Atmospheric vs Direct Vent water tank

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Beets

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I have a 19 year old atmospheric tank. I'm thinking of proactively replacing it. What sort of efficiency improvement should I expect in going from atmospheric to direct vent? Does it easily pay for the extra cost/complexity? Are the direct vent going to be less reliable or are they pretty good? I like the simplicity/reliability of my old tank, but I feel like I should proactively replace it before I have a problem. My basement is finished, so I don't want to take too many chances.
 

John Gayewski

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Upgrading a water heatet between different types of technology doesn't really pay for itself.

Heating and storing water doesn't take a lot of energy. Nor does it lose a lot of energy. Wrapping a really old water would be worth it, but anything made in the last 20 years shouldn't lose much energy.

It depends on the cost difference between a direct replacement and something new. Most times it takes many many years (beyond the life of the equipment) to get paid back for all of the work and the difference in price.

I also like the simplicity of an atmospheric vented gas furnace. You can still have hot water when the power goes out.

I think if I were you I'd leave what I have until it breaks. Maybe keep another on hand if your worried about it. Generally a water heater doesn't fail and ruin a house. Unless you have no provision in place for the t&p valve.
 

Beets

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Thank you. Let me rephrase the question another way. Let's assume my hot water tank fails tomorrow. Would you replace it in kind with an atmospheric, or would you go to a higher efficiency assuming there will be no issues venting the higher efficiency. I'm not sure the cost difference between the two options, nor the savings. Natural gas bill is around $70 or 80/month in the summer when the only thing I'm using gas for is the hot water tank. I looked at the bill though, and only about $15 to 20/month is variable - the rest is fixed + distribution + taxes/etc. I can't imagine that a higher efficiency tank ever pays out. But I'm not sure.....
 

WorthFlorida

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Just have to look at the energy guide on the water heater. In the USA an energy guide label is on just about every appliance and it shows an estimate annual cost in US dollars. I do not know if CA has the label. Below are two RHEEM water heaters. One is direct vent and the other atmosphere and its only a $17 a year different. A direct vent also saves on space heating. That is with a chimney, warm air cannot draft up out of the home, even in an unheated basement when the water heater is off. A big advantage of direct vent is no chimney is required, less costly in new construction.

For 2010 new energy standards became law in the USA for water heaters. Most of it resulted in a thicker and better insulation and it gave the manufacturer's reason to really increase the prices. There was anywhere from 25%-50% price increase at the retail level in 2010. Now they are about 100% more than they were in 2010.

https://images.thdstatic.com/catalog/pdfImages/8a/8a60655c-8693-4cf6-b791-4f297297bede.pdf
https://images.thdstatic.com/catalog/pdfImages/c1/c15ab1d3-59dd-4c3a-b6f6-5a74964b4b85.pdf
 

Reach4

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What sort of efficiency improvement should I expect in going from atmospheric to direct vent?
Got no numbers for you. But if a WH takes the combustion air from the house, and sends it outside, that air normally gets made up by air sucked in from outside through cracks. So that outside air will be cold and dry in winter and hot and moist in summer, and will go into your living space.

I am not saying that the direct vent is worth the premium in cost savings, but in addition to any savings, it may improve comfort.
 

Jeff H Young

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I would go by the yellow sticker as guide (we too have them in CA) 17 dollars a year doesn't excite me , I've used direct vent where running a B vent out roof was impossible/impractical.
Usually I prefer cheaper, simpler . over more complex and higher price , and a very good point about working without needing electric power
 
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