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Will A Tankless Water Heater Fit In Your Boston Home? (Part 3)

For the last two weeks, I’ve examined the perspective of cost and operational efficiency of tankless hot water systems. Boston homeowners may not find the savings they were looking for from tankless hot water, but there are benefits other than those you can measure in out-of-pocket terms.

Tankless hot water systems are more efficient than conventional hot water heaters. American homeowners could aggregately reduce carbon emissions by more than 90 million tons annually, just by using tankless hot water systems. If reducing your carbon footprint is important to you, and the cost of a hot water system is the same over 15 years whether you go tank or tankless, this might be enough of an incentive to make the switch.

Tankless hot water systems take up less space in your home. If your basement or utility space is already crowded, a tankless system may help you reclaim some valuable real estate. In the process, you may be able to reduce the risk of water damage to nearby personal property if a water tank fails. Most homeowners insurance doesn’t cover “clean water” damage – that is, damage that’s caused by plumbing failures in the home. A tankless hot water system eliminates the danger of having a 40- 50-gallon instant spill.

Hot water tanks can’t be recycled effectively, so they tend to end up in landfills. By reducing the number of tanks that are discarded each year, Americans could significantly reduce the amount of landfill space required to dispose of their trash. Like reducing your carbon footprint, if reducing your waste stream is important, going tankless may help you do your part.

No matter what you decide, Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating can help. We do hot water heating system installations of all kinds, and we’re always ready to help. Whether you need emergency assistance, routine maintenance or a new installation, call us at (617) 288-2911 anytime!

Will A Tankless Water Heater Fit In Your Boston Home? (Part 2)

Last week, I started a discussion about tankless water heaters. Boston homeowners are beginning to consider tankless water heaters as a green replacement for their conventional hot water systems. In last week’s post, I covered the issue of cost, since this is one of the biggest considerations for homeowners. This week, I’ll tackle energy efficiency.

The second question most homeowners have about tankless water heaters relates to the system’s efficiency. Tankless water heaters take the prize in this category; the most efficient conventional hot water heaters operate at about 60% efficiency. Tankless systems have an efficiency rating of about 80%. The story goes deeper than ratings, though. A hot water tank will lose efficiency over time because sediment, minerals, and deterioration by-products from the sacrificial anode all work to reduce the efficiency of a hot water tank. Tankless systems maintain their efficiency over time because they’re not subject to these problems.

You can save money on operational costs with a tankless water heater because you only pay for hot water when you need it, as opposed to keeping water on “hot standby.” Generally, a tankless hot water system will save between 30% and 60% over conventional hot water system operating costs. That savings may not be enough to justify the added expense of the system.

Exactly how much savings are we talking about? Your costs to operate a conventional hot water heating system will depend, of course, on how big your tank is and where you live. A good estimate for natural gas-powered 40-gallon tanks is about $350 per year. If you use propane, your 40-gallon hot water tank may take $500 out of your pocketbook annually. In comparison, a tankless hot water system that uses natural gas may cost $250-$300 to operate, meaning that you could save $50-$100 per year as long as your hot water usage doesn’t change much.

If a conventional 40- or 50-gallon tank system costs $1,000 to install and $350 per year to operate for 15 years (and you had to replace the tank once during that time), your total out of pocket expense would be $7,250. In comparison, if you spent $3,500 on a tankless hot water system with an annual operational cost of $250, your total out of pocket expense for the tankless hot water system would be (ta da!) $7,250… exactly the same.

If you’re looking to replace a larger tank – a 75-gallon model – the installed cost may be more like $1,500. If you need to replace the tank once during our theoretical 15-year period, you’ll spend $3,000 on the hardware and another $6,000 on operational costs. Your total out of pocket expense would be $9,000. If you installed a high-volume tankless system for $5,000, you’ll spend an added $3,750 on operational costs. Your total out-of-pocket expense would be $8,750 – a savings of $250 over the conventional option.

At this rate, you can see why your savings may not justify the added initial cost of the system if you don’t need a heavy-duty hot water system.

Next week, I’ll close out this series on tankless water heaters. Boston homeowners may find reasons other than cost to go tankless after all! In the mean time, if you have questions about water heating, or a problem with your water heater, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We offer 24-hour emergency service for all plumbing, heating and cooling needs.

Will A Tankless Water Heater Fit In Your Boston Home? (Part 1)

Many homeowners are looking for ways to conserve energy and reduce their “carbon footprint.” One idea that has been gaining traction is the tankless water heater. Boston homeowners who are considering the move to a tankless hot water system should consider the move carefully before they make the decision to throw out the old hot water tank.

The first question most homeowners have about tankless systems is the cost. A tankless system does cost more than a conventional hot water heater, but the tradeoff is that the system lasts longer. A conventional residential hot water heating system will last between 6 and 12 years. Tankless hot water systems last about twice as long. Even so, the up-front cost of a tankless water heating system may leave you with a case of sticker shock! Generally, the system (with installation) will run between about $2,000 and $5,000, depending upon the system you choose.

If you have natural gas or propane in your home already, you’re in good shape for a tankless water heating system. If you need to bring gas or propane in, you’ll need to factor this additional cost into your calculations.

You can find electric tankless water heating systems. They’re generally less expensive to purchase and install, and their efficiency is higher, too. The problem is one of cost. Natural gas costs less per BTU than electricity does. In areas where both energy sources are readily available, you’ll spend 10%-15% less on a gas-fired tankless water system.

Here’s another consideration for electric tankless water systems; your house will likely require a 200-amp, 220V electrical service. Some electric tankless systems operate on smaller services, but you may incur additional expense if you have to upgrade your household electrical system to accommodate a tankless electric water heater.

With a conventional system, you’ll pay your equipment costs over time, in the form of tank replacement and tank maintenance, whereas with a tankless system, you’ll pay all system costs up front. The big question for most homeowners is (and will continue to be): “Can I recover the cost of the system?” Depending upon your hot water usage, you may not be able to recover the cost through normal operation, but your house may command a better price on the market if you have a tankless system installed.

Don’t fall for the myth that the tankless hot water system provides an infinite supply of hot water. Depending upon the size of the system you buy, a tankless system may be able to handle 1-2 showers simultaneously or a combination of a shower and a hot-water appliance, like a dishwasher or washing machine. Also, don’t plan on having “instant” hot water. The system will still require a little time to heat the water and deliver it to your tap.

Finally, if you use a significant amount of hot water (in other words, you have a 60-80 gallon tank), you may come out ahead on a tankless water heating system. I’ll show you why next week. If you get by just fine with a 40- or 50-gallon tank, I’ll show you why going the tankless route may come down to a coin toss.

If you have questions about water heaters, Boston Standard Plumbing has the answers. We offer 24-hour emergency service for all plumbing, heating and cooling systems. Contact us at (617) 288-2911.