tankless water system v. newish water heater

Just wondering on others' thoughts.
Does anyone in the US have a tankless water system? How do you like it? Was it extremely expensive to install?
I've lived with them in the UK and love them, but they're not so common in the US yet. We had decided we'd install one during renovation, but the current water heater is the *one* thing in the entire house that's reasonably new and in very good condition. Seems a shame to replace it while it's working so well. However, we are still re-doing all the plumbing, so it would make sense, one would think to install the new system now.
Would costs be prohibitive to wait to install? As we're redoing the entire house on limited funds, we have to pick and choose where we spend the extra cash now.
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Tankless heaters were starting to appear 6 years ago when I was designing a house and I looked into using them. After some analysis, my conclusion was that, yes, they would be slightly more energy efficient; but that the payback would be 8-10 years using natural gas as fuel for both types. I ended up with a forced-draft high-efficiency tank type.
No doubt tankless heaters have improved since then and more brands have appeared; but I was also concerned about reliability and noise. Tankless heaters are certainly more complicated than the tank type too. A few years ago, I was a guest at a friend's house. He had a tankless and it wouldn't light up for the morning showers. We worked on it for an hour. He was an enthusiastic user of tankless; but after a freezing shower and comments from his wife and his guest, the tankless was removed.
TKM

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cjra wrote:

I suggest keeping what you have for now. By the time it needs replacement, you will have experience with both systems and then you will be in the best position to decide which is best for you. There should not be any real advantage of changing it out now vs later. The other way around would be more likely to have a problem.
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Joseph Meehan

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I have a tankless in my house. If you are thinking about it be sure to factor in the cost of upgrading the gas line and a bigger vent also.
The down side to tankless is the cost of the real upper end models that can really crank up the output when you are in the shower and your wife is washing dishes. Other factors that don't speak well for them are the cost of the stinking parts.
If my tankless were to die I think I would replace it with a tank model. On the good side, my tankless will give unlimited hot water and sure beats the price of running the electric.
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Roger Shoaf

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Hmmm, I wonder if the systems in the US are not as good as those in the UK? I never had any problems there, and most people I knew had that system.
So, we are upgrading all gas and plumbing lines now anyway (house is totally being renovated). It's not worth it to just do the tankless now? Since all the lines are being changed?
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Based on my limited experiences in England, the standards are different on the European side of the pond. Americans expect to be able to nearly drown in their showers, while the Brits seem to be happy if water comes out of the shower heads at all :-) . Not too many tankless units being sold that can give the short-term flow rate of a 50 gallon tanked unit.
IMHO, there are a lot of undersized units being sold in the US, mainly because units that put out enough flow to make the typical American happy cost some serious $$$.

Do it now. In addition to the upsized gas line, you'll probably have to run a much larger exhaust vent than the previous water heater required. Just don't scrimp on the water heater. I have a Takagi TK-2, and wouldn't mind a unit with a bit more flow. Even then, I still much prefer it to the water heater it replaced.
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typed:

Interesting, in that I'm considering the TK-2 or T-KD20 for the home I'm remodeling for my new family of four. How large is your house and family? If you could rethink your decision, what model would you go with? Would you stay with Takagi, or go with Bosch or another manufacturer? TIA.
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Bailey wrote:

water heater it

Our place is a bit under 3000 sq ft, with three full baths. Family of four (no teenagers yet, 'tho). The TK-2 works well for most uses (I can run the clothes washer, the dishwasher, and a 3-head shower at the same time without any appreciable drop in pressure). Where it falls down is when we fill up the monster whirlpool tub in the master bath (which only happens once in a blue moon). The filler for that tub is rated for over 10gpm, which doesn't leave any available hot water pressure for any other use. Of course, before the Takagi, we weren't able to fill the tub all the water before running out of hot water (using a standard 50 gallon water heater). You pays your money, you takes your choice...
At the time I put in the Takagi (March 2003), I don't remember Bosch / Aquastar making a unit with more flow than the Takagi TK-2. If they do now, I would at least look into it, as they seem to have a decent reliability rep. At the time, my main choice came down to the Takagi TK-2 or the TM-1, but I couldn't justify the slightly higher flow of the TM-1 given the huge cost differential.
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Gotcha, and thanks.
My house will be about 1800 square feet when done, with three full baths. Like you, no teens yet, but one is close. Fortunately, we're not all in the shower at the same time while cleaning the clothes or dishes so we haven't had problems with the 40-gal tank we're going to replace.
The Takagi is what my builder recommends, and I'm trying to find the best fit. The TK2 or 20 would likely do the trick, but again like you I'm trying to decide if spending the extra money (double the cost) now on the TM-1 will save me from kicking myself in the butt later on.
Thanks again for the info.
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My tankless was made in France.
I never had any problems there, and most people I knew had that

Worth is a relative question.
How much is it going to cost to replace the 1/2" gas line with a 3/4 or 1 inch line? How much is it going to cost to run the vent? How much is it going to cost you to maintain the tankless over it's life vs. how much will you get in savings from the reduced gas bill? I suspect your remodel budget will be better spent elsewhere.
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Roger Shoaf

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The common tankless ones are made by big companies such as Bosch or Japanese companies and are not made in the US anyway. They tend to be bigger sized in the US than European ones. In some countries, there are small units that are used for each bathroom, or even just for the shower. Many of them are electric and not gas. I don't know what's prevalent in England.
I once spent a great deal of time looking into it. I live in California where gas prices are not cheap, and it still would take a long time to break even. Also, the warranty said it only applied if I hired a licensed plumber, so it would have been expensive, assuming that they could get away with that clause.
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The little electric ones are different - I've used those before as well in the shower (in houses in the UK and in Thailand). They work well, but I don't think they'd fly for an American household.
GUess it makes sense that the US ones would be bigger, the average house in the US is substantially bigger than in Europe.
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Is there a small tankless unit available in the USA for under the sink, for example. We live in a condo and out hot water tank is at the opposite end of the unit from our kitchen. It seems to take forever for the hot water to reach the kitchen sink and the dishwasher. I was thinking of an auxiliary tankless unit for under our kitchen sink and then we could disconnect the hot water tank from the kitchen.
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You can do that, but a better install would be to install a large tankless unit in series with the tank and recirculate the hot water with a pump. This is according to a plumber who does a lot of tankless installations.
Dimitri
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