Hot Water Heating: Hyrdonic Heating and Domestic Hot Water Appliacnes

February 22, 2013

hot water heating

If you’re researching for a new gas boiler or electric boiler or really any piece of equipment associated with hydronic heating or hot water then you have come to the right place. I offer you all the modern tips, techniques, reviews and pricing on not only your hot water equipment but parts as well. Our goal is to completely inform the consumer (you) with product review articles, how to videos, part suppliers and really anything you need concerning your gas boiler, electric boiler, hot water heater or components thereof. ie. circulating pumps, controls, gas valves, thermostats, relief valves and etc. To set the stage for our other articles we felt it best to introduce with an overview of what a gas fired boiler and electric operated boiler are so that you have a solid foundation to begin your complete research. Please follow along belong to learn the fundamentals of hydronic heating equipment and domestic hot water heating.

About Gas Boilers and Electric Boilers

Gas operated boilers are gas fired appliances with an internal heat exchanger that holds, heats and circulates water for the purpose of hydronic heating. A gas boiler is often used in conjunction with baseboard heaters, unit heaters or radiant heat systems. There are many manufacturers and many different types of boilers available on the market today. The most difficult aspect of understanding a boiler system for consumers is often what features, benefits and statistics are most valuable to their own situation. Stay tuned for all the boiler reviews you seek, until then read a bit on the operating information and parts I.D. section so you can better understand your hydronic heating system.

Gas Boiler Parts I.D.

Parts of a Gas Boiler

As a note the above basic diagram applies for gas boilers and applies to electric powered boilers as well (less gas associated parts). We will offer a second diagram dedicated strictly to electric boilers, yet will omit the redundant parts.

Gas Boiler Terms Defined

Heat Exchanger – A heater exchanger is simply a device for exchanging heat from one source to another. This is often achieved with a metal tank and hollow core or combination of tubing and piping that winds through or around the heat source. ie. a gas operated boiler often has chambers that hold water with hollow cores for the fire/gas to travel through and exchange heat into the water.

Boiler Gas Valve and Burner Controls – Simply the device(s) responsible for the heating of the water within the boiler. May be a manual thermostatic control on older style boilers or a computer control module for a more modern high efficiency boiler. Many older boilers used a part known as a aqua state relay, which is a device that senses the water temperature in the boiler and cycles the gas valve on and off based on that temperature. (compare it to the thermostat, simply opens and closes to control temperature based upon a specific set point)

Gas Inlet – The point at which gas is supplied to the unit. Ensure a proper shut off is installed and accessible.

Draft Hood – A hood designed to improve the draft of a chimney. This is no longer a installed nor required device on high efficiency boilers that use pvc for venting, as new boilers have draft blower motors to force exhaust outdoors.

Water supply and Return lines – These are the points at which hot water exists the boiler and cycles through the heat emitting devices within the hot water heating system. ie. baseboard heaters, hyrdonic units, radiant heat

Temperature and Pressure Contols – These devices are simple mechanical or electrical devices that are installed to ensure your system is operating safely. ie. the aquastat relay mentioned above, pressure relief valves, back flow preventers, pressure reducing / feed valve

Drain – The lowest point in the system in which water is drained from . Often only used for repair or maintenance (to take pressure off the system)

Burners – The long tubular devices that carry the gas for ignition. Many new high efficiency boilers have cone or circular burners that are internally installed in the heat exchanger.

Zoning Control – These devices are simply the circulating pumps, zone valves or other electronically controlled devices that assist in the zoning the temperature of your hyrdronic system. Essentially dedicated valves or pumps that only allow flow to specific areas if the appropriate areas thermostat is calling for heat.

Condensate Drain – This is a very small often pvc drain that is responsible for draining the condensate from the boiler. Only required on high efficiency boilers.

How does an Electric Boiler work?

In essence an electric boiler has the same components as the gas fired boiler listed above. The major differences can be seen in the picture below.

inside electric boiler

If this picture were taken with the cover on and standing from a few feet away, it would like similar to the diagram of the gas boiler shown above. With the cover off this electric fired boiler it is clear now there are no gas burners, gas valve and the heat exchanger is quite different. An electric operated boiler is essentially an oversized electric hot water tank. It requires a very significant amount of amperage to operate. An electric powered boiler heats the water with with a electrical component known as a element. It looks very similar to a hot water heater element, in fact you can compare it to the filament in a light bulb. Simply a very resistant piece of metal that when energized glows red hot and thereby heats the surrounding water.

