Cheaper hot water (tankless heaters) : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

If you are having trouble with the cost of making and keeping hot water on the homestead, consider getting a tankless "demand" water heater. There are several sites on the web, just search under those headings and take your pick. Here's how they work - Water runs through the heaters when you need hot water and is instantly heated to the preset temp as it does so. You can set it to any temp, as there is no standing water in the system to keep "bugless". Therefore, you can program it to produce water at your favorite shower temp, handwashing warm, whatever. No more fiddling with the hot/cold adjustment and no more worries about children scalding themselves accidentally. You can get little ones that fit under a sink all the way up to full-house sized. The little ones run about $200 and produce about .8 - 2 gallons/min. while larger, gas fired ones cost upwards from $550 - $1000 and run 3 - 5 g/m. Pilot light uses maybe $12-$20/year in gas when not producing hot water. Elec. also available for smaller ones. You can turn off the pilot light when not in use. You can also get a thermostatically controlled one and pre-heat your water with passive solar. (Water-conservative appliances and showerheads are recommended for tankless heater use)Most have replaceable copper heating elements and can be repaired easily and for a lower cost than a tank heater could be bought or repaired for. The larger ones are said to be good for up to 20 years (twice the avg. life of a tank) and then you replace the element - presto, new water heater. My info comes from Controlled Energy Corporation, 340 Mad River Park, Waitsville, VT 05673 800-642-3199 fax: 802-496-6924

-- Soni (, August 14, 2000


When I was living in Germany my apt had 2 of these. The one in the kitchen was quite older and you had to first turn one knob to fill it, then you had to turn another to turn on the heating element. When the water heated up enough, you simply turned another knob to let out the water. You had to guesstimate how much hot water you needed, but it really conserved water. The one in the bathroom was modern, sound like the one above. As long as you had a flow restrictor on your showerhead, it worked great. Hot water only when you needed it. If I ever get my own place I'm having this kind of system installed, along with a combination bathroom heater/towel warmer......

-- Chris Stogdill (, August 14, 2000.

I was thinking of asking if anyone had any experiences to relate regarding tankless water heaters, and here is a thread on the very subject! I've noticed this happening several times!

Anyway, I would very much like to hear the experiences of anyone who actually has a tankless water heater. The only "name" that I know is Aquastar, made by Bosch. They are supposed to be bringing out a model that doesn't have a pilot light. The ignition is provided by a battery -- I think a 9 volt.

-- Joy Froelich (, August 14, 2000.

Personally I can't see the point in these. They cost so much more than a regular unit that you would never pay for it with gas savings in it's lifetime. If You have some application where you need a continueus flow of hot water that would drain a tank, you don't have much choice, but that's industrial, not home use.

If you want to save money, get a good regular batch unit, add extra insulation and insulate the pipes.


-- paul (, August 14, 2000.

We bought an Aquastar model 125-S two years ago. Here is the good and the bad. The good is that the heater is economical to operate, it provides an unending supply of hot water, and it uses no electricity. It does have some negative qualities. Our first disappointment was the condition of the heater when it arrived by UPS from Real Goods. The box was completely destroyed. It was of such poor quality that it was hard to tell if UPS was to blame. The heater had received some very rough treatment. The outer case was bent (no big deal) and the copper fins and tubing was also bent. I wanted the heater replaced, but I got no satisfaction from Real Goods or UPS. The American importer for Aquastar wouldn't even talk to me. I was actually surprised when the heater worked and did not leak. It does have a few quirks in its operation. Remember there is no storage in this unit, and it operates on a drop in pressure. If the hot water faucet is opened slowly, it does not sense the pressure drop and never fires. You must initially turn on the hot water wide open and then adjust to your needs. These units are not temperature adjustable. The water at the tap is dangerously hot. Another annoying feature is that you cannot use hot water slowly for very long. The unit will shut off. An example is in the summer, I don't like the water in my shower to be really hot. Just warm is fine. After running enough hot water to get to the shower, I will turn the faucet back to a cooler temperature. The water heater senses that the hot water has been turned off and it goes out. After a couple minutes the water is freezing cold. Overall, we are satisfied with the Aquastar. If you buy one, be prepared to deal with its idiosyncrasies. I compare it to solar power production. You have to be aware of it and work at it.

