Sunday, November 04, 2012

Overheard in Roomie's Bedroom...

Bobbi was running a tub, then cut off the water, shut the bathroom door, and went to her bedroom and burrowed under the quilts.
Me: "Uh, why are you... I mean, the tub..."

RX: "I'm letting the hot water heater recharge."

Me: "Why do we need a hot water heater?"

RX: "Because the hot water they deliver isn't hot enough."

Me: "You know what we need? One of those inline, on-demand heaters."

RX: "Oh, those are expensive!"

Me: "How expensive is 'expensive'?"

RX: "Um, probably close to a thousand?"

Me: "Because I'd totally be willing to go in on that."

RX: "Or, you know, we could just get a bigger heater, because that one is awfully tiny."

Me: "But if we got a tankless one, think of the floorspace it would free up in the basement! Think of all the old radios and computers we could put there!"


Anonymous said...

My advice;DON'T get a tankless water heater.I've got the most-capacity,most-features one they make,and it's nothing but frustrating.Get the biggest tanktype heater you can fit,you'll be happier.

Buzz said...

To quote an architecture prof: "It's a water heater, not a hot water heater. If the water is already hot, why do you need to heat it?"

In your case, Tam, I think "hot water heater" is actually correct.

Jim said...

Thankless heaters are complicated, expensive, unreliable abominations.

On the other hand, as I survey the clutter, I sympathize with the dream of enough new cubies to house another gun safe.

Chas Clifton said...

"Thankless heaters" — great Freudian slip!

I don't know what your water hardness is, but the tankless heaters seem to plug up fast with hard water. Ask my neighbor, who went through two and then went back to a tank.

Justthisguy said...

Yeah, Jim, but if you have one, you can shower for an hour.

Mark Alger said...

Think of it this way. Tankless heaters are meant to service the watermelon fetish of energy conservation. The answer to a shortage in ANYthing (not to say we have a shortage in energy) is to A) make more, or B) raise the price.

The point of forcing an energy-conservation mindset on the populace is not to conserve energy, because -- check it out: E=MC^2 and we live in a sea of the stuff -- but to gain and keep control over the lifestyles of the gen pop.

There's also the red herring of global warming and CO2 levels, but we-all know that's a hoax.

Tam said...

Ah, a new reader who thinks that I'm interested in a tankless heater for some kind of green reason.

I hope you'll become a daily reader, because then you'll discover that the only reason I want one is that I hate running out of hot water. If it reduced gas bills, that'd be nice and all, but I really wouldn't care if it didn't (and I sincerely doubt it would reduce them enough to pay for itself for many, many years.)

Tam said...

Incidentally, a functioning inline water heater is obviously a better choice for more civilized people who would like to have as much hot water as they want whenever they want it.

Do you think that the crew of Serenity has to wait for a copper steam kettle to refill between showers? That's positively goddam archaic.

Robin said...

Great post but the last line was really a very mean way to tease Roberta ...


Steve Skubinna said...

I heard once that the city of Moscow has one central water heating plant and hot water is piped through the entire city.

Stupid urban legend, I thought. I mean, yeah the Commies were amazingly inefficient and bureaucratically stupid, but no way would they be so...

On checking the stupid urban legend, it turns out to be true. Some people of means can afford individual water heaters, but yes, the city pipes hot water to everyone.

Steve C said...

(From a reformed Home Depot clerk) An important decision factor is how much hot water do you need how fast. Depending on model, a demand heater will deliver 2.5 to 5 GPM. ! usage is 2.5 GPM (ie. a shower or a washing machine) so with the bigger models you can take a shower and do laundry at the same time. If you have a garden tub they are not a good choice as it takes too long to fill the tub at the flow rates. If you exceed the flow rates, the water temperature goes down. You need gas service. They make electric heaters, but the flow rates are too low. For the ultimate solution, you can use a demand heater as a pre-heater for a tank heater. That would let you fill a garden tub and then keep it warm.

JohninMd.(help!) said...

New "keep calm" poster--"Keep calm, or by my pretty floral bonnet, I will END you." Too bad Whedon turned out to be Alliance, not a Browncoat.....(sigh) We need another Milius in Hollywierd...

MonteG said...

The thing I like about the tank-style water heaters is that they let me be slightly lazy about keeping emergency water supplies handy.

Bubblehead Les. said...

Well, I have had a Tankless Water Heater for the past 3 years. Gas Fired, not one problem with it at all. Unfortunately, with the Permits, the rerouting of the Vent line, etc, it came to about $2,000. But as long as I have Electricity to run the Thermostat, I have 120 Degree Water 24/7 any time I want it.

YMMV, of course.

Mark Alger said...


Seriously? You think I'm new here?

How quickly we forget!


Justthisguy said...

