Interview about Tankless Water Heaters
What water heater is best for your home? Here at McHale’s, we want to be sure that, whether you’re remodelling or just replacing, you only need to have the job done once. That’s why we had our technician David Croce speak with Matt from Service Inbound. The interview can serve as an FAQ for people looking into a water heater upgrade: you’ll see an expert, honest representation of tankless water heaters, how they work, and why they could be right for you. Check it out!
Chat with the Experts: McHale’s on Tankless Water Heating
Hello, this is Matt Mazzari from Service Inbound. I’m here with David Croce from McHale’s Plumbing, and we’re going to talk a little bit about tankless water heaters. How are you doing, David?
I’m great, thanks Matt. How are you today?
I’m good! So first, tell me a little bit about your company, McHale’s.
We’re a family owned business, we were founded in 1950, and since then we’ve grown into a mid-sized service company. We do plumbing, heating, air conditioning, and electrical work, and we also have a second division that does kitchens and bathrooms.
Alright, great. So we’ll move in to talking about tankless water heating. So if I’m a homeowner installing a water heater, why should I choose tankless over conventional?
Well first, Matt, let me start by saying that tankless technology has been around for a really long time. It’s been kind of revisited as energy efficiency needs tend to increase. So I guess the short answer as to why you should choose the tankless is because it’s more energy efficient than a traditional tank water heater. Another reason is that the tankless water heaters typically last twice as long as the tanked option.
And how long is that?
The average life expectancy of a water heater, a tanked water heater, is between 6 and 12 years. If we average that out, we’ll say about 8 and a half, 10 years. The average tankless water heater is expected to last about 20 years.
So, as far as tankless water heaters go, what tankless model do you prefer to install?
It depends on the application, of course, since there are different models that suit different applications, but for the most part I prefer the Eternal “tanked” hybrid, which is a tankless that keeps a small reservoir of water. We find really good results with that because of the fact that it keeps a little bit of water warm all the time for you — not quite 40 gallons or 50 or 80 gallons hot all of the time whether you’re using it or not — but just a few to kind of get it going. We have really good results with that when we get people with a couple children in the house or a couple of teenagers. In these applications, we see that, previously, they had to schedule their showers or not run certain appliances while using the shower, but the eternal takes that out of the application and kind of levels everything out.
Okay, when you’re paying for equipment like the Eternal, which is a hybrid and very advanced, as well as the cost of the installation process, the initial price can be kind of large. But will home owners save money if they go with tankless?
Well, it depends. I tell people, when people ask me this question, about my mother: when I was replacing her air conditioner , being in the industry, I wanted to replace it with the most advanced and efficiency air conditioner possible. She said, “Well I probably won’t save money,” but I said, “No no, this is the most efficiency model” — she only turns her AC on twice a year when it’s above 90 degrees. That being said, it depends on how much hot water you use. If you’ve got a full house full of people and everybody is showering all of the time, you wind up using a lot of hot water, and then sometimes the tanked options will work. But if you are paying to heat 80 gallons of hot water all of the time but you’re only using it when you shower in the morning and when you go to work — maybe you cook some food when you get home and run the washer a couple of times a week — in that case, you’ll see drastic savings over keeping a large reservoir of water that’s unused hot 24 hours a day whether it’s being used or not. So really it depends on use and application. Some will save a ton of money, others will see it balance out, and they won’t save quite as much. But then, another thing that I’d like to add about the tankless: one thing that you’ll save besides money is space. These things take up a quarter of the space of a traditional water heater. So, as our spaces get a little bit smaller, these accommodate, so makes a lot of sense for homeowners as well.
While we’re on the topic of the space, can you tell me about the installation process?
Sure! So the first thing we check is the gas piping: we just make sure you have adequate gas flow to the appliance. If not, it’s usually a pretty simple upgrade to a slightly larger gas pipe, maybe a quarter of an inch larger, which would provide the gas volume necessary for this appliance. The second thing we look for is the proper venting accommodations in the house as well. Sometimes the flue pipe itself needs to be updated, but most of the time that’s not the case and you can vent it with the traditional flue. We just make sure all of the safety provisions are there for us and then it’s really just a matter of getting an electrical outlet over there for some of them. There are a couple of models like the Bosch 520 that use no electrical power — it uses a small dynamo powered by water, which is pretty cool too. But, yeah, it’s not necessarily any more complicated than your traditional tanked water heater.