Advantages to an Electric Boiler

The primary advantage to an electric boiler is that they are considered 100% efficient (as there is no vent leading outdoors as in a gas fired boiler). With no outdoor vent there is no exhaust heat lost to the outdoors, therefore all the energy that is put into a electric energized boiler is input into the water that will be used throughout your hydronic heating system. Additionally, if your located in an area with exceptionally high natural gas or propane prices an electric operated boiler may be the most economical means of heating for your home. There are many areas that electric rates are far superior to the lp, fuel oil or natural gas rates. Other benefits include fewer moving or mechanical parts. This results in a longer life for the equipment and typically longer warranties. Contrarily, there are more electronic components on a electric boiler versus a gas operated boiler, hence electric malfunctions have a higher percentage of occurrence. One final thing to consider when deciding on a gas boiler or electric boiler is the overall price. A high efficiency boiler that is sized to heat the average sized home is roughly $3200, however an electric  generated boiler of the same size is roughly $2000. As you can see there is quite a significant difference between the two types of boilers.

hydronic heating with gas boilers

Why a Boiler or Hot water heating system at all?

A hot water heating system aka hydronic heating system is an advantageous system primarily due to comfort. As many of you know, forced air heating systems are known for their ability to create drafts and blow dust around a home. Although big steps have been made in terms of controlling forced air systems, they still are inferior to well balanced hyrdonic heating system that is powered with a high efficiency boiler (gas or electric). As I mentioned the primary reason is due to comfort. A hot water heating system circulates water along the outside walls of a home and thereby stops many of the cold drafts felt with other systems. It’s a simple concept if you heat the outside wall (where the cold infiltrates) the cold drafts are reduced significantly. Additionally a hydronic system can be designed to balance with extreme precision so all parts of the conditioned space are within 1 degree of one another. This is achieved with baseboard heaters, radiant panels, radiant floor heat and even fan operated hydronic heating units.

Of course efficiency is a great reason to invest in a hot water heating system as well. Considering there are many high efficiency boilers that exceed 95% AFUE, with the industry leaders topping 98% AFUE  ratings it is pretty hard to find another system that can beat that. Many gas fired boilers are energy star approved and qualify for federal, state and even utility rebates / incentives.  Another great fact about hot water heating is how easy the system is to zone. In less than a couple of hours an old hydronic heating system can be easily converted into independent zones that heat different areas of the house. So now you only have to condition the rooms you actually use. Of course there are zoning options with a forced air system but they are very expensive and one has to be very careful in regards to proper air flow. (to prevent heat exchanger damage or freezing of the a/c system) Top all this with the added equity into your property and you have a brand new boiler and hydronic heating system that is affordable to install, easy to zone and inexpensive to operate. (with optimal comfort as well!) So why wait? Check out the other areas of the site for reviews, tips and information.

Closing Thoughts on Gas Boilers and Electric Boilers

Regardless of which type of boiler you may be researching take the time to consider some of the variables involved in a new hydronic heating system. To start ensure you use a qualified, experienced and reputable contractor. After all you are investing a large amount of money into this new hot water heating system and it will only perform as well as the installation was completed. A simple oversight such as an incorrect fitting in a wrong place can completely hinder the heating ability of a hydronic boiler system. (picture a gallon of water trying to be forced through a straw….a pretty slow and restricted process)

Also keep in mind there may now be a pvc vent protruding from the side of your house. Typically it is pretty easy to hide this but there are certain installations that make it impossible to hide the vent pipe (and don’t plant shrubs around them as the exhaust will only kill the shrubs). Also know that your new high efficiency boiler will need a drain for the condensate formed within the heat exchanger. If you don’t have a floor drain near by a simple condensate pump can be used to pump to the nearest drain area. Finally know that routing of new heating zones can be a difficult process if being installed in an already finished space. You need to ensure your contractor is completely aware of your plans for the addition of baseboard heaters and zoning controls.

