Which are the most efficient storage water heaters (gas)?

Discussion in 'Water Heater Forum, Tanks' started by Raymond Sukys, Jan 25, 2007.

  1. Raymond Sukys

    Raymond Sukys New Member

    This may have been discussed numerous times, but I did not find anything on point in my search. I would like to find the most efficient 50 gallon water heater that uses natural gas. I do not need special side venting. A normal flue would work. Does anyone have any recommendations?
  2. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    San Diego
    Most manufacturers make a series of "good-better-best" models, and one of the featues is often more insulation. But the difference is not huge.

    A basic gas WH might have an energy factor of .58 where the best one might be .62

    Gas WH have a somewhat lower energy factor than electric because heat is lost up the flue pipe when the burner is running, and also to some extent by convection during standby.

    You have to go to a power vent to get better numbers.
  3. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    New England
    The most efficient water heater is an indirectly heated one with a high efficiency boiler. Some of the boilers are over 95%. But, if you don't have a boiler, then...
  4. GoTanklessToday

    GoTanklessToday In the Trades

    Renton, WA
    If you are talking about standard tank style water heaters, they do have models that come with whats called a "super efficient" rating. What does that mean? Besides having more insulation, sometimes more warranty, and costing more, the super is not much different. It's marketing hype. Like someone mentioned, its the "good, better, best" mentality that they are catering to. Now there are exceptions, but few. If you lived in an area where you have subzero temperatures often, a Super may be a good option, but then only if the heater is installed in the garage or other unheated space. For us, a super is usually used when possible so the customer can get a rebate from the energy company. I always laugh inside when someone wants to pay the $50.00 difference for a super to get a $50.00 rebate.

    Tankless is the way to go for many. The average tankless owner saves about 30% when comparing it to a tank style heater. While 30 % sounds great, it really isn't that much. Gas is already a very efficient means of heating water.

  5. I know what you mean there.

    New Year's Day I got a call from a customer who just had a house built, his thankless tankless by state industries would not work. He said that all he wanted was hot water.

    I already know that I can't help him; that new of a unit shouldn't be "not" operating to begin with but I referred him to the state's website to run him through all the troubleshooting points to see if the unit was in lockout or something.

    He stated the plumber who installed it wouldn't work on it, and was calling down the list of plumbers to find someone to get it back in operation. I referred him to the only company in the tristate that works on PowerVent water heaters mostly, and "hopefully" I've sent him to someone who can work on them.

    4 days later,

    I get a call, same guy, now this guy is pissed at all plumbers of the world because the plumber convinced him this was the way to go and you can take a 4 hour shower.....but why would you want to???

    He tells me that they don't work on those units, stated only an authorized rep CAN since it is under warranty.

    4 days later, no hot water, no one in the tri-state with the knowledge to fix it. You KNOW it's a part, but which part? I told him that you are probably on your own with the luxury of 1-800 numbers and the tell-tale head scratching waiting for the UPS guy to show up with what "may" be the right part to fix the problem.

    I could hear his heart sink even lower when I divulged that somewhere in that literature of that thankless tankless that in order to keep the warranty in tact, you have to break it down and delime/decalcify the compartment to keep it operating at the efficiency that it was the day it was installed. Otherwise the buildup will make it much more difficult to heat that water at the rate it passes through it.

    I'm not picking on you, I'm picking on the product and the fact I have a customer that will probably never use my services because he was victimized by the marketing hype that these tankless units are foolproof, their not.

    And the "what ifs" pop up after the sale which puts the consumer at a disadvantage completely. I'm pretty sure he went more than 4 days without hot water.

    If it was a tank unit, he'd have hot water for him and his family due to the vast majority of trained hands to fix it without delay.
  6. GoTanklessToday

    GoTanklessToday In the Trades

    Renton, WA
    The problem that you describe is that someone sold and installed something that they know nothing about. I've had tank customers without hot water for days because the nit-wit plumber put the heat traps in backwards and no water would flow. He said "sorry, I dont do warranty work" and drove away. It is as likely that the plumber who installed that tankless heater installed it wrong. That has nothing to do with the product being inferior. Remember, tankless technology is not new technology. Noritz has been making and selling tankless water heaters worldwide for 50 years. Just not here in the USA.

    I agree that tankless water heaters are not for everyone. Ive said that before, and I believe it to be true. But if you want one, and you hire a professional that knows about them, and who can work on them, they are BY FAR superior to tank heaters in every way, with one exception. They can't provide high volumes of water in a short period of time.

    We have 50 customers a month here that buy tankless heaters, and 5 times that many more who buy them from other contractors. They work very well here. The only customers without hot water for 4 days around here are those who haven't called us.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2007
  7. I gather that you've read my response,

    and you are avoiding the jist of my reply.

