Home Improvement

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!

Working on our To-Do List

When it comes to home repairs / maintenance, there are times when it seems like we do a good job of keeping up with the big stuff (painting the exterior of the house, fixing up the dining room, etc.), but, when it comes to the little stuff, we find it’s easy to just add things to a list and never actually get around to doing much of it.

Recently, though, we’ve actually made some progress on the “little things” – thanks largely to a very enthusiastic 2 year old.  It started over the holidays when we found ourselves at Lowe’s at the very start of Chad’s break from work.  We hadn’t been there in what seemed like forever and we’d just gone in to pick up something small … a light bulb, I think … but wound up leaving with a cart full of stuff to tackle some things on our way past due to-do list.  Since then, Haley has been helping Chad work through his list of “projects”.  She is always so excited to help – it is so fun to watch.  Plus, all the little “projects” are starting to add up and make a dent in our list, so I thought I would share some of the “honey-do” type things my honeys have completed recently.

1.  New Smoke Alarms.

Our old ones were not in great shape – painted (when they clearly say “do not paint”), chirping at odd times, and complete with corroding batteries.  Plus, they were here before us, so they’re at least 7 years old.  Anyway, we decided it was time to replace them and found these smaller ones that we like a whole lot better.
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They don’t do carbon monoxide (we have separate plug in detectors for that already), but we love that they’re so much less bulky than the standard ones (which seem to have grown and are now much thicker than the old ones we took down).

 

2.  New Vent Covers in Haley’s Bathroom.

We have a super tiny three-quarter bath off of our laundry room that we’ve named Haley’s bathroom since it is outfitted with everything we need for potty training (step stool, potty seat, etc.)  It’s also where we took all of our showers before the master bathroom remodel a couple of years ago … and we actually still use the shower quite a bit.  Anyway, the combination of a steamy shower and small space meant that the metal vent covers on the ceiling for the heat register & exhaust fan had rusted.  They looked really icky.  So, we bought new.  Turns out the plastic exhaust fan cover wasn’t quite as big as the one we replaced, so we’re on the look-out for something that’s sized better … but, even so, the lack of rust is still such a huge improvement.

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3.  New Toilet Seat with BUILT IN POTTY SEAT!

Ok, I’m super excited about this.  It means Haley can use her potty and we don’t need to have a separate removable plastic potty seat lying on the floor next to the potty (or permanently positioned on top of it).  The potty is totally usable by grown ups (the potty seat stores in the lid) … and wee ones alike.  I am in love.  Once she decides putting her potty in the toilet is a good idea, I foresee us replacing more of the toilet seats in the house with these.  They are a totally brilliant idea.

For grown ups.

For grown ups.

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For the Little Ones.  Awesome.  My only complaint is that sticker that seems to keep moving itself off of the magnet in the lid – annoying, right?

 

4.  Removed door stop on bottom of office closet door.

There was this rigid doorstop on the bottom of the closet door in the office.  It was actually attached to the door rather than the wall.  It wasn’t something we used (we have the kind that go on the door hinges on just about all of our doors instead) and Haley had discovered that she liked to play with it.  It really felt like an accident waiting to happen.  So, Haley & Chad took the doorstop out, put some wood filler in the hole, and used a stain marker to color that section of the door a little darker.  It could probably use some more work on the stain color (for some reason the area behind the door stop looked like it was a totally different stain color to start with), but we’re glad to not have the weird door stop there any more.  So, trust me … this is an improvement.
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5.  Weather stripping the back door.

Our original back door is beautiful on the inside, but failing in just about every other capacity.  When the painters started working on it this summer, we really took a good look at it and it’s in rough shape – cracked and de-laminating on the outside.  Plus, it doesn’t seal worth a darn.

Beautiful, but FREEZING!

Beautiful, but FREEZING!

We have a wooden screen door and snow has still blown in under the back door during a good storm.  In the past, we’ve just rolled up a towel and laid it at the bottom of the door to try to help block the cold/snow, but that wasn’t super effective. This year, Chad decided to try weather-stripping it properly.

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Check out the new weather stripping – so much warmer!

Unfortunately, the size of the door doesn’t match all of the standard weather stripping today, so he wound up cutting one in half and wedging it in the space between the door and the sill.  We can’t open the back door without it falling out, but that doesn’t really matter – we never use it anyway (especially in the winter) … and the difference it has made is amazing.  It used to be freezing cold in the  back entry way and it now stays way more comfortable.  This is one of those “why didn’t we do this sooner?” things.

 

6.  Lots of new light bulbs and furnace filters.

We have a love/hate relationship with the evolution of light bulbs.  We love the energy saving part, but hate how expensive they are … and how easy it is to buy something that isn’t the right color temperature / brightness, etc.  So, our process has been to make sure we have bulbs we like in the rooms we’re in frequently and cascade the others through the house.  Which means the basement has a mismatched set of light bulbs that really aren’t right for the space.  Hello, 40 watt globe bulb where we really need a 75 watt equivalent – that would be you.  Anyway, we had a bunch more light bulbs that all burnt out around the same time (doesn’t it always work that way?), so we started replacing.  This time around, we actually have a bright enough one at the bottom of the stairs.  Awesome.