Domestic Hot Water Heating:

A Guide to Tankless Water Heaters and Hot Water Tanks

As many of you know the term “hot water heating” applies not only to your hydronic heating system, but also your domestic hot water that is utilized within your home for the purpose of bathing, cleaning and etc. Although we rarely consider what goes into actually heating our how water we are often infuriated if something fails or the quantity runs short. Additionally, we have all experienced the scalded hides when someone flushes the toilet or starts the washing machine while we are in the shower! This guide is designed to inform you of the various types of equipment used to heat your domestic hot water with the associated features, benefits and advantages of each. Specifically we are discussing tankless hot water heaters, traditional hot water tanks and indirect hot water heaters.

Tankless Water Heater Reviews and Information

Tankless Water heater review

As you you can see a tankless water heater is a somewhat simple appliance that is capable of supply endless hot water to your property. As opposed to a tank type of hot water heater,  a tankless will not run short on hot water as you use it. There is no tank to deplete, it simply heats as you use the hot water. As you can imagine it does take a pretty significant burner to be able to heat cold water up to temperature that quickly. There are many manufacturers of tankless water heaters and many have very dependable and reputable histories. There are few things you must know if you are considering purchasing this type of appliance and I hope this tankless water heater review will help to assist you in this process. Key points to consider:

Gas Line – Most all on demand water heaters require a 3/4″ gas line to be immediately available. If it is not consider that an additional installation cost so that you may have trouble free operation.

Venting – The vents on many on demand tankless heaters vent out the sidewall of your home or basement. This will take some consideration for placement and concealment of those vents.

Delayed hot water – Despite the great improvements in tankless water heating appliances there is still a delay in the hot water reaching the intended faucet. Logically so as the unit must sense water flow, prepurge old gases, ignite, ramp up to temperature and send the water through the hot water line. A traditional is already hot and ready for immediate use. Thus,  a on demand water heater is not a instantaneous hot water heater as was marketed in the very beginning stages of the tankless heater emergence. Note: this can be fixed with a recirculating pump, to be covered later.

Maintenance – Although great products that are superior in efficiency they do require some maintenance. ie. softening of water, cleaning of filters and condensate drains…etc.

Efficiency – A traditional hot water tank is roughly 70% efficiency at best and this is new straight out of the box! Many of the on demand or tankless water heaters exceed 97% efficiency. That is great news for your hot water bill!

 Hot Water Heater Reviews: Traditional Tank’s

A traditional hot water tank is a slowing but surely dying technology. In fact the U.S. is the only country left that truly uses hot water tanks. Most modern countries utilize a tankless water heater. Why? Mostly due to the inefficiencies and space requirements. A brand new hot water tank is typically only 60-70% efficient. This means almost half the one you spend on hot water is going right up and out the chimney. Consider this, have you every heard your hot water tank heating water when nobody is actually using it? Yes you have because it has to maintain a hot water temperature all day long regardless of if even 1 drop is used.

To further worsen things the hot water tank has a gaping hollow hole up the center. This is where the burner creates its flame to heat the water in the tank. Unfortunately, due to the chimney effect the hot water tank is continuously giving off heat to the outdoors even when the burner is off. As you can see they are pretty terrible in terms of  being efficient or even economical. Despite these facts many are still installed, serviced and maintained throughout the U.S. They are certainly cheaper in regards to initial installation costs. Although this figure is rising due to new regulations imposed upon traditional style hot water tanks. A 40gal gas hot water tank is roughly $500 to $600! One benefit that I will say for a typical hot water tank is the immediate availability of hot water to the faucet. Instead of a 30″ + delay water exists the tank immediately at the set point temperature. As noted above a tankless water heater has to go through a somewhat delaying cycle before getting the hot water to the appropriate faucet. (although all hot water heaters must dump the cold water that was sitting in the hot water line)

Indirect Hot Water Tanks

indirect hot water tank

An indirect hot water tank is essentially a traditional hot water tank less gas vavles, burners and chimney. So basically that leaves a insulated storage tank, which means you get much better efficiency. This is like a hybrid version between a hot water tank and tankless hot water heater. The heat source for a indirect hot water tank is a boiler. The domestic hot water is supplied by this “indirect hot water tank” by circulating hot water form the boiler through an internal coil in the tank. (as seen above in the picture) Many indirect tank come with lifetime replacement warranties! This is because there are literally no moving parts, simply an insulated tank. Additionally many of these tank are insulated so well they loose only 1F of heat from the stored water per day. So as you can imagine you get great efficiency, instant hot water and one less piece of equipment to break down in your home. The drawback is you really must have or intend to install a boiler for your hydronic heating system. It really doesn’t make sense to install a boiler for the sole purpose of domestic hot water.

