The Fabled Tankless Water Heater

By
Home Inspector with Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC

My water heater is over 13 years old.  How much longer will it last?  If I was my own home inspection client I would say to myself, "This water heater will last another month or another 10 years.  It is truly unpredictable."  I say that to clients all the time.  It is a very accurate statement!

What are the factors that combine to age a water heater? 

1.  The size of the tank, with larger tanks retaining hot water longer. 
2.  The number of people in a house using hot water. 
3.  Washing machine habits - do you use hot or cold water to wash clothing?  More clothing, more washing, more water heater usage. 
4.  The temperature of the water.  Obviously the hotter the water the more often the unit reignites to heat water, wearing it out more quickly. 
5.  How often you drain the gunk from the bottom.  Manufacturers say to do it every year.  Plumbers say not to, because the draining mechanism is mostly plastic and can break if you aren't careful.  SUCH PREMATURE BREAKAGE MIGHT BE WHY MANUFACTURERS SAY TO DO IT EVERY YEAR!!  Hmmm...  There, now you see just HOW JADED I have become in my old age!
6.  How often you have the burner cleaned, if it is a gas unit.

So, if I am my client and thinking my water heater might possibly blow up in the next month, I should think ahead.  What about the fabled tankless water heater?  I hear the commercials all the time about all the money I will save. 

So I looked into it.

We have a gas water heater now.  I like gas.  It is cheaper in the long run and I would continue with gas.

My research sent me to one of the most popular tankless water heater sites, and I selected the gas model I would buy.  It wasn't the smallest and cheapest or the "ultra," as they call it.

I chose the one in the middle.  It has the right BTUs, 9.4 gallon flow per minute, fits nicely where I would want it, and would connect easily to my existing exhaust stack.  Just like Goldilocks, it is just right.

Getting my gas bill, I went to their website "Savings Calculator."

Their site has an average gas BTU cost of $1.38 per.  That's interesting, because my gas bill says my Distribution Charge and Supply Service Charge (different amounts per BTU) average $.64460 per BTU.  SO MY BTU COST IS MUCH LESS THAN THE WEBSITE'S COST.  That isn't as much to their advantage...

Their website calculator says that given all the parameters and costs put into the formula I will save $48 per year, which is probably true.  That's a whopping, WHOPPING, $4 per month!

And that's using their Savings Calculator!  Remember, I'm jaded.  I imagine that calculator to be a bit like the EPA's calculation of my car's gas mileage.  I have never gotten the mileage they say I will!  But I digress!

Contacting my plumber, who actually installs this particular website's brand (!), I am told that the unit I have selected, will cost me $4700 installed, unless they run into anything "unusual." 

A new "regular" water heater, the same size I have now, and same brand, would cost me, on sale, $1800.  Subtracting that from this tankless installation cost,    $4700 - $1800 = $2900. 

SO, FOR THE PRIVILEGE OF INSTALLING THE FABLED TANKLESS WATER HEATER, I AM PAYING A PREMIUM OF $2900!  And that is a conservative figure.  It uses their formula and a water heater's cost when on sale.

Let's see.  They tell me that I will save $48 per year.  $48 goes into $2900 how many times?  60.42

So given my annual savings, I will break even in sixty years!  Woo-ooo-ooo-ooo-hoo!  This manufacturer says that the heater I have selected offers me  " peace of mind with an industry-leading 12-year limited warranty on the heat exchanger. "  But, if I call now, cause they can't do this all day, I can purchase an additional 5 year limited warranty, but they don't tell me how much that is.

EVEN WITH THIS MARVELOUS ADDITIONAL WARRANTY, I AM GOING TO BET MY NEW LITTLE UNIT WILL NOT LAST 60 YEARS.  PLEASE EXPLAIN TO ME, WHAT IS MY SAVINGS?

Here is the other rub.  People I know who have the tankless water heaters say they needed to put in two to satisfy their hot water needs.  Really?  Two!  I'm sorry, but I don't think I'm going to live long enough to break even on one, much less two!!

One more point - they break down often and are really expensive to repair.  Keep that in mind too!

My recommendation:  and remember, I am my own client here -- My Recommendation:  Stick with the old school water heater and you will still be saving money after the next 3 or maybe 4 "regular" water heater installations!

 

 

Posted by

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


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Re-Bloggged 12 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Lyn Sims 05/15/2011 12:05 PM
  2. Larry Brewer 05/15/2011 01:02 PM
  3. Barbara-Jo Roberts Berberi 05/15/2011 01:06 PM
  4. Nancy Milton Holtzscher 05/15/2011 01:14 PM
  5. Robert Butler 05/15/2011 02:18 PM
  6. Peter Pfann @ 1 Percent Realty Victoria, and Pay-Less For Victoria Real Estate Results! 05/15/2011 05:13 PM
  7. Dick and Dixie Sells 05/15/2011 06:39 PM
  8. Michael Eisenberg 05/16/2011 12:35 AM
  9. Mike Roberson 05/16/2011 05:06 PM
  10. Carol Faaland-Kronmaier 05/17/2011 09:08 AM
  11. Bob & Leilani Souza 05/18/2011 04:52 PM
  12. Kenneth Young 05/19/2011 02:40 AM
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Topic:
ActiveRain Community
Location:
Virginia Prince William County Bristow
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Tags:
tankless water heater

Comments 141 New Comment

Rainmaker
1,171,126
Jay Markanich
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC

I agree with that Scott!  And our water here is pretty hard.  We don't have too much exposed copper to be able to wrap, but what we have wrapped is good.

Thanks Leilani.  The cost seems to be a big issue, along with hard water and what the Reuben proposed!

Thanks Reubs!  I like their little mention there which says, "the cold water sandwich effect cannot be removed completely from tankless style water heaters."  That has GOT to be comfy in Minnesoooota when the water coming in to the house is 38 degrees!

May 19, 2011 07:37 AM
Rainmaker
229,441
Reuben Saltzman
Minneapolis Home Inspections
Structure Tech Home Inspections

Noooo, it's noooot.  Hey, wait, are you making fun of ooour looong vooowels?

May 19, 2011 09:49 PM
Rainmaker
1,171,126
Jay Markanich
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC

Noooo Reuuuubs.  Noooota.

May 20, 2011 04:50 AM
Rainmaker
226,009
Mike Wong
Realtor, GRI
Keller Williams Realty Southwest

The only time I will consider a tankless water heater because of its expense is when the water heater is located in an attic. I just don't want to go through the labor of draining and replacing from the attic, or risk a leak.

May 22, 2011 08:09 PM
Rainmaker
1,171,126
Jay Markanich
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC

I see heaters in the attic from time to time Mike and never like to see them there!  Even with a drip pan!

May 22, 2011 09:09 PM
Rainmaker
1,171,126

Jay Markanich

Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
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An experienced home inspector's look at current home inspection events and conditions along with his useful recommendations.