Tam obviously concurs with me, though she had to use more words to get through to the doodahs. As I said, "Shower for an hour." Yah, I know those tankless heaters can have problems, just like any other technical gizmo, but I would love to have one, so that I could stay in the shower until I was wrinkled all over.

Back in the eighties of the previous century, I lived in an ancient apartment building in Little Five Points in Atlanta, with an equally ancient boiler in the basement, which provided both steam heat and an endless supply of dangerously-hot water.

It was wonderful!

Tam said...


This is Sarcasm; Arguments is down the hall. ;)

Angus McThag said...

Shower for an hour?

80 gallon water heater, crank the thermostat way past the recommended level.

When the water be hotter, you're actually using less of it for your shower so a given amount lasts longer. Unless you like your shower a the full scalding hot capability of the heater...

RevolverRob said...

When I first moved to Austin, I lived in a tiny shoebox apartment. But the shoebox had attached to it, a boiler that was approximately the size of said shoebox. You could take a hot shower for DAYS if you were so inclined. I was never inclined to take a hot shower for days, but when I had the flu once, I was included to shower/sleep for about 2.5 hours. Best nap, I've ever had.

If you cannot have a boiler, instant on-demand, endless hot water is...amazing, get it however you can.


Mark Alger said...

Whew! I was worried there for a minute. ::grin::

(Sarcastic enough?)


Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

As I understand it, the real problem with tankless on-demand heaters is that they fire at high capacity for the first few moments (to handle the immediate surge) and then cut back drastically while they wait to see what the actual demand is. Which means that you get a jolt of hot, followed by cold (or cool anyway), and then it warms up again.

And I would imagine the folks warning about calcification build up from hard water are spot on. You'd probably want an EasyWater or something like that on the feedline to mitigate that.

I prefer a tanked water heater myself. If nothing else it can be easily and inexpensively replaced when it dies. And the four square feet of floor space it takes up aren't really missed that much.

Anonymous said...

I installed one 6 years ago and have had zero problems. I did not take advantage of any tax breaks. All I wanted was unlimited
hot water and by Crom I got it!

2 Dogs

Anonymous said...

I left the first comment,and I still stand by it.Tankless is more trouble,on several fronts.(BTW,I am an engineer/scientist and I know a little about how things work.)My tankless cost a little over $2000,which I'll never recover in gas savings.Also,my water bill went up by significantly,even if my gas bill went down.Fuzzy is right,the temp sensors "hunt "for a while,until they zero in on the set point.That's OK for brushing teeth,but not washing dishes or showering.You have to let the water run,till it settles on it's temp.Also,in the south,our water heaters are in the crawl space under the house,( not a trailer)and when it got over 100 here this summer,the water heater "thought" the water was already hot and didn't fire up at all.I had to change the set point,which made the water too hot,(wasting more gas)and cool it with the cold water faucet.
Oh,and if you run the washer while you shower,every time the wash goes into a different cycle,you have the same effect of "searching for the set point"as when you started,becuase of the change in water pressure,which the unit senses as part of it's data.That's when the shower runs from hot-to-cold-to-warm-to-hot again.
Just buy a big tank,(who needs an hour for a shower anyway?)Bill

Stranger said...

There are dozens of tankless water heaters. My Rinnai was a post Katrina upgrade, because the supply pipe corroded off and gave me a flash of hot water, then all cold.

After more than six years of NO trouble, I am past the normal service life of a 40 gallon tank. My gas bill is the $9 minimum in summer. Formerly, the summer minimum was $46.

Temperature stability? Fifteen seconds for the taps to achieve warm water, another ten seconds for the metal pipes to warm and it's within a degree of 140 - all night long.

Of course, that is a gas heater. I understand that electric hot water heaters are much more complex and troublesome - but if Rennai 1 dies Rennai 2 will take its place.


Will said...

you might consider draining/flushing the current water heater. There could be a considerable buildup of sediment inside, reducing the actual water capacity.
Be aware that not all garden hoses can handle hot water, and the failure mode is usually the hose separating from its fittings.

Buzz said...

A tank heater of appropriate size and recovery should keep a two-person household in hot showers ad pruneum.
My daughters, with their excessively long steamfests, don't prevent me from having my refreshing scalding.

Lewis said...

In Soviet Union, water heater heats you!

No, really, Skubbina's right. When I was living in Almaty (former capital of Kazakhstan), there was ALWAYS hot water. Ten minute shower? No biggie. Twenty minutes? That part of the five year plan worked, comrade.

I'm not sure if it was block-wide, but yeah, they had some big ass boilers going.

Of course, in Spring they'd turn the big boilers off for cleaning, which would take about a week.

Almaty's located in the lee of the Tien Shan mountains, and it's water comes down from the Big Almaty Lake reservoir, which is (as one might suppose) up in the mountains.

