Posted by: Michelle Mitton | September 12, 2008

Rinnai Tankless Water Heaters

Rinnai Tankless Water Heater Model R94lSII did a bit of whining last week while at the low-point for our home remodel. We were missing walls, had lost our heating, all our goods were piled in the living room covered with dusty plastic and then to top it off our hot water heater burst–all with a three day weekend to endure.

Now maybe I was the last person on the planet to realize this but apparently hot water heaters don’t last that long–ours came with our house which we bought seven years ago so I’m not even sure how old the tank actually is (though I’ve now learned that when you see water pouring out of the bottom that’s a sign that things have probably gone past the expiration date).

So it threw things into a bit of a mess here while we scrambled to clean up while finding a new tank and in the course of my complaining and whining to a neighbor they mentioned that if their tank should ever need replacing they’d be sure to get a tankless heater.

Well that was something that needed some Googling (“Google Knows All” is our motto) and sure enough we discovered that Rinnai tankless water heaters were making a strong surge into the market. We still didn’t know much about them but when I called our regular plumber–Bruce Wills at Best Plumbing–and asked him what he knew he got very excited and let us know that we had the pleasure of speaking with the one and only authorized Rinnai serviceman in town, a bona fide Rinnai devotee who had gone down to California to receive installation and service training in order to get his Rinnai merit badge.

We took that as a sign and looked into things more seriously and soon decided that this was a system with potential. With a normal hot water heater you have a metal tank covered in enamel that is constantly filling with water and heating things to 180 degrees, ready for when you might need it. It’s common knowledge that it helps if you have a hot water heater blanket to help insulate your tank against the loss of heat to save energy and money but with Rinnai there is no tank, it’s an “on demand” system that heats the water as you need it, removing the waste of the heated tank.

Sound too good to be true? Well to make a long story short we got our Rinnai tankless system installed a week ago and so far we love it. Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons:

Pros:

  • The efficiency of heating water on demand should cut our gas bill by 20%.
  • Less energy means it’s better for the environment, less wasteful. For a demo of how it works see the explanation at the Rinnai website.
  • In Alaska the system also qualifies for the energy upgrade rebates through AHFC.
  • The tank is so small it hangs on the wall and measures 22.9 by 14 inches total.
  • It comes with a digital thermometer where you can adjust the water temperature with one touch of a button.
  • It’s much quieter than the loud tank up at the cabin, making about as much noise as a flushing toilet.
  • It’s got a 5-7 year warranty though they’re said to last much, much longer than any traditional water tank.
  • Oh yea. Unlimited hot water–we’ll never have another cold shower again. EVER.

Cons:

  • It’s more expensive than a traditional hot water heater (I’ll sock you with the price at the end).
  • While it can hang on the wall it must be hung on an outside wall rather than an inner wall for it to properly ventilate. Not outside your house, just on an outside wall.
  • It does make a tiny bit of noise–as I said, about like a flushing toilet. Every time the hot water turns on.
  • It takes a little bit longer to get hot water though I haven’t noticed a huge difference in time. The faucet that is the farthest away takes a little bit longer to heat up but the others are all about the same as they were before.
  • In Alaska the water comes out of the ground colder than it would in the Lower 48 so that it’s recommended that we here get the commercial model which is a bit more powerful–and a bit more expensive.

So . . . the bottom line is that though it cost $2500 to purchase and install (including taking away the old tank) we expect our hot water heater should pay for itself within 2-3 years and if the warranty and rumors I’ve heard can be trusted we should be saving money for quite a few years after that. I’ve been very happy with it though it is still the honeymoon–if things get rocky in the relationship I’ll be sure to let you know but for now I’d really recommend this to anyone interested in improving their utility bills, saving some energy or saving some space.

What will they think of next?

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