Alright, so when I’ve got my tankless water heater installed, one issue that people have reported in the past is inconsistency: some people might have said they get cold showers. Has the technology changed or improved recently to address this issue?
It absolutely has.
Is the Eternal Hybrid an attempt to address that?
Exactly! That’s exactly what that is. What happens is that you have a gallons per minute flower meter specifically required for the water heater to fire up, and if you have an aerated faucet, for instance, you may not be using what is required for that heater to start that up at full capacity, so it wouldn’t necessarily give you all the hot water you need. As we’ve developed the plumbing in our homes to save water, we’ve also developed single-handle shower faucets with things like anti-scald for children that are designed for the tanked water heater, for a much heavier water flow. Those features are designed to slow that water down right at the fixture. So as we first started to develop the tankless and install them, some of the lower-flow faucets might not have triggered full combustion in the hot water heater. In other words, they initially had some problems, but were reengineered to accommodate most other piping systems and a larger flow of hot water. One of the things that makes these hot water heaters so efficient it that, if you have one fixture on its not going to at 100 percent, the water heater is only going to work at 20 percent of its capacity. If you’re running three faucets at once, that water heater is going to work three times as hard as it would with one. Sometimes, like I was saying, you might not trigger enough water flow to make this device work as hard as you want it to, but there are some quick adjustments you can make on the device themselves that will correct that.
You mentioned before that the lifespan of tankless water heaters could be about 15 to 20 years, is that right?
What does the warranty look like on those products?
The warranty for the Bosch and for some of the eternals is typically around 15 years on the heat exchanger, 5 years on the mechanical parts, and at least a year of labor with optional 5 year labor plans. The industry standard for a tank type water heater is 6 years for parts. Tankless, again, is 5 year parts and 15 year heat exchanger, which is the core of the heater itself, so almost 3 times as long as the traditional water heater.
That sounds great! In order to get it to last that full capacity, do I need to maintain it? And how do you maintain a tankless water heater?
Well, it’s always a good idea to maintain even a tanked water heater — for anything that moves in your house or uses combustion, I’d recommend annual maintenance. Really, the maintenance might be just a cursory check; it might be a minor adjustment to your specific home. Most homes are different, and when you put a mechanical device into that home, it’s going to operate differently. It’s going to operate exactly to what that house is requiring it to do. So I like that the tankless a look at it once a year to make sure that it’s working it okay and that the homeowner is happy with the temperatures with the flow rate and with your bills to make sure that everything is where you want it to be and you’re getting the full satisfaction out of the product you paid for so like a said a check could be just a tune up or an inspection it could also be if we notice an issue, like if we notice you have really hard water in the area, we might need to run a de-scaling through it which would take some of the minerals out of the piping and bring your efficiency back up to where it needs to be
So McHale’s does offer that maintenance program?
Yes, we absolutely do.
And it’s annual?
Yes, and we actually offer them as a comprehensive package with heating, air conditioning, electrical and plumbing. We offer that for $120 a year, so it makes a lot of sense for people.
Oh, wow! David, thank you so much for your time. Before we end, am I missing anything? Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about McHale’s or tankless water heaters?
Yeah, of course! I would actually like to end by saying tankless water heaters, while they are a really great technology, they’re not necessarily for everybody. It really doesn’t hurt to have a professional come take a look at the situation in your home check in and see if it’s right for you — and which one is right for you. You can read a lot online and, while there are always mixed reviews about anything, tankless actually have better reviews than most mechanical devices you read about. Bu, like I said, it’s always good to have someone come out and give you an estimate. Our technicians can give you an idea of what water heater will best suit your needs.
Right, so if somebody suspects that they might be able to get a better deal and better efficiency with the tankless, how do they learn more.
There are some links on our website, McHale’s.net, that you can check out, but the actual best way is to have a conversation with a plumber. We can see how many fixtures there are in your home and decide what’s best depending on your hot water needs and where you want to be with efficiency.
Great! Thanks so much for your time, David.
You’re welcome, Matt.
This has been Service Inbound and McHale’s on tankless water heaters. Thanks for tuning in!