Friday, September 12, 2008

Rinnai Tankless Water Heaters

Rinnai Tankless Water Heater Model R94lSI*Updated May 6, 2012 The tankless hot water heater began leaking this weekend and after a service call we've learned the heating exchange is cracked which means the entire unit needs to be replaced.  This means that, while the unit is under a 5-year parts warranty, Rinnai will not cover the labor costs of replacing the faulty unit. Which means we're stuck with a bill that could be $500. I've spoken with them and they're sticking by their policy which is leaving me not so happy. Not to mention leaving me without hot water until they get the new system installed which might be as long as two weeks. Grrrrr!

I 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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36 comments:

calicobebop said...

*swoon* At $2500 I would hope it takes out the trash too! :) Sounds like a good thing though, I them advertised on the radio from time to time. I can't wait to hear how it works for you!

Fuji Mama said...

I've lived in Japan twice, and both of our water heaters functioned the same way! Having recently moved back the US it has been a rude awakening to run out of hot water. If our water heater goes out, I would shell out the $2500 after having experienced the value of living life with that type of water heater!

patty w said...

We've talked about getting one of these for years! Mainly for the master shower. We seem to all take showers at the same time plus the never ending laundry.

We first saw them (not this particular brand maybe) years ago on This Old House, they started adding these in to some of the remodels!

$2500 !! eeeek... that's the reason, most people don't install them. My BIL just looked at some and they were about $500 ! But then he can install it himself.

Glad it's working for ya!

Marie N. said...

Great timing! I've been hearing a lot about these on radio advertisements. I mentioned my curiosity about them to Rick about a week ago. for now, though, we're hoping our old fashioned tank will be with us a few more years!

Kirby3131 said...

Do you have natural gas to heat the water? When I looked into this system for a house renovation that I was doing, we didn't have natural gas and would have had to use the electric model. We decided against the tankless in this case because the electric one isn't as efficient as gas.

I have only heard good things about the tankless water heaters and it was the very first thing I thought of when I read about your tank bursting.

Glad it has worked out for you!

chantal said...

wow, I have never heard of this before.

Flea said...

I'd heard of these, but hadn't needed to research them yet (yay!). But outside wall, do you mean not in the garage?

cndymkr / jean said...

Oh sure. Now you talk about this! Our water heater broke, flooded the basement with steamy warm water, just 2 months ago. It was the second one in 11 years. The price tag of the tankless one would have been worth it. I'll keep it in mind for the next one. Thanks.

Kelly @ Love Well said...

Just another reason I love your blog, Michelle. One day, I'm learning about India. The next day, uber-efficient water heaters.

But I truly think, if you live in a cold climate, paying extra to never run out of hot water is a wonderful thing. Sometimes, you just need a hot bath to feel your feet again, yes?

Munchkins and Music said...

That water heater looks classy! I don't think I've seen one like this before.

Janelle said...

When we bought our house, our inspector told us that our hot water tank was severely rusting on the top, and that it would likely need replacing within a year or two. He also told us that water heaters have a 5-10 year life span, and this one was 13 years old. When we bought our house, our realty agency gave us a complimentary free home warranty for a year, which included repair/replacement of any major appliances that needed it within that year. Well, at one point, we had a serviceman come out to look at the the heater, hoping to act preemptively so it wouldn't break at the start of a 3-day weekend. Our home warranty people wouldn't do anything about it because "there was nothing wrong" (even though there's a layer of rust on the top nearly an inch thick). We've been here over a year now, so whenever it goes, we'll have to pay for it. :(

Kris said...

I'd LOVE for you to keep us updated...we are thinking about the same AND now we know who to go to! THANKS! THat being said, when we lived in the UK they had the same sort of thing (although electric) and I could take a 3 hour shower if I wanted to and the hot water never ran out! Hmmmmm...I am very interested to see if you love it in six months...I hope there is an incentive program for you with your dealer because we'll tell them you sent us if we do decide to go back.

K.

CountessLaurie said...

We have one that came with the house so it's at least 5 years old and probably much older. It only heats the first shower and then the rest of the people get a mediocre to cold shower. So, now I have a tank and the tankless, hot water in the sink that will burn your hand and a comfy shower. I am sure though that they have improved over time or the previous owners bought a cheapy one. Keep us posted. I'd love to hear how it works for you.

Fawn said...

I think the initial price is totally worth it. Some of my friends here in Whitehorse looked into this option when they were renovating their home two years ago, but at the time, there was no one in town who would've been able to service the thing if anything went wrong with it. Assuming no one's travelled to California for certification in the meantime, I think that would be the biggest obstacle for us. Lucky you that you happened to talk to the right guy at the right time! I'm very interested to hear about the natural gas vs. electric angle.

Stephanie said...

When and if we ever build this is what we'd like to use. Glad Tim will do the plumbing though! 2500?! Ouch!

Scribbit said...

Questions, questions, let's see:

We have gas, and though the unit is run by gas it plugs in for power much the same as your dryer would.

The outside wall merely means it needs to be hung on an exterior wall for venting purposes. It has an exhaust vent that runs outside (so you'd also want it to be an exterior wall where you could have a vent without ugly-ing up your house).

My parents have a tankless system at their cabin but it's huge and noisy. It works fine but I thought this would be more like that but instead ours is small and sleek and quiet. Theirs is probably 7-8 years old.

