It’s been nearly a year since we installed a new tankless water heater and I thought it would make sense to do a quick follow-up to share our thoughts now that we’ve lived with it for a while.

And, in a nutshell … we love it!

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We contemplated a tankless water heater for A LONG TIME before we actually had one installed.  (We actually wrote a post a few years back when we first considered installing one … that was 2009!)  During that time, we (mostly Chad) did A LOT of reading about all of the “pros” and “cons” of tankless vs. a traditional tank water heater.  Going into it, we were aware of a lot of things that could happen with a tankless water heater that we hadn’t experienced before with a tank water heater.  So, today, I wanted to share our experiences regarding all those things we read about beforehand.  (My guess is that our experiences would be similar for any comparable tankless water heater, but, for reference, ours is a Rinnai RU98i.)

 

1.  Delayed Hot Water.

We had read about tankless water heaters taking longer to deliver hot water than a traditional water heater because of the time it takes for the water heater to recognize water flow and turn on the burner.  For our installation, though, this hasn’t been a problem.  When the new water heater was installed, we re-located it to the furnace room in the basement, which is much closer to all of our plumbing fixtures than the old location of the water heater.  So, our guess is that, in our case, the delayed start time for the water heater is offset by the shorter length of pipe that the hot water has to travel to reach the sinks, showers, etc.  Regardless of why, though, this is a non-issue for us.

2.  Cold Water Sandwich.

This is something that can happen when the water heater is on, producing hot water, the faucet is shut off briefly, which in turn shuts off the water heater, and then the faucet is turned back on.  The idea is that, because it takes a bit for the water heater to start back up, there will be an amount of cold water delivered before the water heater starts producing hot water again.  Hence – hot water, cold water, hot water – the cold water sandwich.  This was something we figured we’d probably experience, but we just didn’t think it would bother us that much.  Really, though, we aren’t sure we’ve ever really noticed it.  Our thought here is that the pipes are all warmed up from the hot water that was just running through them and they help to warm up the cold water before it reaches the faucet.  We maybe notice a burst of water that isn’t quite as hot, but I definitely wouldn’t call it cold.  Totally not an issue as far as we are concerned.

3.  Smell.

This was something that we hadn’t read about and didn’t expect.  When the water heater was first installed, we noticed that the hot water smelled.  It wasn’t a terrible smell or anything – just noticeable.  At first we worried that it wouldn’t go away (which would have been annoying), but it gradually got better and was totally gone after a couple weeks.  Just thought I’d mention it since it kind of freaked us out in the beginning.

4.  Minimum Flow.

We worried that the water heater might not turn on if only a small amount of hot water was being used (like if a faucet was only open a little bit).  I’m not really sure what to say about this except that we haven’t noticed it being a problem.  To be fair, though, I’m not sure we ever really use a tiny amount of hot water.  Usually we are running a shower or opening a faucet all of the way to wash hands or fill the kitchen sink for dishes and all of those things trigger the water heater to turn on just fine.  Anyway, this has turned out to be a non-issue for us as well.

5.  Maxing out the capacity of the water heater.

We also worried that we might hit the limit of how much hot water the water heater was able to generate, but this hasn’t been an issue for us either.  It’s very normal for us to have multiple appliances/showers running at the same time.  Chad and I actually both get up at 6:00 every morning and run two showers at exactly the same time every day.  And we honestly can’t tell that more than one shower is running at the time.  The same is true even if the washing machine is going at the same time.  The water temperature is totally unaffected – and we never run out of hot water.  It’s such a luxury!

6.  Water pressure.

I don’t remember reading anything about a tankless water heater doing anything to affect water pressure, but we’ve definitely noticed a change in ours – for the better.  My guess is that this might be more the result of replacing long lengths of old (corroded) galvanized pipe with shorter runs of copper piping than the switch to a tankless water heater.  But, still, we have better water pressure now than we did before and it’s a great thing!

7.  Energy Efficiency.

We knew energy efficiency is a big selling point for switching to a tankless water heater, but we also knew to expect that we wouldn’t save enough money on our utility bills to make up the cost difference for the inital purchase of a tankless water heater vs. a traditional one.  So, having said that, what’s our experience?  Well, here’s the thing.  I really don’t know.  Normally, I would say comparing our gas usage during those months where we aren’t running the furnace would be a good way to tell how big of a difference the new water heater has made, but during those summer months, we run our pool heater.  So, our gas usage is pretty heavily tied to the weather all year round.  Having said that, we have used less gas just about every month over the last year as compared to the same month during the previous year.  That’s probably somewhat related to weather … and probably somewhat tied to the savings we are seeing due to the new water heater.  As far as figuring out exactly how much we have saved, though – I really have no idea.

 

Anyway, bottom line is that we’re still really happy with the switch to a tankless water heater.  We haven’t had any problems with it over the last year or so … and just about every “negative” that we’d read and worried about has turned out to be a non-issue for us.  And if we had it to do again, we’d definitely still go with a tankless water heater – with no hesitation at all!

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