-- Jim (, August 15, 2000.

I've got an instant electric hot water heater, which is actually the shower head itself. It is a "Corona" brand, and is made in Brazil. They are being used all over Latin America, and have been for the last eight or ten years, in my experience, at least from Costa Rica south. In Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala, I've only seen the gas kind.

I bought mine in San Jose, Costa Rica, at a hardware store. I bought a more powerful unit than is commonly used there (4500 watts vs. 3000 watts, more or less) since our cold water is colder than their cold water. It cost $19 US in 1993.

I have been using solar hot water (summer) and wood heated hot water (winter) for so long that I've never even bothered to hook the Corona up! They work great in Latin America, though.

-- jumpoff joe (, August 15, 2000.

The ones that I've been reading about are temperature adjustable, and I doubt I'd buy one that wasn't. I think the bugs must be nearly worked out of the newer, high end models. By the time I can afford to buy one, they should be cheaper and better. As with any appliance purchace, a demonstration and a long chat with a knowlegeable salesperson would be at the top of my to do list.

-- Soni (, August 15, 2000.

Paul is right, in my opinion. I've worked on those dudes and "it ain't no piknik". I found the gas more reliable than the electric but neither are worth the extra expense and trouble of maintaining them. Of the gas units the older seemed to be a little more dependable than the newer computer/electronic models. The older ones used a mechanical valve vs. the newer electronic ones used an electric valve. I'd much rather have a 40 gal gas model and pay a little extra for fuel as to pay a fortune for a tankless one and have all the hassels of keepin it a runnin just to save a little on fuel. My 2 cents. Matt. 24:44

-- hoot (, August 15, 2000.

I basically only use hot water in the morning and evenings, and then only for a couple of hours time. What I did was to install a timer on my conventional electric unit. It comes on for something like 6-8 AM and 5-7 PM. If I do a load of laundry I need to remember to push a button to turn the heater back on. If I'm going out of town I just leave it shut off completely. Seems like a good compromise.

-- Ken S. in TN (, August 15, 2000.

Hi guys, When I had this house built (shell style) It came with an electric hot water heater, that I hooked up direct and since then I have done just as Ken suggested because I was used to a gas heater and the electric bill was so high w/the elect heater it shocked me. It is a simple matter to discipline ones self to using the hot water 2 times per day, run the dishwasher at night after dinner, take showers in those times, clean out the milk buckets, etc. I never use hot water for washing the clothes in the washer as everything comes out fine without, and I have been told that it actually prolongs the life of your clothes. I will be putting a homemade insulation blanket around it though as I have noticed at the tail end of last winter (when I put it on a timer)that it would not stay warm in the tank all day without one. Have fun!

-- Lawannea S. Stum (, August 15, 2000.

Funny this thread should come up. At an estate auction earlier this year, I bid on a fruit press, and in with it, the auctioneer tossed a couple other items that no one had bid on earlier. One was an electric water heater for a shower. Still new, in the box, and manufactured in Great Britain. Hubby wasn't too interested, as we have no electrical outlet near enough to either shower to use it, so it sits in the garage. Any takers? Jan

-- Jan in Colorado (, August 15, 2000.

I'm disappointed. I have a little used wing of my house that I was going to heat with these systems and baseboard units(just to 45 degrees) to keep storage items from freezing. I know hoot knows his stuff so I'll have to rethink the situation.

-- Joel Rosen (, August 15, 2000.

Joel, how were you going to heat a wing with the little hot water heaters?

If you mean little gas heaters, well, those are FABULOUS. I have a small one so I can heat my office to the necessary level without heating the whole house. One 10,000 BTU unit heats the office (10x10) the bathroom (5x10) and into the dining room. And the tile floors get toasty too, since they hold heat. And boy are they easy to clean.