Indirect hot water tanks come in all shapes and sizes. The typical tank is a 40 gallon tank as this will serve most households very well. A indirect water tank has a much faster recovery rate than a typical hot water tank as well. Most traditional tanks have burners that at most have an output of 40k btu’s per hour compared to the 100k + that can be tied into a indirect hot water tank. Hence this type of system can recover the used hot water at a much quicker rate. The primary drawback to an indirect tank is cost. Logic would say with fewer parts and a simpler design they would be much less expensive, however they are actually much more expensive. I’m not sure if this is to cover the lifetime warranty expenses or simply a luxury tax but most indirect hot water tanks retail at $1200 to $1500.

Final thoughts on Hot Water Heating

As you can see there are many types of systems and equipment in the how water heating industry. This enables flexible and efficient installations with economically running equipment. Compare this to a forced air system, it takes 10×20 ductwork to carry the same amount of heat that a small 3/4″ pipe can carry! It’s pretty amazing in terms of compact heating capabilities. The market trends at the moment seem to be highlighting radiant heat and tankless hot water heaters. Radiant heat is an amazing heat source that feels like sunlight all around you. In fact that’s what the sun is is radiant heat. Just recall a time of stepping into the sun from a shaded area and this the feeling of a in floor radiant heat system. Tankless hot water heaters are emerging due to their sheer efficiency and space saving attributes. Not to mention if a leak occurs you don’t have to worry about 40gal of hot water on your floor. (many tankless appliances can detect a leak and shut itself down) I hope I have answered some of the basic questions that are often wondered about hot water and hydronic heating. Please leave your comments, questions or concerns.



Bеѕt Hot Water Heaters

March 19, 2013

Whеn lооking in tо purchasing thе bеѕt hot water heaters, thеrе аrе mаnу factors fоr a consumer tо consider. First, hе оr ѕhе will nееd tо examine thе home аnd family аnd thеir hot water usage. Sоmеtimеѕ lооking аt thе monthly water bill аnd observing thе amount оf water uѕеd еасh month iѕ a good wау tо determine thе size оf thе water heater needed fоr thе home. This is a much better means of determining usage as opposed to trying to calculate gas useage for domestic hot water purposes.

Counting thе number оf appliances thаt uѕе hot water аnd hоw оftеn thеу аrе run саn аlѕо bе helpful. Sinсе thеrе аrе mаnу types оf water heaters thаt соmе in diffеrеnt sizes, finding thе bеѕt hot water heaters tо buy саn bе challenging fоr consumers. Consulting a professional оr expert in thе field whilе bеing equipped with whаt iѕ needed fоr thе home саn bе thе bеѕt wау fоr a consumer tо determine thе correct unit fоr hiѕ оr hеr needs.


Thеrе аrе mаnу heaters оn thе market today thаt uѕе diffеrеnt heating elements аnd setups tо efficiently heat water. Electric water heaters mау bе thе mоѕt common оn thе market bесаuѕе thеу аrе thе lеаѕt expensive unit. Whilе thеу dо nоt uѕе аnу modern technology tо save energy, thеrе аrе ѕtill mаnу electric hot water heaters thаt аrе knоwn tо bе durable аnd function properly. Thеrе аrе аlѕо gas оr propane heaters thаt mау bе a littlе mоrе expensive (fоr thе unit аnd thе installation оf thе unit). However, gas оr propane аrе knоwn tо bе cheap energy sources аnd саn thеrеfоrе save a homeowner оn hiѕ оr hеr monthly power bill. Electricity on the other hand is continually rising in price.


Thе type оf system uѕеd in thе heating element саn аlѕо make a difference оn itѕ efficiency аnd durability. Traditional storage tank hot water heaters аrе slowly bеing phased оut bу mоrе efficient аnd effective tankless hot water systems. Thеѕе tankless systems dоn’t require a large amount оf space fоr thеir installation bесаuѕе thеrе iѕ nо tank involved. Thеу аlѕо dоn’t waste energy bесаuѕе thеу аrе nоt constantly heating a tank оf water аnd оnlу uѕе energy whеn hot water iѕ demanded in thе home.

