Tankless Water Heater Installation Guide

Install a Tankless Hot Water Heater

Unlimited Hot Water

When I bought my latest house I was already planning on some upgrades to various things. One of these was the hot water heater. The water heater that came with the house was old and would start to run rust-colored water if the faucet was left on long enough. I’d been hearing about the new “tankless” style heaters so I went gathering information about them. Turns out they did what I wanted, using much less energy in their off state since they only heat water as it flows, there are no large reservoir tanks to worry about keeping warmed.

I installed my heater after finding rust and silt in the bath tub when trying to take a bath. I performed a second installation with a friend after she saw how nice the tankless heater worked, and her hot water heater just plain stopped. This article is the result of the lessons learned during both of those installations.

Considerations

 

  1. Sizing: From what I have found, you determine which tankless hot water heater you will buy simply by deciding how many active faucets you want to be able to use at one time (each instance of you using hot water is known as an “application”. So a 2-application water heater would be good for, say, running the shower and the dishwasher at the same time.) For this example we are installing the tankless water heater in a smaller house in Lehi Utah with only two people living here. So this tankless water heater installation will be on a single application tankless would fit their needs. This also cut the cost of the heater in half, and brought it to within a close range of comparable tank models.
  2. Placement: A normal tank gas hot water heater sits on the floor. A tankless water heater hangs on the wall (by two small hooks). This makes a huge difference in the amount of space you need, but it also means you need an open part of the wall to hang it from. This tankless water heater isn’t particularly big at 30″H x 18″W x 10″D (with the cover on), but if you have a gas hot water heater stacked in a closet with a furnace you may not have available space to hang it. It is also light enough for one person to unpack and hang by themselves. Most tankless water heaters are rated to hang on a finished wall, but I placed it on a couple of horizontal pieces of 2×4 against the cinder-block basement wall so I really had no concerns about excess heat. Buy a handy paper template that you could tack on the wall to determine height and spacing.
  3. Plumbing (Water): If you decide to do this yourself you will likely need to relocate your water pipes. Since most hot water heaters sit in the middle of the floor the cold and hot lines are pre-run to the inlet and outlet of the tank. I ended up cutting a small section of my existing pipes off and running the new pipes back to the wall then down to the bottom of the tankless heater (the location of the new heater’s inlet and outlet pipes.) To do this I just purchased a couple of 90 degree elbows and a few sticks of copper pipe. The pre-soldered elbows make this job a lot easier to do, especially if you will be soldering your new pipes up against a finished wall.
  4. Plumbing (Fuel): Most Utah hot water heaters use natural gas (while yours may use electricity or liquid propane.) As such the feed pipe for the existing heater needed to be extended to the new mounting point on the wall. This was accomplished by changing the horizontal run of “black pipe” from 6″ to 24″. I could have re-routed the pipe along the ceiling and dropped it closer but I was trying to make it as simple as possible (and having a vertical pipe didn’t impact the amount of room the heater was using much, it’s right next to my boiler in the utility room anyway.) One thing to keep in mind if you are using natural gas is that the kit should include a gas regulator that mounts vertically. So before mounting your new tankless heater on the wall put the regulator on the gas inlet and try to hang the heater high enough that you only need to change your existing horizontal run.
  5. Exhaust: By far the biggest trouble you will have installing your tankless water heater in Saratoga Springs, Lehi and Eagle Mountain will be doing the exhaust on the new tankless hot water heater. Basically the old heater may have a 3″ ducting and the new one required 6″ ducting at high altitude, which Eagle Mountain, Utah qualifies as). The existing 3″ duct needed to be removed, which was easy enough, but finding the right duct work and getting it shoe-horned into the existing exhaust was not easy. Your boiler sits right next to the hot water heater and I was finally able to find a Y pipe that would let me splice in the new exhaust piping.
  6. Missing Brass: One thing I did find annoying was that in the kit there was a purge valve (useful for draining the heater), but all of the brass components required to get the valve installed were not included in the box. In the photo below you will see what I ended up purchasing, the parts include:
    • 3-way adaptor.
    • (2) brass reducers between the 3-way and the outlet threads (shown as the steel-braided cable.) The outlet is 1/2″ and the brass 3-way had a 3/4″ inlet. My copper piping was also 3/4″, so I needed a second reducer on the left side to get the threads to the right size.
    • Male-Male 3/4″ pipe adaptor. This was due to my poor planning. If I’d been thinking ahead I would have soldered a male end on the pipe you see on the left of the photo prendre du viagra jeune.
    • Garden hose adaptor. This sits on the drain side of the purge valve, letting me attach a hose to it so I can drain out the trap in the floor of the basement, rather than letting the water just run all over.