Glad to get the report on this water tank, as ours is over 12 years old and wilkl need replaced. I figured cost/benefit (we have free gas) and will buy a traditional unit to replace this one when it goes.

Our gas company just announced a 50% rate hike for paying customers though. Energy costs are going to get ugly I fear.

-- Anne (, August 15, 2000.

Even tho this isn't "my" thread, I really appreciate all the answers, especially from Jim, who addressed a lot of the things I've been wondering about. And for whoever was wondering, "why bother?", Anne answered that -- because natural gas prices are going way up. Supposedly, there is a shortage -- supposedly because electric companies are using natural gas more and more to produce electricity. I'm not using propane, but I think those prices have gone way up too, same as gasoline did.

As for insulating pipes, I am only familiar with the pre-formed foam kind that you can get at hardware stores, etc. -- is this the best method, or are there others unknown (yet) to me? I liked the timer on the electric water heater idea, but do you need a heavy-duty timer?

-- Joy Froelich (, August 16, 2000.

Joy, there is a special timer sold for electric water heaters. I'm sure if you asked your local hardware store they could show you. I bet the folks here could tell you how to rig another type up, but for me the pre-made special one was easy to understand, install and use. I don't have an electric one now, but it was efficient when we did.

-- Anne (, August 16, 2000.

Well, I have had an Aquastar 125-S for the past several years, and the temp IS adjustable, and we have not had a moment's trouble with it. Perhaps the other fellow who has one got a defective one, or it was damaged in shipmment more than he realized. We got ours from Jade Mountain. Ours works great, we love it. Wouldn't go back to a tank heater if you paid me. I would be glad to give particulars if you are still interested. Don't let the nay-sayers talk you out of it. My 2 cents.

-- Les (, August 16, 2000.

I see from the replies that most folks don't think to much of tankless heaters, but I disagree. We moved into our new house [ we built it ourselves, took 18mons.] in Dec. 99. Our house is total gas except for lights & well and we are working on changing to gas lights. We have a Aquastar 125B and it is trouble free so far. As to expence & return on investment I'll say this, the best one I've made in awhile. We have gas stove, ref.,heat and hot water and from Feb. 10 to May 27 we used 141 gals. of propane and our largest elec. bill to date was $34.73 for two mons. The best thing is no power failures to deal with.If you can do gas I think you will be happy with it.

-- nitrwalker (, August 17, 2000.

When we first installed our Aquastar 125-S I had my wife decide how hot she wanted the water to be for dishwashing, and thats where I set the water heater (by trial and error). We found that gave us a bit of trouble in the shower because of our el-cheapo one-knob shower control. To get the water cool enough for a shower we had to put the shower lever so far over to the cold side that the water heater would pulse, that is cycle on and off. Yes, that did make the shower water go back and forth, warmer and cooler. I am convinced this was due to the action of the one lever control, since the bathroom sink with two knobs could be adjusted to just right with no problem. I backed off on the water heater setting and found the perfect adjustment for showers. When we want a shower we set the heater accordingly. Otherwise we leave it on the higher setting for general use. When we re-do the bathroom I will install a two-knob shower control, and I bet this problem will go away. I have noticed that when Im in the shower and Deb forgets and runs water somewhere, the shower water temp changes very little. The water heater senses the change in flow rate and compensates by varying the burner intensity. Pretty neat really. We got the S version because we thought someday we might play around with a solar pre-heating unit. So far we havent gotten around to that, but maybe some day. We also are impressed at the low gas usage. We first installed the unit in the early spring (a few years ago) and ran it until late fall on a 100 gallon LP pig tank. Then we had a bigger tank put in to run our space heater for the winter, and the guy switching the tank was amazed at how little gas we had used. I used to know how much that was, but have forgotten (Ive slept since then).

-- Les (, August 17, 2000.

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