    Not enough trained monkeys in the area to service those when they go down. Licensed plumbers are "supposed" to be the only nit-wits to install them. You are quick to blame the plumber and not fault the product.

    The simplicity of repairs of electric/gas type tank water heaters are much easier to resolve than a 1-800 number because no knowledgeable or qualified techs are available to service.

    I know you are open-minded enough to understand that the customer that called me was left hanging out to dry with his purchase. If he's smart and doesn't want that consistent situation to plague him, he probably put a tank in like he should of.

    HD quit selling PowerVent water heaters in my area because of service issues/callbacks on the those units operating properly within the warrranty guidelines. Something, sensor/hot surface ignitor/cracked vaccum tube always hits those units within the first 6 years. I get calls all the time for them. Blower goes out.....or gas valve circuity malfunctions........BIG BUCKS.

    Gas water heater? Thermocouple........tops

    Electric water heater? Thermostats.....maybe elements

    Both of which is minimal money spent to repair as opposed to PowerVent units where everythings starts around $150 and climbs. Tankless falls under this same paralells since the technology is basically the same; compartment instead of a tank. Same safety devices.

    jadnashua hit the head of the nail; there is no equal to any better efficiency of heating water indirect from a boiler. That, is a insulated tank.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2007
  8. GoTanklessToday

    GoTanklessToday In the Trades

    Renton, WA
    I'm not avoiding any part of your post. In fact, I don't necessarily disagree with you on most of what you are saying. Tank heaters are simple. I agree that the points you have made are true, to the extent of simplicity, cost of repairs, etc. Your customer was left to dry not because of a bad product. He was left to dry because there wasn't anyone who could help him. Also, since I happen to know just how reliable these systems are, (if installed correctly) chances are better than 50% that his problem was installer induced. My point of the nit wit plumber who installed the heat traps up side down is to show how even such a simple thing can be done incorrectly. The guy who did that was a licensed plumber.

    If you don't want to learn about tankless, that's your business. But if you finally give in, you will see what we learned years ago. They do work well, and your customers will love them. All my "monkeys" are trained in installation and repair. So maybe what you are saying is that in YOUR area, tankless heaters aren't a good idea. It sounds like a business opportunity to me.
  9. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Yakima WA
    I don't want to get into the tankless vs tank water heater issue. The answer to the question originally asked is in two parts. First check the home page of this forum and find the link to water heaters. Second answer, Rheem makes excellent water heaters.
  10. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    In this area, southern Ohio tri-state, the majority of people here have to deal with hard water. 12-35 and sometimes 40 GPG of hardness. I don't think this is an area where tankless would work well without a lot of maintenance on the units. I would guess that even a little build up on the heat exchanger would drasticly reduce the efficency of the unit wiping out any saveings.

    Tankless, are you in a hard water area?
  11. GoTanklessToday

    GoTanklessToday In the Trades

    Renton, WA

    No, not at all. Our water here in the Pacific Northwest is clean (generally). I agree that tankless may not be a great option for all areas of the country. We don't have to drain / flush our heaters here like you need to do in other parts of the country.
  12. Another thing to consider with a tankless unit? Back when I used to smash my friend's head with half-full beer cans across the yard, they "used" to not bend up and dent as much when they were designed thicker and could get good money scrapping. A good thing when we was beer poor and aluminum can rich. :D

    The thickness of those compartments are very thin; thin like all the insinkerator insta-hot dispensors. The thinness of those tanks are intentional not only to allow fast temperature rise by the heating of them but in comparison to tank heaters........

    Like an 1/8" thickness of a tank compared to a 1/16" or less. I'm not making this up folks. It's thin.

    Go price the replacement of that compartment including labor when it goes out of warranty and you'll be crying.

    You'll be forced to decide if you want to spend alllllllllll that money over again for a newer unit or take the cheaper way with a tank unit that usually doesn't cost over $400 for either under 50 gallon units.

    Tankless has it's place...just like tank heaters. My only opposition to its cause is the countless opinions in favor of them never tell the whole story of after it is in your house and the repairs/maintenance follows along.

    "Some" of those considerations knock down the limited savings those units offer.

    Now if they built those like the Ruud copper-coiled water heaters that worked solely off pressure....that would be a great thing. There are homes in my area that still have those in operation, to this day. Amazing to say the least and the copper piping inside of them show no signs of wall thinning whatsoever.

    I'd know that because I've scrapped the insides of them out....the thickness of K soft copper.
  13. GoTanklessToday

    GoTanklessToday In the Trades

    Renton, WA
    The heat exchanger on any tankless heater is warranted for 10 years, and on one model 15. They typically last 20-25 years in reality. If they do fail, a replacement today for the most common brand is 138.00. It takes about an hour to replace the heat exchanger.