Heat pump water heaters аrе аlѕо bесоming mоrе popular with homeowners bесаuѕе thеу аrе аblе tо tаkе in heat frоm thе environment аnd uѕе it tо heat thе water. Thiѕ саn save оn thе amount оf energy needed bу thе heater. Mаnу consumers whо аrе interested in even further energy savings mау wаnt tо buy solar water heaters instead. Thеѕе heaters аrе great fоr thоѕе whо аrе аlrеаdу in warmer climates bесаuѕе thеу uѕе thе sun’s power аnd ѕоmе electricity tо heat thе water. In many areas almost 100% of the homes domestic hot water heating is supplied by the sun.


Storage tank water heaters аrе knоwn fоr mineral оr sediment build-up. Whilе ѕоmе consumers mау hаvе heard аbоut thiѕ sediment buildup bесоming аn issue with thеѕе tanks, it iѕ uѕuаllу оnlу a problem аftеr thе hot water heater hаѕ bееn run fоr ѕеvеrаl years. Mоѕt consumers whо lооk fоr mineral оr sediment buildup in a tank mау ѕее it, but it dоеѕ nоt саuѕе аnу problems with thе quality оf thе water оr thе water flow. Thе tanks hаvе a safe plastic lining thаt dоеѕ nоt аllоw аnу chemicals оr rust tо enter thе water thаt iѕ stored in them. Thiѕ maintains thаt thе water iѕ safe fоr use. Hot water tanks also have a installed anode rod that acts as a sacrificial parts so that any minerals in the water will attack it before the tank itself.


Ultimately the best way to heat your homes water comes down to your own specific situation. A tank will supply a cheaper upfront cost with a specific amount of hot water that is immediately available for use. Contrarily a tankless water heater will cost more upfront, but save on monthly operating costs. It’s also worth noting that tankless heaters provide an endless amount of hot water, but it takes significantly longer for the hot water to reach the faucet. (as the unit must sense water flow, pre purge the heat exchanger, fire, bring water up to temp and send it on its way to you) Conclusively, you must decide on what is best for you an your family. Don’t overlook things such as the affect it may have on your homes value, warranty, maintenance, expected time left in home, tax rebates, incentives and size of space available for the water heater.




Bradford White Water Heaters

March 8, 2013

Bradford White is a company that established its roots back in the 1800′s. Today even still Bradford White is regarded as one of the best hot water heaters on the market. American owned and operated, Bradford White is based out of Philadelphia, PA and have a rich history of making the finest hot water heaters, hyrdonic heating solutions and combination products on the market. Bradford White hot water heaters originate in the R&D department of their facilities, a very reputable and results focused department that is focused on excellence. The bulk of manufacturing is conducted in the center of the U.S., in Middleville, MI inside a 800k sq ft facility. This is where Bradford White water heaters are designed and put to the test. Read further for detailed technical information and features.

bradford white atmospheric vent water heater

Bradford White Atmospheric Vent Hot Water Heaters

Bradford White offers over 10 amospheric vent hot water heater mode lines. Within each model they offer a range five to ten sizes. In total they actually manufacture roughly 80 to 100 different atmospheric vent hot water heaters. I’m certainly not going to cover every model they manufacture as it would be a waste of your time and mine. However, you will find vital information on the most popular, best selling models. These are the models of Bradford White water heaters that offer a nice solution to your hot water problems.

High Performance  Energy Saver Model – This particular water heater is designed to offer you energy savings coupled with fast recover times. The design features built into this model make achieving those goals easy. With a high input combustion system and helical fin tube flue system this unit is able to effectively exchange the water to air heat transfer. It’s also lined with a “vitraglas” lining and integrated mixing device control. Top it all off with a factory installed temperature and pressure relief valve and brass drain valve and you have a complete package.

