Water heaters Tanklesswater heater

Published on February 19th, 2018 | by Henri


Problems with tankless water heaters

Q.  I’m retired and thinking about replacing my water heater which is about 10/12 years old. A few years ago it seemed that a tankless was the rage, now not so much.

My question is what’s the verdict on these? Are they better than gas high-efficiency heaters in as far as life span and use?

I live in a 4-bedroom, 2 ½-bath home with 3 people, and grand kids are a constant! Baths, laundry etc. Thanks for any guidance.

A.   Water heaters have different life expectancies. Some can last more than the 10/12 years yours has, but it is getting chancy. As luck would have it, water heaters have a way of failing on weekends when plumbers charge double.

If your present heater is electric, and you decide to replace it, consider the plastic Marathon tank; it can last a long time because it can’t rust.

Tankless water heaters are almost exclusively used in the European countries with which I am familiar, and probably in many others. For them to be satisfactory, the right size must be selected; the heater’s location in relation to the majority of the plumbing fixtures in the house is also important, especially the kitchen, which is where water is most often drawn in short spurts.

Some years back, a Consumer Reports review of tankless water heaters mentioned that, although they save energy in daily use (approximately $70 a year), they are so much more expensive than tank heaters to buy and install that it can take up to 22 years to recoup the additional cost on a heater whose life is only 20 years on most models. This may be why tankless water heaters seem to have lost some of their earlier excitement.

Tankless water heaters may need upgraded gas lines and additional electrical connections, as well as more expensive venting systems that require the services of licensed HVAC and electrical contractors. They cannot deliver hot water during power outages. Inconsistent water temperatures have also been reported. And neither do they deliver instant hot water, as often claimed; it takes time for the water to be heated.

Calcium build-up is also a potential problem requiring expensive service calls from licensed plumbers.

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