Thursday, June 19, 2008

Going Tankless: Part II (for Real)

Remember when our water heater went out and we thought about getting a tankless water heater? Ah, the memories. It was in May 2006, but it seems like only yesterday that I was replacing that thermocouple. Wait, that's because it was yesterday! What do I mean? Well, the thermocouple went out again already.

Yes, I fear the 23-year-old water heater has reached the end of its useful life. I've replaced the thermocouple again, but how much longer can it go on? It's time to replace the entire water heater. Since the old beast is so layered with sediment that it won't even fill up our bathtub, this replacement isn't exactly a shock to us.

In fact, after it went out in 2006, I actually found someone on our beloved Craigslist selling a tankless water heater that had been installed in a mulit-family home for a few months. While the owner was glad at the energy savings, the residents weren't too happy when four people tried to shower at once.

If you aren't aware of the main performance difference between tankless and regular water heaters, the tankless design can't accommodate the same flow rate (gallons per minute) as a traditional heater. But as long as you get the right size, it isn't a problem. For exmaple, the unit I purchased is a Takagi TK2 which supports two major appliances. So although we never do laundry at the same time as showering, in theory, with this tankless heater, we could.

So while we limp along on our old standard heater, I contacted my good friend Jim, to help with the tankless installation since he has the exact same model. Also, there are some unique install considerations for these. Since tankless water heaters burn so efficiently, you can't use a standard exhaust duct... it has to be double-walled stainless steel. Jim also installs solar thermal water heaters, so he could help me install this so that if I ever wanted to go solar later on and use the tankless as a supplemental backup (a common configuration) there would be room to cut in the solar piping. Anyway, here's another photo of it during the installation process.

As you can see, the space-saving design is already a bonus as it tucks away into a 2'-wide space between the furnace and a foundation wall. I've already got plans for the area where our old water heater currently rots rests. Anyway, we're not quite done with the installation just yet, but we'll be wrapping things up very soon.


Ethan said...

If you don't mind me asking, how much did it set you back? What's a "good" price for a tankless heater? I'm really curious how well it performs.

jay said...

As I mentioned, I bought this awhile ago... so long in fact that I have forgotten the exact price, but I'm pretty sure it was about $500. I think I had good timing and found someone desperate to sell - always good if you're a buyer!

Jennifer said...

I would love one... installation in our house was quoted at $1500, though.. NOT including tank.

Jenni said...

I read an article on how to make a solar water heater out of an old waterheater tank. Not really too difficult for a DIYer. A re-use idea for your old tank.

jay said...

Jenni - that's not a bad idea! I've wondered about doing that since I'll have the storage component all ready to go, and that solar-heated water could feed into the tankless. The only thing I worry about is that for some reason, if the current water heater isn't being heated (like when it went out twice) it develops a slow drip drip drip.. But I may keep it around just in case that can be fixed.

Alex Kelley said...

Did you look into installing a solar water heater? A solar system would pre-heat the water with solar energy and then your tankless heater would finish it off to the desired temperature. In the summer, you would get almost all your hot water from the sun and your annual average would be around 75% solar depending on the design.

These systems work great here in Chicago. Even if the sun only raises the tank temperature to 90 or 100 degrees, this is 50 degrees over ground water temp before using any fossil fuels. In the summer, you will see 120 storage tank temperatures which is what most people use for tap temperatures.

jay said...

Thanks for the comments Alex. I have absolutely looked into solar thermal. One of the decision points for purchasing this tankless was to also serve as a backup heater for a solar thermal system. With having to spend cash on other improvements right now, solar will have to wait another year or two. Also I'm still undecided on flat-plate collectors vs. evacuated tubes given Chicago's solar potential.

Raj Parmeswar said...

I would like to know how much you spent on its maintenance so far.

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