    Lets see... the average cost to have a gas water heater installed in my area is about 1000.00 (including all the code upgrades they make us do here). Average life expectancy here is 10 years. So lets say a customer installs one on Jan 1st 2007. Odds are, they will be replacing that heater again in Jan 2017. Now with inflation, that installation will cost 1300.00. So they have spent 2300.00 now on their hot water system, and it's only been 10 years. In 2027, its time again for a replacement, this time we'll say 1600.00. So that house has had nearly 4000.00 worth of heaters in 20 years. The 3000.00 tankless installed in Jan 2007 is still going strong at 20 years, and all the while it has saved the customer 2400.00 in gas (30 % at 400/yr avg). It has also provided them with unlimited hot water. Hmm. I wonder which is the better value. Of course, this little exersize is heavy on "theory", but there has been a lot testing in the past 50 years to support this theory. In Japan, they typically last 25+ years. We just don't know here yet.

    One more thing... there isn't one part on a tankless heater that will render it useless. Every part can be replaced component style. Install one and its the last heater that house will ever need.

    One question for you guys in the bad water areas. Is there a way to "treat" water to get the bad stuff out before sending it to the heater? I know nothing about water treatment systems, and rarely encounter them here in the PNW.
  14. mid-west hillbilies

    We mid west plumbers just cant sell those
    new fangled tankless heaters .... especialy for
    some billy-bobs double wide trailer .....

    believe me,
    their are a LOT of " billy -bobs" in the mid west

    just for debate here.....I installed a 40 gallon gas
    brad white today for 695.00.... for "billey -bob"

    and unless he accidently shoots the heater while cleaning his
    squirrel gun,

    it will probably last him about 9-15 years without having to
    do any maintaince on it....

    Basically, I am doing a cost feasibility study to see if a tankles heater would go well in this area....

    so what DO you charge in Seattle for the

    Tankless heater???? average ball park instll????
  15. kordts

    kordts In the Trades

    exurban Chicago
  16. GoTanklessToday

    GoTanklessToday In the Trades

    Renton, WA
    LOL, we have some billy bob's here too..

    The standard tankless system here in Seattle will average about $3000.00 plus tax.
  17. $3000...!!!!!

    Billey bob would probably throw me out of his

    double wide trailer if I tried to sell him a tankless heater for


    He could put 1 40 gallon gas heater with a 10

    year warranty for 800 bucks !!! and save $2200...

    He would say to me as he icked my ass off his
    front pourch.....

    Thats a lot of beer money I would be pissing away
    just to have a tankless heater.......

    and I could buy me a bass boat with the difference too!!!

    these mid west hill-billies aint stupid you know,
    they were not born yesterday


    At $3000 , I get the feeling you are installing these tankless heaters

    for rich Millionairre Micorsoft employees and other high techey people in Seattle that

    need to feel "ecologically correct" and basically have more money

    than they have common sense...... (or they just dont like beer)

    you are lucky to live in an area that has money just fallling off the trees......

    here in the Ohio valley and Indiana you have to cater to a more frugal crowd...

    Last edited: Jan 28, 2007
  18. srdenny

    srdenny Plumbing Contractor

    SF Peninsula
    The standard tankless system here in Seattle will average about $3000.00 plus tax.[/QUOTE]

    Does that include running a new gas line and Cat III flue?

    I did one last week which I had quoted $6000 for. Turns out I should have charged $7000.
  19. srdenny

    srdenny Plumbing Contractor

    SF Peninsula
    Heat exchanger maintenance is made quite simple by using the Webstone "Isolator" valve kit when installing a tankless. Two buckets, a bottle of CLR, a couple of old washing machine hoses and a small pump and the job of cleaning the exchanger is accomplished in 10 minutes by the cabaña boy.
  20. maintaince is maintaince

    anyone who would pay 6 + grand to have a tankless water heater is
    literally out of their minds......LOL

    when you could put a normal 50 gallon gas heater in for around
    1000 with a 10 year warranty, and never have to touch it again
    you willl NEVER recoup your 6000 investment......

    I sell people a LIFETIME gas 50 gallon installed for $1800.....

    and if you put a blanket on it ,
    and or a bi-metal heat baffle in the chimmney
    I would venture to guess it is much more
    efficinet than the tankless unit....

    if you can get that kind of money from soneone,
    more power to you, I guess...

    but someone still has to do the maintaince occasioinally
    and it probably will be ignored by
    the customer untill it is in very dire need of service.....

    I dont know what a cabana boy makes per hour,

    but if you send a plumber out to the home its gonna be a min of $150
    to de-lime that unit.....and that is the only fella I would allow to
    touch my 6,000 dollar investment....

    now how often should this $6000 tankless unit be serviced???

    but I suppose if someone is crazy enough to pay 6,000 for a tankless
    what is $150 twice a year mean to them anyway???
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2007
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