In Alaska they recommend the commercial model because the water is colder here but most places Outside would use the residential model which I'm assuming would be cheaper. The initial quote for us was $2100 but then we realized that we'd have to worry about running the gas and water lines to the system which increased the cost. We actually have it hanging on our laundry room wall now. The next plan is to figure a way to enclose it so it's prettier.

Kris that would be nice if we got a cut :) I'm afraid I'm just writing it out of the goodness of my heart. I did write to Rinnai to mention to them that I was interested in writing about their tanks but never heard from them. Apparently they don't need help selling things :)

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

Just a quick note to tell people with conventional water heaters: You don't need to heat your water to 180 degrees! Not only are you risking scalding your children or yourself, you are wasting money heating it so high. We always have ours set to 120, and it has never been a problem.

So, why does this model need both electricity and gas?

Gabrielle said...

you just made a water heater post interesting!....very cool!

Mandy said...

Thanks for the info! (And doing all the research for us!:-)

Leslie said...

I'd seen a tankless water heater on Extreme Makeover Home Edition and have put it on my wish list. We'll see...

I'm interested to see how yours works out!

Nomad Toes said...

oh yeah, those things are amazing. everyone out here that has hot water has one of those. not the fancy one you have, a lower end model. everyone is really happy with them. we still heat water on the stove, though. :) someday...

Daisy said...

I'm sending this link to my husband. We've talked about getting a tankless next time; I think we should plan ahead so we can comparison shop before our current water heater bites the dust.

Naomi said...

Interesting. We haven't had to deal with shortages of hot water yet but I am sure we will as the kids get older...

~TAMY 3 Sides of Crazy~ said...

Take out the trash? I want them to fold the laundry too! LOL Seriously we're going to need one soon, I should start looking for one now.

jan in nagasaki said...

that's so funny. I always feel like life in Japan is a step or two behind the technology in the states.... I thought it was backward that we have those heaters here....

Octamom said...

We installed a tankless hot water heater in one of our previous homes and absolutely loved it. It was worth every penny in energy savings and convenience--hope you enjoy it!

Blessings!

Natasha Becoming Something said...

We have the Rinnai too and I'm a bit disappointed at how long it can take for the water to come on and stabilize. I do like that I can take a really long shower if I want. (I justify this by the fact that I only shower every three days-- I don't sweat much and we have very good bathroom hygiene here- and my husband often showers at the gym. So, we still save more water than other people.)

We had a lot of problems with it at first. Not getting hot water at all to our main floor sink even though we had it in the upper floor sinks. Temperature changing a lot mid-way.

AND you can't take a shower and have the laundry on at the same time. Sure, your temperature won't change but your water pressure WILL. We can't have a shower and run a bath at the same time.

But overall, it's great. I have a much smaller utility room because of it which means I was able to get two bedrooms and a larger bathroom out of our basement instead of just one bedroom and a small bathroom.

Ayda Sue said...

you won't be sorry! this is one of the BEST investments we made when building our home.

Lisa said...

This is on my wish list. I've wanted one for a long long time. However, in an earthquake where we may not have water, I like the fact that the water heater is full of water-as long as it survived the earthquake that is.

Alice Wills Gold said...

I love it that you are always teaching me something new.

I have to admit that I am happy that we just got a new hot water heater...I don't want to fork over $2500 right now and my husband is a SUCKER for the new technology.

Sarah said...

Very interesting! My husband has always wanted to try one of these. Maybe I'll let him in about 3 years when our water heater should be on its last leg. We'll have to start saving up!

Thanks for sharing.

Janet said...

The Mountain Man is thinking about getting one of these. Our hot water heater is only 5 years old, but we do run out of hot water on an annoyingly regular basis.

Anonymous said...

I live in Il. I have the rinnai water heater and a pipe froze in it the other day and broke. The heater is 2 months old and so far I have been told the warranty does not cover it. What do I do? The heater is in the basement that is heated. I had it installed by a licensed tech. It was put in the way the instrutions said to do and it still broke. Who do I get the company to stand by the warranty? How do I pervent the pipes from bursting again? Any suggestion would be helpful.One more question how can you put one of these heaters in the states of Alaska or Minnesota? They are a lot colder than Il.

Scribbit said...

Wow--that's a bad situation. I'm assuming this is a residential model (we have a commercial one because the water coming out of the ground is a bit colder here but that shouldn't make a difference).

You've tried contacting Rinnai directly? And the tech who put it in? There has to be something wrong with either the installation or the tank I'd think because ours hasn't given us any problems at all.

Maybe this is a dumb question but the pipes are on the inside right? THere aren't any pipes on the exterior? Because the only thing that is on the exterior is the vent for the exhaust, everything else is inside and if your basement is heated they shouldn't have froze I would think.

I'm so sorry you've had so much trouble--that really stinks!

steve said...

tankless waterheaters are more energy efficient than conventional tank-type waterheaters. they are not for every household. here are some things you should know when considering a tankless. a normal waterheater requires 40,000 BTU's of gas supply. tankless heaters require 4-5 times more gas supply. they cannot be hooked to your gas line that supplies your waterheater now. the tankless cannot be connected to your existing waterheater flue. it must have it's own seperate flue. it could be located on an inside or outside wall in the basement. most tankless, including Rinnai, must be installed by a certified tech. the install cost of the unit will depend on where in the country you live and the amount of bathrooms in the house. units that are properly installed and maintained yearly will last for 3-5 times longer than a typical waterheater. water quality will have an effect on the life of the heater. when a tankless fails it is typically a part replacement not an entire unit.

tanklesswater heater said...

I use this for several months for hot water and heating. I am very pleased with it