There is a new feature in a growing number of Summit County homes that saves money and is ecologically sound at the same time. “Tankless” or “on demand” hot water heaters are the latest and greatest.
Instant Hot Water in New Zealand
When I was a kid growing up in New Zealand, most of us had an instant hot water tank on the wall by the kitchen sink. We used it to make tea as it dispensed boiling hot water right into the tea pot, something near and dear to every New Zealander’s heart. When we moved to the United States, we missed it, as we always had to boil water for our tea. In fact, you don’t see it as many of them in New Zealand as you used to. Most people have gone to electric tea kettles now.
The new on-demand hot water heaters remind me of the instant hot water we had way back then. I have two of them in my house. One is a hot water heater, and the other is a commercial unit that heats the water for my infloor radiant heat system. Both are inside one small closet. They are small because they don’t have to store any water. The water heats as it runs through them. What a waste of money and gas to heat and keep reheating a big tank of water all day long when no one is using it!
Save Money and Energy
I bought the new water heaters because my boiler and my hot water heater were aging relics and my gas bills were higher than they should have been. I was interested in saving money which in turn, saves energy. These fixtures are relatively new to Summit County. When we installed them almost two years ago, we had trouble finding a plumber who knew anything about them. The plumber we bought through had recently completed training on the Rinnai heaters and had installed about a dozen of them when he installed ours.
I think he was still learning, as our bills went up, not down, and I had trouble getting water hot enough for a shower. We thought it was perhaps because the bathroom was a long way from the water heater. We had him come back to check it, and lo and behold, he had forgotten to take out a piece that must come out when you use the water heater at high altitude. After that, we had plenty of hot water and our bills decreased. It had me worried for a while! Apparently the gas water heater operates a bit like your car does in that it needs a certain amount of air to mix with the gas. At higher altitudes, the air in the mixture needs to be more than at lower altitudes. The piece that had not been removed blocked the air intake so that the gas did not burn completely. Therefore the water didn’t get hot and the excess gas went out the vent and was wasted.
Now we have unlimited hot water and a couple of showers can be going at once. Our hot water heat system is not a lot different that our old boiler was; at least I can’t tell much difference. I do wish that the water heater were closer to the master bath. I don’t like wasting water when I empty the line of cold water between the two. You can buy a little in-line booster if you have a place to put it, which I don’t, so I haven’t added one.
I was reading a post about these on-demand hot water heaters on the blog of a Realtor friend of mine in College Station Texas, and she said something interesting:
Another benefit of the Tankless System is that heater life is typically extended. A standard water heater can last anywhere from 7-15 years. Most Tankless Systems have a life expectancy exceeding 20 years.
I wasn’t aware the lifespan was so long, so that is great news! I am good to go for another 18 years I hope.
Rick Queener says
When talking altitude, how high are you where the tankless water heater is installed?
Meredith Adams says
About 9200 feet
Susan Walker says
Summit County is 9,000-10,000 feet above sea level
doug calkin says
who was your plumber? We’re over in fairplay and will need to instal electric on demand water heater later this spring/early summer.
Meredith Adams says
Sorry Doug, this was from a few years back and I can’t remember who installed it. Maybe Breck Mechanical but I can’t say for sure.
Great article on the Rinnai at elevation. How long did your Rinnai last, or is it still in use? Did you have to have it periodically serviced?
Meredith Adams says
We still have the water heater but replaced the commercial one we were using as a boiler with a regular boiler. Have had service from time to time as needed. I don’t know that I would do it again simply because it was too far away from both kitchen and bathroom and we waste a lot of water running it until it was hot.
Mark Worley says
Do your research on the brand you buy. Reputation, based on Quality is what you should buy!