Also, furnace filters and humidifier pads.  We have all new and a very excited 2 year old who got to help put the new ones in.  Yay.  Plus, it’s really funny to hear Haley talk about the humidifier.

 

I know all of these things are super simple – hardly worth labeling as “projects” … but it’s so exciting to be getting something done (regardless of what it is).  We still have plenty of meatier projects on our list – lots of painting, finishing up the installation of coax/CAT5/phone in a few rooms, work on the basement, tile the side porch, and a bunch of stuff outside when the weather warms up.  If only everything was as easily worked on with a 2 year old as the installation of a new toilet seat.  Ha!

After a pretty long break from posting updates on the blog (sorry!), I finally shared some “after” pictures of our exterior paint last week, along with the list of related “add-on” projects we completed to help spruce up the outside of the house.

As a quick refresher, here’s a “before” and “after” of the front:

Before.

Before.

After.

After.

Big difference, right?

And, while it feels like we’ve been working on this project to update the exterior of the house for a really long time and it’s come a long way, we still have a few things remaining.

So, as for what’s left, the list is (thankfully!) getting shorter.  Here goes!

1)  Window Boxes.

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The old window boxes.

We REALLY need to find some new window boxes for the front of the house (and, of course, plant some flowers).  The ones that are there now just aren’t cutting it – they don’t match the paint very well, they’re plastic with plenty of cracks and chips, and I’ve always thought they’re too small for the windows.  I’ve been looking at all of the local garden centers without much luck.  Seems like plastic window boxes are about all you can find around here.  So, I’ve got a couple more places to look locally before probably breaking down and paying a small fortune to order some composite ones online.

 

2)  Finish Storm Windows and the Front Door.

The painters are done with the house and garage (yippee!), but they still have our ~40 storm windows at their shop.  They’re being primed, painted, and re-glazed.  And, since this is being used as filler work in between their other jobs, it is going really slowly.  I talked to them a couple days ago and they said they were about half way done.  The goal is for all of the storms to be back on the house by the first week of August.  And, when they come back to put the storms back on the house, they are also planning to put another coat of sealer on the front door.  These are the only paint-related tasks remaining … and I am so looking forward to crossing them off the list!

 

3)  Rubber Roof for the Front Porch.

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Those soffit and trim boards in the corner are super soft. Water has probably been leaking straight through the roof and coming out in that corner.

This is the summer of porch roofs, I guess.  While painting the soffit area on the front porch, the painter found a really soft, wet spot that looked to be the result of a roof leak.  We knew we were probably living on borrowed time with that porch roof since it was jacked up to be more level prior to starting work on our entry way addition.  It’s currently covered in a rolled roofing material and water does sit on it after a good rain, so it’s no wonder that it’s leaking.  We have a roofer scheduled to come out the first week of August to install a new rubber roof.  Then, we’ll have a few water-damaged soffit/trim boards to replace and a little touch up paint before we can consider it done.

 

4)  Re-install hardware on the back storm door.

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When the painter was working on the back storm door, I made what seemed like a great decision at the time and told him to go ahead and remove the hardware on the door and patch the holes so we could get something that would look more appropriate on the door.  (The old hardware was a cheap replacement kit that looked totally out of place on our wooden storm door.)  That sure seemed like a great idea to me at the time.  But, now it’s been probably about a month and we still have no hardware on the storm door.  I’m sure it’ll be one of those “that was easy – why did we wait so long?” projects when we finally do it … but, right now, it’s just one more thing on the to-do list.  And, in the meantime, the door is a little impractical to use.

 

5)  Mulch/Rock.

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Ugh – I think we will still be finding paint chips in 5 years!

We need to do something with the flower beds around the house.  New mulch … or maybe new rock.  We’re not sure.  They were mulched, but it’s been a few years since we’ve put any fresh material down … and most of what was left was raked up with all of the piles of paint chips.  So, there’s really not much covering the flower beds at the moment and the weeds are loving it.  Clearly it’s time to do something different.  We love the look of fresh mulch, but we feel like rock is less maintenance in the long run, so we’re debating.  Hopefully we can make a decision and get something down by the end of the summer, though!

 

6) Fix the back patio area.

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This has been an eye sore for a long time.  We clearly don’t use the space, but between the railing that rusted through and fell off a few years ago and the mildewy tile floor that seems to come apart more every season, it’s time to do something about it.  We would love to start on this project yet this summer, but I guess we’ll see.  If we don’t get there, it’ll still be waiting for us next spring, I’m sure!

 

Anyway, that pretty much brings us up-to-date on the painting project that wound up including a whole lot of updates in addition to just painting.  We’re definitely in the home stretch now – and let’s just say that I’m really looking forward to the day when we can cross the “Update the Exterior” project off our list!  (That day will come, right?)  :)

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