So when they shut down the boilers for maintenance, you had a week long period of bathing in essentially snowmelt. Fast showers, on those days.

Sebastian said...

I got one in April. They cost a lot, and cost a lot to put in, but they do save a lot of space, and so far, it's worked quite well. I will say though, you will save money getting a high efficiency model that can exhaust with PVC, because it costs less to install.

It is awfully nice to recover that space, and it truly will provide hot water as long as you have the faucet on.

Sebastian said...

I should note that I have gas. There's a lot to look at when it comes to a tankless. Most consume a metric shitload of gas when they are running. Mine peaks out a 200k BTU/hr. You need to see what kind of gas piping you have, and how far you are from the meter. You really need 3/4 inch piping to supply one of these gas suckers.

And if you have electric, don't bother with a tankless. Electric tankless units are awful, and require a small nuclear reactor to provide power for, and I'm only mildly kidding about that.

Anonymous said...

Drain the tank to remove sediment, it acts as insulation, and slows down the heat transfer, If it is more then 5-7 years old, you may need to replace the water heater anode rod. The rod slows down rusting on the tank and gives it longer life. If this doesn't work try a new tank, with a higher btu, larger storage tank

Kevin said...

@JohninMD: Too bad Whedon turned out to be Alliance, not a Browncoat

Whedon was always Alliance.

Tim Minear was the Browncoat.

Kevin said...

On the subject of water heaters, I replaced mine a couple of years ago with a brand-new gas-fired 50 gallon unit. (My wife likes to take HOT baths in a garden tub.)

On the plus side, if the SHTF, I've got 50 gallons of water stored in a tank in my laundry room.

Ritchie said...

"This is Sarcasm; Arguments is down the hall. ;)"
No it's not!
It's my understanding, as a condo dweller, that the new tank heaters have all-electronic igniters and interlocks. This means that when the lectrons go on strike, so does the gas fired hot water. UNLESS you can hot wire a suitable inverter to a car and thence to the water heater. Professor Goldberg gets the first hot shower.

Ken O said...

Score Bobbi a Latin American suicide shower to play with; she'll be greatly entertained and they are certainly conversation pieces.

Roberta X said...

Ken: seen 'em, still can't believe 'em. Man, there isn't GFCI enough to convince me to try that!

Kristophr said...

I want a nuclear powered hot water heater for my home.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Seems like everyone has already chimed in. Well, my as well join the party. This is my own personal experience from up here in the Mass. (ok you can stop laughing, really, its not kind... and yeah it sucks some times. But I digress...) We changed out a conventional electric water heater for a tankless Renie system (that uses propane) and its worked great without an issue for 7 years and its saved us $100 per month on our electric bill. (Being a crotchety New Englander this made me happy) The only issue we have is that you have to run the water a little bit (30 sec or so) for the hot water to get to the tap. Good Luck!

Alien said...

Late to the party, but...

Went through the 2004 Hurricane Festivities in central Florida. Charlie left us powerless for 5 days, Frances for 1.5, Jean for 1. Had acceptably warm showers (outdoors) thanks to a Zodi. That solution worked in FL in Aug/Sept, a no-go in Indy Oct-May.

No NG available so the choice was propane or stick with electric tank. Plan was to sell the abode in a couple years, so stuck with the tank.

Ran the numbers, in no way did tankless (propane) economically justify itself. If staying in FL would have done it anyway.

Moved from FL last year to semi-warm southern clime, another all-electric house. Had utility run NG gas line ($355), had contractor install gas furnace ($6K) to replace electric resistance heat. Now dual fuel, heat pump runs to 40F, gas furnace below that.

NG tankless goes in next week. Downs: $2.2K total, "cold sandwich" mentioned above, service life of 15-18 years. Ups: MUCH cheaper than electric, unlimited hot water past the sandwich, wall mounted so recover floor space from the electric tank, if we lose power (here's it's winter ice storms, not summer hurricanes) I can run the tankless with a very small generator or even a big UPS.

Economics: It's a money loser. Electric tank has a 12-15 year life here, replacement is $300 or so, another $150 if professionally installed. Tankless is $2.2K installed, will probably need replacement in 15 years (replacement will be about $1.2K at today's prices). 20 year extrapolation on gas vs electric doesn't go positive on small household. 4 people it might, 5-8 it would.

Going tankless anyway.

Matt G said...

Given that we're talking about the ideal (more hot water) rather than the reality (possible inherent problems), I'd say: leave the tank in, and run the on-demand in-line with it. But, hell, if that's an option, might as well just put a second big-ass water heater in next to it. That really would be a Hot Water Heater. (I always use the redundant term, for some reason, too.)

RandyGC said...

Been running a gas fired tankless for over 10 years now. No problems.

Friends in the business helped install it. Only installation cost was a run to Sam's for flesh to sear on a grill and appropriate accompaniments. And beer.

