Water Heater Replacement

EMERYVILLE − Host, Sarah Rutan: If you’re planning to replace your old, traditional water heater, it’s important to know the full extent of your options. Today we’re in Emeryville with Diamond Certified Expert Contributor Leigh Marymor of The Lunt Marymor Company to learn more.

Diamond Certified Expert Contributor, Leigh Marymor: When it comes time to replace the old, leaking standard style hot water heater – this one’s thirty years old – there’re many options on the market to think about in terms of what you want to install next.

The least expensive installation is going to be to replace like with like, and put a new standard hot water heater tank right where the old one was. But, there are a couple of cautions in making that decision. And, the one that’s most important is to realize that the replacement models are all going to be taller and wider than the one you’re replacing. And, this is due to the new federal energy efficiency rules that have come out this year that designate a higher energy factor for these water heaters. So, if you are at all space constrained, either by height or by width, you’re going to want to think about another option. And, many of those options are the new high efficiency energy models which we can take a look at now.

Jim Lunt, co-owner of The Lunt Marymor Company: So, an option for a high efficiency water heater to fit in the space that’s currently occupied by a conventional water heater that we spoke of, is an on demand water heather. As you can see, they’re quite small, quite compact. This one is condensing, so it’s quite efficient – very high efficiency. However, there are considerations – what we call the installed cost – that can be markedly more than you might anticipate.

One is, undoubtedly, it’s going to need a larger gas line than what you have now. These require quite large gas lines. Two, you need a 120 volt outlet. They require a plug that they can plug in to – an outlet they can plug in to. Three, you’re going to have to change your flue. You cannot reuse the flue that you have with a conventional water heater. In addition with this one, you also have to have a combustion air piping system. And lastly, you have to have a drain for the condensate that this unit produces.

In addition, with any on demand water heather, you need to be aware that there will be what’s called a cold water sandwich. And, what that is, is when you turn your hot water off at your sink, and a little bit later you turn it back on, there’s going to be, eventually, a slug of cold water. And what that is, is it’s the time it takes cold water to begin flowing through the unit, the burner coming on and heating that water until it’s finally hot and going out into the hot line.

So, these units offer flexibility in terms of where they can be installed – spatially they take very little space – they are potentially quite efficient, but you do need to consider the installed cost. The unit cost is not that much, the installed cost may be substantial. You should certainly – in thinking about high efficiency water heaters – be considering high efficiency storage tank water heaters that have their own set of advantages.

Diamond Certified Expert Contributor, Leigh Marymor: This system uses a very simple and inexpensive venting system. It’s literally constructed of two inch PVC tubular pipe. One to carry combusted gasses, and the other to bring in intake air for the burner that terminate either at the roof or through the side wall of the house. We mentioned the condensate – the condensate comes off that venting system, and that moisture ultimately will be directed to a drain, or possibly to a gravel sump out in the yard.

The other thing that we like about these units are their track record and their longevity. There are manufacturers that offer this unit with a stainless steel tank, for example, and that tank will go many, many years. We’ve yet to see one fail. At the end of the day, living with this style hot water heater is going to be very much like living with the conventional tank style hot water heater, but with the marked advantages of producing copious amounts of hot water at very high efficiency, and avoiding the nuisance of the cold water slug. 

Host, Sarah Rutan: To learn more from local, top-rated companies, visit our Diamond Certified Expert Reports at experts.diamondcertified.org.