst pipe.

Due to a long ordeal (amazon part being 0.5" too long, aliexpress sending the Europeon version, now I'm able to get the part from the free one from ali and use it on the amazon one), my system is still coming...however it will run about $250 and save $30/year off my house insurance. That includes the Samsung Smarthing controller that connects the water sensors in the laundry room/furnace room to the valve turner on my main inlet. If (big if) its ever used, it will pay for itself. Over the long term, its free due to house insurance being cheaper.

https://www.amazon.ca/Dome-Automation-Water-Shut-Off-Valve/dp/B01LX3JFR8/ref=sr_1_fkmr3_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1534874778&sr=8-1-fkmr3&keywords=automatic+water+shut+off+valve+z-wave

AccidentalMiser

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #18 on: August 21, 2018, 01:29:14 PM »
Ended up just replacing the faulty valve.  The plumber guy inspected the tank and said it was in great shape and no need to replace it.  Plus, it is a direct vent which is more $$$ to replace than what he had initially quoted.  From now on I will drain a bit out every few months which he said would increase it's life span.

Decent outcome - I had to eat a service call cost but got some peace of mind, a non-leaky valve, and learned how to better care for my water heater, and the day was over $1,000 cheaper than I thought it was going to be.

Good on you!

Telecaster

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #19 on: August 21, 2018, 01:53:45 PM »
I fully drained my quite old tank a couple of years back when we went away in the winter. I saw no sediment at all. I think we're also talking 20+ years.

Should I replace it? I "know" the new ones don't last as long as the old ones. No evidence of leaks or any issues with the current one...

Probably should start thinking about it.    For apartments and such, the rule of thumb is 12 years.   

SimpleCycle

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #20 on: August 21, 2018, 02:02:45 PM »
Tangent question - how long can hot water heaters really last?  I've also heard 10 years is standard but the tank in my unit appears to be from 1992!  (That's what the yellow energy guide states).  The unit next to me also has the same tank.  both are running great, plenty of hot water, perfect temp.

We replaced a perfectly good hot water heater that was 19 years old, because it was in a finished area of the house and a catastrophic failure could have caused a lot of damage.  If it'd been in an unfinished basement with a drain, I would have left it.

Remember that if you are not home and it catastrophically fails, it's a lot more than 50 gallons of water, since the pipe that supplies the hot water heater will just dump water into your house until the water is turned off.

CalBal

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #21 on: August 21, 2018, 02:44:36 PM »
Remember that if you are not home and it catastrophically fails, it's a lot more than 50 gallons of water, since the pipe that supplies the hot water heater will just dump water into your house until the water is turned off.

^ This

That's potentially a lot of water in your basement, finished or not, and you'll have to pay for it all if you are on city water (and if not, hope your well doesn't run dry, which is a WAY bigger problem to have...).

I replaced a water heater that was ~ 20 years old last year. I had a service man in for an estimate to run a new gas line for a dryer (house already has gas for hot water), as well as re-piping the plumbing, and he was checking it out and suggested doing it at the same time since it was pretty aged. It's a good thing I opted to, as not 2 days later it started leaking so badly that I had to turn off the inlet valve (and no, he didn't "do" anything to it, I was there with him the entire time). Since he was doing other work already it was a little cheaper for labor/service call than having to have him come out another time. (The re-piping was about 90% of my house's plumbing with PEX, which wasn't insignificant - the house is almost 100 years old and had mixed pipes of mixed ages, and was a ticking time bomb for some sort of major failure.)

That being said, when looking for a house in California we saw one with a tankless heater. The house was very small and the garage very tight - a regular tank would not have fit in there. The agent mentioned they are much more popular in Europe because of the much smaller houses with tighter space. I don't know if this is true, but I can say when I visited family in Germany many things were much smaller in their house, including (most obviously) the refrigerator. (I don't know if they had a tankless water heater.)

stream26

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #22 on: August 25, 2018, 08:17:53 AM »
I have a tankless electric heater from rinnai and previously lived at a place that also had a tankless.

It takes about 1-3 minutes to get hot water going, but other than that I like the ability of tankless to supply limitless hot water and it saves a lot of space.

I'm looking into getting a circulation pump with a timer so that we can have instant hot water in the mornings and evenings.
« Last Edit: August 27, 2018, 05:34:52 AM by stream26 »

Fishindude

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #23 on: August 25, 2018, 08:50:52 AM »
My plumber buddy says the average life expectancy of a tank water heater is about 10 years.   If they are somewhere like a basement with a concrete floor and a nearby drain I'm not too concerned about keeping one longer.   If it's someplace where the floor is wood and there are finished walls and floors, I'd replace it after 10 years.

Capt j-rod

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #24 on: August 25, 2018, 08:52:12 AM »
I do this for a living guys... There are many variables that determine tankless vs standard. Water quality is #1. If you have bad water and no softener then the answer is HELL NO. Maintenance is next. These units need flushed annually (twice a year is preferred). If the appliance is a long ways from the source then it hurts the value too. Finally occupancy is important. Two people that work all day, shower once a day, four loads of laundry a week? Then yes. Family of four or five? Endless laundry, dishwasher, baths, showers, and all day use? NOPE. The biggest savings are what is called standby loss. AKA heating water that is waiting to be used. New tanks are well insulated and another blanket can be added... That being said you can insulate all your exposed hot water piping and get some savings but honestly I don't even think the ROI would even be noticeable. Finally if you are on a well then I won't install one. I have had too many issues with the well pump changing the pressure and tricking the tank into thinking that a faucet is on. One of the nice perks of a tankless is they vent out the side wall rather than through a chimney. Just some food for thought. Contractors sell these things like they are going to change your life and cut your bills. They have their place I guess. FYI I have a standard 40 gallon tanked heater in my basement. I buy everything at cost and my labor is free...

BuildingFrugalHabits

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #25 on: August 25, 2018, 08:59:56 AM »
My plumber buddy says the average life expectancy of a tank water heater is about 10 years.   If they are somewhere like a basement with a concrete floor and a nearby drain I'm not too concerned about keeping one longer.   If it's someplace where the floor is wood and there are finished walls and floors, I'd replace it after 10 years.

Most tanks should have an anode to protect the interior from corrosion.  This is a consumable item and should be checked and replaced every few years depending on your water chemistry and temperature.  Hope this helps!

AccidentialMustache

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #26 on: August 25, 2018, 10:07:43 AM »
DW and my first house had the original furnace (gas), AC, hot water heater (gas), stove (electric, oddly). The house was built in the 60s. We bought it mid 2000s. The home inspection was hilarious as it was just repeated "age: 39 years, expected lifespan: 10-15 years, remaining lifespan: ???."

Capt j-rod

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #27 on: August 25, 2018, 10:39:37 AM »
Again, water quality is everything. Softeners extend the life of everything. Also I leave a short chunk of garden hose over to the basement drain. Open the valve and let it flush twice a year to remove sediment. Flush the heat exchanger on a tankless. Di-electrics help as well.

MrSal

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Re: Is a tankless hot water heater worth it?
« Reply #28 on: August 25, 2018, 10:51:27 AM »
4000 for tankless? lol that is just ridiculous.

You can have a good tankless system for 500-600$ easy... more prone to fail?

In Europe tankless is the norm, in my last house overthere I think the tankless has been going on for 20 years now (it's a junkers one ) and it still look snew