Mine does not use electricity so we still have hot water during power outages.

Anonymous said...

I have a solution.

Make your next generator a STEAM powered one, even a small boiler able to supply 150+psi to a 1 - 10 HP steam engine will produce hot "waste" water in quantities that will allow you to heat entire houses, in Jan, in Quebec, where it's minus omg deg celsius, and you have the windows open.

Stop looking at me like that.

Tell me no one here would not be thrilled to bits to have a small triple expansion 10hp steam engine whirring away producing power, heat, and fun! Steam whistle!

Imagine your internet and HAM radio being run on homemade STEAM!

Woo hoo! ( Runs around flapping arms.)

Ken O said...

Bobbi: When I have been in Costa Rica, I have taken many a cold shower in the houses we have rented, rather than risk it. I don't know if the hardwired units or the plug in units frightened me more. One house that we stayed in had a sixty gallon electric tank water heater augmented by a suicide unit.

Stranger said...

Well, economics of tankless here:

Rennai tankless, $1,030.00

Hardware, $37.00

Labor, DIY but 2 hours @ 75.00 150.00

Total, $1,217

Savings on natural gas compared to tank here, and we have cheap gas: approximately $37 a month, or $444 a year. <36 months to amortized cost.

Compared to a premium high demand 40 gallon tank, $695 at big box store. (low demand small burner model is $645)

DIY installation free, 1 hour at 75.00 professionally done.

Excess cost of gas compared to tankless over 15 year estimated lifetime = $6,660

Excess cost cost of tank over tankless over 15 year lifespan = $7,430

Estimated savings from tankless 15 years: $5,383.

Now, that is gas but the split is even greater if you are all electric and are wired for the 125 to 150 amp draw of an adequate electric tankless.

Also, before you choose an electric tankless be aware that high draw appliances may run into severe power company surcharges - and will not be satisfactory if there is much resistance in the service drop. That drop should be at least 2/0 wire for a tankless. A tank can get by with #10. Although #8 is better.


Anonymous said...

I'm told the solution is a *SMALL* , very well insulated, tank heater , with a tankless heater in line before it.

You get the instant on of the tank and the tankless can hunt all it wants for a couple of minutes before it settles down without affecting water temp at the output.

Of course then you have 2 thing that can break.

NotClauswitz said...

Unlesss you have a quick-start backup generator, with the tankless water heater, when the power goes out you have neither hot nor water.
We live about 2 blocks from a transformer that blows about once a year. Kaboom! No lights no power and the intersection almost invariably has a car-crash. Lights-out for the Safeway too - they do a pretty good job with old inventory but don't go and buy Milk the next day. Meanwhile my 40-gal "emergency water storage container" runs on gas and stays nicely hot and the 120-lumen LED flashlights ($20/3-pack) from Costco light up the dark corners and *don't* get hot.

Windy Wilson said...

God Bless! I may never go back to Costa Rica. Last time I went, I was told afterwards that I took my life in my hands flying TACA Airlines, and NOW I find out that I was taking my life in my hands there every morning thanks to something called a "Latin American Suicide Shower" that apparently has something to do with electricity and water being in closer proximity than Norte Americanos consider safe. It was bad enough using plumbing that reportedly could not handle toilet paper, but this?!!!

As for the tankless heater, if we're talking about a tankless heater with an ordinary tanked heater after it, how big of a tank water heater are we talking about, and are these things available that don't use electricity, since hot water in event of a power outage seems like a comforting thing.

Cheesy said...

I've been told I can use the toaster to keep the bath water warm, but I'm skeptical...

Striker said...

I guess I'm the outlyer here, since I absolutely love my tankless water heater.

Plus as you've surmised, replacing the tank freed up a lot of space that I used to set up two Mech 9000's for loading shotgun.


Justthisguy said...

@anonymous @12:21 on November fifth:

Sir, you seem to be a man with whom my heart beats in unison! Ooh! triple expansion! I almost swoon!

You mentioned running around flapping arms. You are definitely One of Us, sir, having independently discovered the Secret Handshake.

I hereby award you the letter "A" to wear on your letter sweater. Wear it proudly; you are among the few, the proud, the autistic.

I am quite serious about that last sentence, you social monkeys.

Justthisguy said...

P.s. Let me clarify: The more autistic traits you have, the more I like you, and the more fellow-feeling I have for you. I mind a gal I used to hang out with. She asked me, "Do you mind if I rock?" I said something like, of course not, I thought it was quite endearing.

Curiously, she had a sister who was much prettier than she was, by normal standards.

I was more attracted to the weird sister than I was to the normal one. Now that I think about it, I think that every female human with whom I have rubbed mucus membranes has been somewhat neurally divergent.

Normal women seem to avoid me.

Justthisguy said...


I do all I can to avoid normal women.