Q: I am presently in escrow for a home that has five bathrooms and a pool. There are three water heaters. The home has been inspected by a thorough inspector, and I was present during most of the inspection. There is a problem with one of the water heaters, and the inspector pointed out the problems in the report. My concern is the three water heaters. The pressure seems low when I test the bathtubs. I would like to know whether a tankless water heater would help me conserve and save money?
A: A tankless whole-house water heater, one with a high British Thermal Unit rating and high flow rate will, in the long run, save you 20 percent to 50 percent over the costs of a standard water heater. In addition, a tankless water heater will have a longer useful life expectancy compared with storage heaters. You can either install one high-flow, tankless water heater for the whole house or install individual, on-demand heaters for high-use appliances, such as the dishwasher or washing machine.
When shopping for tankless water heaters, look for:
1) Venting requirements. Check with local code officials on how and where the unit can be vented. A standard water heater is typically vented through a B-vent metal pipe. You probably will have to upgrade to a category-III, stainless-steel venting system.
2) Gas supply or electrical supply. The gas pipes you now have may not be adequate for the newer units. Electrical requirements may demand the wiring you now have be replaced or upgraded. All of these factors add to the costs of installation, but I still prefer the tankless water heaters, and I am sure the energy savings will offset the additional costs in a just a few years.
A buyer's guide for tankless water heaters can be found at www.tanklesswaterheaterguide.com. Also consider adding a booster pump to the home's main water-supply pipe if the flow rate is low.