Defender Safety System High Efficiency Damper Hot water tank – This model is equipped with a energy saving flue damper that will break the energy wasting cycle of most hot water tanks. Have you ever noticed your hot water tank operating even when nobody is using it? This is because of the chimney effect. All day the hot water tank sits full of hot water creating a draft due to the natural tendency of hot air to rise. This is called the chimney effect and is a huge energy waster in terms of hot water tanks. This particular model has found an inventive way to battle this energy sapping aspect. Additionally this model is equipped with a honeywell diagnostic gas valve that helps to keep you informed and your hot water heater pumping. Some addtional safety features are built in flame arrestors, thermal switches and vapor sensors. As a total package you get a naturally venting – safe and efficient hot water heater all by Bradford White.

Defender Safety System Energy Saving Model – this is really Bradford White’s base hot water heater model. It comes in a range of sizes from 29 to 60 gallons with varied input ratings from 30k to 50k but’s per hour. This is really a go to model in terms of affordability and ease of installation. This particular model is backed with a “icon system”. This enables such features as pilot on lights, temperature control, diagnostics and overall an enhanced performance. As with other defender safety models this energy saving model is equipped wtih multiple safety features. Screen lok arrestor, manually resetable thermal switch and a factory installed temp and pressure valve.

bradford white power vent water heater

Bradford White Power Vent Hot Water Heaters

Bradford White offers again over 10 models of different power vent water heaters. Within those models are various sizes and features to suit your particular needs. Many ask what is the advantage of a power vent water heater? To begin is positive venting that ensures a safe and exhaust free home. Unlike a traditional atmospheric vent model, if proper air flow is not achieved with the power vent system then the gas valve will not operate. Additionally power vent hot water heaters offer a efficiency savings by canceling the natural tendency of hot air to rise up and out the chimney all day. To learn more about power vent models read below.

High Performance TTW Power Vent Energy Saver Models – This particular model comes in two standard sizes a 25 and 55 gallon tank with 76 t 78k but inputs! What does this mean for you? To begin ultra fast recovery times. In fact first hour delivery testing has shown that even the smallest model can provide 155 gallons of hot water in the first hour! It doesn’t stop there though. You also receive the same diagnostic and safety features you would expect from Bradford White products. With a honeywell diagnostic gas valve, spark to pilot ignition and helical fin tube flue system you are assured to receive the maximum efficiency you can squeeze out of your hot water heater. This coupled with the efficiency and safety of a power vented, thermally monitored, vapor sensor and factory installed T&P valve and you have a solid, safe and efficient product to serve your home for years to come.

Power Safety System TTW1 – This Bradford White power vent water heater is designed for flexibility of installation. With  40, 50 and 60 gallon capacities and the ability to vent with standard pvc pipe it has a diverse installation ability. Addtionally it is a very safety minded product that comes standard with features such as a flame vapor sensor, screen lok arrestor design and a spark to pilot ignition system. These features ensure that proper operation and performance are met during each cycle or the heater will not operate. Additional features include the ability to vertically or horziontall vent with the strong and steady power vent system. This product is powered by a honeywell self diagnosing gas valve system. In sum this model offers a great number of solutions, safety features and flexibility in your next hot water heater installation.

Defender and Non Defender TTW2 models- These power vented models are designed for those homes needing a larger supply or hot water at a faster rate. Additionally they are powered with stronger induced draft blower motors that enable for truly long venting lengths in horizontal or vertical vent situations. With two standard capacities of 48 and 65 gallons and a 60k but input per hour you should have more than enough hot water to satisfy your homes demands. As you would expect this line of hot water heaters also are equipped with industry leading technology such as screen lok technology, air distribution devices, spark to pilot, diagnostic controls and a hydrojet 2 performance system. These standards features coupled with the great safety systems of a Bradford White ensure you will have a durable, efficient and responsive hot water heater.

As you can see Bradford White has a vast amount of experience in the hot water heater manufacturing market. They offer over 20 models with many variations of each – all to serve your homes needs. So if your in the market for a new hot water heater, I hope this guide of Bradford White products has assisted you in making a final selection.





power vent models


Tankless Water Heaters Versus Tank Style Water Heaters

March 5, 2013

Over the last decade there has been a huge battle within the hot water heating industry –  tankless vs tank style water heaters. As far back as many of us can remember tank style water heaters have served our homes very well. Contrarily, it is inevitable that with newer technologies and the need to conserve energy that  new competitors would emerge. Thus we have a battle for the market share, efficiency and affordability. Below you will find the answers to the most common questions when debating between the these two types of water heaters, everything from efficiency, pricing, features and operational characteristics.

Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless Water heater diagram

Tankless water heaters are great appliances to own for several reasons. To begin you get endless hot water. No more running out of hot water or waiting on the tank to regenerate. Simply turn on the faucets and use what you need. Another great attribute to a tankless is the efficiency. Many modern models exceed 95% efficiency with the market leaders upwards of 98%. This is exceptional efficiency that is superior to many other appliances in related fields. A tankless hot water heater can be electric or gas operated. They are often differentiated by btus or gpm output. A typical home needs about 5gpm of hot water supply. This will serve 3 faucets / hot water sources at one time. (ie. shower, kitchen sink, washing machine)

A few drawbacks to a tankless water heater is pricing and delayed hot water availability. It’s obvious a more sophisticated piece of equipment will come at a higher price. Expect to pay from $2k to $3k for a newly, installed unit. What about the delayed hot water availability? A tankless type of water heater must sense water flow, prepurge, ignite and then bring the water up to temperature. Thus this cycle creates a delay in getting hot water to the faucet you may be using. Expect 45″ delays. (I tell many customers to get used to washing their hands in cold water) There are options and add ons that completely eliminate this shortfall though. (re-circulation pumps are the primary solution)

Tank Style Water Heaters

tank water heater

Tank type water heaters have the advantage of being tried and true. They have served millions of home for many decades. There are many tank style hot water heaters that have served the same home for over 40+yrs! Although the life expectancy of one is usually 7-10yrs. Unfortunately there are a few things that must be considered about a tank type water heater. The primary being efficiency. A brand new tank style heater is at best 70% efficiency (for a standard, chimeny vent, 40gal gas model). This is a huge disadvantage in comparison to tankless type heaters.

Another drawback would be limitations. A 40gal hot water tank is somewhat easy to empty if your household has multiple members utilizing hot water within a short time frame. (as we all know) Additionally, consider the overall size of the unit. If space is a hot commodity in your home, think of  the space a 40gal tank will consume vs a tankless, wall hung water heater. Despite these few drawbacks, a tank style water heater is much more affordable. A basic 40gal, gas water heater averages at $450 retail, roughly $900 installed. At half the price and a history of dependability it makes the decision between tankless and tank water heater a tough one.

Ultimately the decision should come down to the price and usage comparison. Consider the quoted, installed price versus your hot water gas usage. Then factor in efficiency of the models you are comparing and you should have an apples to apples comparison with a return on investment figure as well. (although figuring what % of gas is used for water, heating and appliances can be tricky) When making this determination also consider any potential rebates or incentives as many are now available. This can have a significant impact on the overall cost of a water heater installation. Finally,  consider the added equity in the property and the number of years you plan on owning the home. A new hot water system of any sort will increase the overall property value but spending more on a top notch system may not be a wise financial move if you plan on selling right away.

Navien Tankless Water Heater Reviews

February 26, 2013

In the last decade it seems that tankless water heaters have taken the market by storm, and rightfully so they do bring about some great benefits in regards to hot water heating. Thus far there are many resources online that provide relevant information of the various types of tankless hot water heaters, yet there aren’t any real compilations or tankless water heater reviews that contrast and compare the various manufacturers products. This review section of my site is written to provide you with that much needed resource. Feel confident in knowing this review is given by a contractor that earns a living by installing and servicing this very same equipment. (me) I base this review on the various unique training product courses, installation experience and service records. Thus I can not only provide you with the features that are obvious at face value, but also fill you in on the behind the scenes information such as customer service, parts availability and overall operation and longevity.

navien tankless hot water heater

Navien Tankless Water Heaters

Navien is a Korean owned and operated company that manufactures tankless hot water heaters, boilers and more. Within the U.S. Navien America is responsible for distribution, support and training of the various products within the field. This review is specifically for their tankless hot water heaters, aka on demand water heater. Navien was one the very first high efficiency on demand hot water heaters to be introduced to the U.S. They were first sold in the U.S. about 5yrs ago and have since further developed their product lines and marketing to be a very strong competitor within the industry.