  7. Time: Keep in mind while you are doing this that you will not have hot water in your house (and if you don’t have a separate shut-off valve for the hot water heater you will need to turn your mains off so you may not have running water at all.) Budget enough time for this. It took me about 5 hours on a Saturday for my first install (partially due to having to run to Home Depot and Lowes a couple times), the second install was about 3.5- 6 hours.

Results

You will be very pleased with your home upgrade to a tankless hot water heater in Lehi Utah. As you can see in the photos below the space savings were enormous. Your gas utility bill has dropped by almost 1/3 and as long as you picked out the right model, you can shower for as long as you want without ever worrying about running out of hot water. A disadvantage is that the service life on this tankless hot water heater is 2 years. Most of the new hot water heaters have a service life of even 12 years, so I will be enjoying my trouble-free hot water for even longer. The installation will be somewhat challenging, mostly due to lack of advance knowledge, but it certainly is within the reach of a competent Eagle Mountain Ut DIY’er. After reading this you have any questions or comments, go ahead  call me.

   

Tankless Water Heater Installation Utah County

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Tankless Water Heater Installation Tips for Utah County Residents

1

Determine your hot water needs.

In general, the hot water flow rate of a small tankless water heater can support a bathroom and a kitchen with a dishwasher. The key to selecting the proper model is knowing the flow rates of your fixtures, the coldest temperature of incoming water, and your usage patterns (how many faucets do you expect to be able to use at the same time?). Work with your plumber to choose a size that fits your needs.

You can also install more than one heater to heat water by zone. For example, at my current remodel I’ve installed two tankless water heaters—one supports a kitchen, bathroom and half bath; the second supports two additional bathrooms.

2

Understand your dishwasher and clothes washer.

Your appliances may need hot water from your tankless heater or they may heat water internally. I bought a super-efficient Asko clothes washer/dryer that heats the water itself and requires only a cold water connection. I didn’t realize this until we installed the appliance!

3

Be prepared for resistance from your contractor.

Because of concerns about time and liability, most Utah County Plumbers don’t want to try something new. If you are convinced that a tankless water heater is for you, insist on it and find a Utah plumber who will work with you (preferably one who has experience installing tankless units).  You may need to provide the plumber with the manufacturer’s installation instructions (often available online). You may also want to contact the manufacturer’s technical support department for advice on size and other considerations.

4

Carefully plan the location of your water heater.

Tankless water heaters use an intense flame to heat water on demand. They require more air for combustion and vent more exhaust than conventional water heaters. This affects how and where you install them in two ways:

Venting: For direct venting (through the wall), the vent termination must be at least three feet from any operable window. If you are venting through the roof, the length of the vent is determined by the size of the heater (the BTU output) and the number of elbows, or turns, in the vent. You may not be able to vent the heater through the roof if the vent run is long—for example, if the heater is in the basement of a three-story building.

Combustion air: A gas-fired water heater (tankless or not) requires a source of oxygen for combustion. To avoid back-drafting that combustion air through another appliance’s exhaust pipe, your water heater should be sealed-combustion direct-vent.

5

Check your gas and water supplies.

Tankless water heaters can produce three to four times the BTUs a conventional heater produces. Your plumber must verify that your current gas line size, length and even gas meter can provide sufficient gas flow to the unit. Tankless heaters also require minimum water flows for activation; again, your plumber should verify that your supply meets the specifications.

6

Avoid long runs between the heater and the faucet.

Because tankless heaters generate hot water only when you turn on the hot water tap, it takes some time (a small delay) to heat cold water to the optimal temperature. Locating the heater far from the tap can result in a more noticeable “sandwich effect” when hot water is used intermittently. One way to overcome this problem is to use a recirculation pump that brings water from the farthest fixture in the plumbing run back to the tankless heater, but because these pumps use a lot of energy keeping water in the loop hot, it’s better to preheat or buffer hot water.

 

7

Make sure you meet the building code.

If anyone—you, your plumber or the building inspector—misses a detail during preliminary reviews, you’ll have a messy and costly fix to sort out later.

8

Make sure the venting material complies with the manufacturer’s specifications and local building codes.

I’ve found that the venting material for tankless water heaters is specific: it is made of stainless steel and has seals built into it to prevent carbon monoxide from leaking into the home. Double-walled material may be required, depending on your design (be prepared: it is expensive). Your plumber or HVAC contractor may miss this specification

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