Although Navien offers upwards of 6 variations between sizes, features and technology within their tankless water heater products there are a few staples that remain constant among their products. One is a stainless steel heat exchanger and burner. This ensures a long corrosive free life for your equipment. Additionally, all their equipment is capable of venting with pvc pipe which is a huge advantage in terms of installation cost and equipment location. (some manufacturers require stainless steel vent pipe with a vent length maximum of 10-15′)

Navien hot water heaters are also backed with a solid 15yr heat exchanger warranty, 5yr parts and 1yr labor. Pay attention to your individual model as the warranties do vary based upon the model. ie. Models with NR, CH and NPE labels. Some very important features you may wants to be aware of are recirculating technology and remote control functioning. Navien has incorporated a recirculation pump to assist in reducing the time it takes for hot water to reach your faucet. It’s obvious that it will take longer than a traditional tank as on demand water heaters must first sense flow, fire and reach temperature. With a recirculation pump built into Navien you can program the equipment to maintain a small loop of warm water during peak periods of the day. (ie. mornings before work and evening before bed)

Another unique feature worth noting is the buffer tank. The buffer tank in a Navien water heater acts as a intermediary supply of hot water so that you get hot water quicker with more stable/consistent water temperatures. Imagine a small amount of stored hot water that is immediately available. The idea is by the time you use this small stored amount the equipment will have fired and ramped up to the desired temperature. A buffer tank also assist in avoiding the dreaded hot and cold water sandwich. This is when you turn a faucet on and get hot water then shut it off. Immediately after you step into the the shower and feel the warm water that was remaining in the water line from the previous use, only to be shocked by the cold water to follow. (as the equipment had go through the same sequence of sense-fire-ramp up) As mentioned Navien comes equipped with a remote control that can be used to program the recirculation pump, hot water temperature (100f to 140f) and many other unique features. Finally, Navien tankless water heaters are competitively priced at $1350 to $2350 based upon size and features desired.

customer service rep

Drawbacks and Problems with Navien tankless water heaters

Although I have personally installed over 20 of these units and have had minimal problems there are a few drawbacks to be aware of. The primary complaint from a homeowners perspective is the varying water pressures when in operation. The largest model is capable of producing 6gm of hot water (varying dependent upon your geographic location and ground water temperature) thus if multiple faucets or appliances are used simultaneously a pressure and flow drop is noticeable. (although this is true with every tankless hot water heater)

Varying water temperatures during operation. This complaint is one I have had multiple times and Navien seesm to have addressed, but I still feel its worth noting especially for those consumers utilizing a water well. Many customers have complained of varying water temperatures during use. Navien corrected this problem by adding a “water well” feature to the control board. This allowed the water heater to be more responsive to the ever changing conditions within a water well supply system. (changing pressures as the well pump goes on and off) If your on a city supply with constant flow and constant pressure ignore this area of the review.

Parts availability seems to be the chief complaint from a contractors perspective. Ensure your contractor has a repair parts kits in stock at all times, otherwise if you incur a problem you must wait for parts to be shipped via UPS to your residence or business. This is truly an inconvenience if you have are without hot water for a couple of days. Although this has only truly created a problem for me once, as I do stock extra units it is worth noting that there may be a obscure part that is not commonly stocked and you will have to wait on it. Catastrophic failures can also be problematic. If a unit has a cracked heat exchanger or other fatal failure that requires a completely new unit you may face delays. I had one instance in which Navien would not issue a return authorization until pictures were sent and a water sample was taken. (and waiting on results from a water sample can take a week or more) In this case I solved the issue by simply replacing without a return authorization, however if I were unable or unwilling the customer would have been without while waiting on Navien to make determination. Note: All the parts availability and customer service related problems can be avoided if the contractor keeps stock items and is flexible enough to put your priorities above their own. (ie. taking responsibility with the manufacturer and not leaving it up to you to sort out)

In sum, Navien makes a really efficient and strong product that will certainly serve you well. At upwards of 98% they lead the market in efficiency and features / technology. Despite the few drawbacks mentioned overall customer service is responsive and knowledgeable. Also note that depending upon your region your equipment may be eligible for rebates and tax incentives. Consult your local contractor for further information as your overall equipment performance will be largely based upon quality of installation and ability to support any failure or maintenance that may occur.