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Tankless Electric Water Heater Recs?

by Prince Of Petworth June 20, 2016 at 1:55 pm 34 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Erin

“Does anyone have a tankless electric water heater? I found one with great reviews but my contractor says they don’t work and that the only decent tankless ones are gas. I’d love feedback from anyone who has actually used one. Also if you have a recommendation for an expert to install that would be much appreciated. Thank you!”

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  • chuck cushman

    I have an electric Stiebel Eltron that is great. Only challenge is our water is hard so you need to make sure it gets descaled annually.

    • tankless forever

      We’ve had one of these for over a year and it works great. Helped with the dishwasher immensely. It does require a lot of juice, our place is a renovation and has all brand new electric work so it was no problem. The water can easily get hot enough to scald. Can take a shower and do laundry.


      • kw1231

        Who did your installation? I want to be sure to find someone experienced with this brand and I’m having trouble finding anyone experienced with the electric models.

        • tankless forever

          Oh, a friend who is a nasa engineer installed it. He had to put in new circuit breakers and run some crazy thick wire.

        • AMDCer

          I used JM Plumbing for my electric – not that brand, but they do have experience with electric. Check out their website – it’s informative.

    • kw1231

      Who did your installation?

  • HaileUnlikely

    I do not have one but I would note that Consumer Reports agrees with your contractor, mainly because a tankless electric model may require an upgrade to your electrical service panel. If you have 200 Amp service and a relatively new panel, it might be worth proceeding. If you have 100A or 150A service and/or your panel is already filled to capacity, you are going to have to spend at least a couple thousand on electrical work in addition to the cost of the unit and the plumbing portion of the install. Recent articles by Consumer Reports and Consumer Checkbook discuss the pros and cons of tankless vs regular storage tank models pretty well.

    • Anon

      Good info!

  • ET

    When my plumber came to fix something else I asked about them and he said don’t bother. I can’t remember what he said so I can’t give you more than that.

    • Sames. We had a contractor in over the weekend to talk about replacing our water heater and he said the tankless is not worth it.

    • anon

      I got same rec from a knowledgeable plumber who is no ludite and does high tech installations. We were looking to replace our failing tankless system and he thankfully talked us out of it. The mid-Atlantic hard water is a big warning sign. It requires filtering and water softening to keep it functional over the long haul, and the cost to replace filters annually is burdensome. Even when it works the lag time sucks.

      We went with an indirect tank tied to boiler. Efficient in similar way to the tankless (except for space) — it stores hot water and maintains temp, refilling upon use. They don’t fail consistently like standard hot water heaters becasue there’s not heating element and additional insulation. It’s like a giant thermos that stays hot. Not cheap but recommended.

  • JL

    We have had a Rinnai Tankless water heater that is both electric and gas (dual fuel) for the last 5 years and it has run perfectly. Our water is just as hard as everyone else’s and it still has had no problems whatsoever. It heats up the water in about 20 – 30 seconds. Your contractor probably doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Just keep in mind, the farther the distance you place the source heater away from the your fixtures the longer it will take for the hot water to get to it. It is totally worth the price. We placed ours in the attic of our house and have had no issues with leaks or anything. Plus a water tank takes up a lot of valuable space in your house that is hard to get back…You should ask an actual HVAC company (who may also do water heaters) or another plumbing company to talk to you about it.

    • MD

      I agree completely. We installed a gas-powered Rinnai water heater when we were doing renovations in 2009 and love it. We have had zero maintenance problems. It heats up water as fast and as well as a standard gas water heater, but you can use it and use it and never run out of hot water, unlike with a standard hot water heater. Best yet, we saw an immediate and big reduction of our gas bill. I would never use anything else again.

    • Eric

      Question: Is the Rinnai tankless heater very noisy? I was told it would be significantly noisier than my current water heater (larger exhaust fan).

  • Andie302

    I got the same feedback from a contractor recently regarding gas versus electric. The place I need this for doesn’t have sufficient electric capacity, but he also mentioned that it uses a ton of electric and would be very expensive to run.

    • HaileUnlikely

      Partial credit for that contractor. It draws a ton of current, but for a very short period of time, so it doesn’t “use a ton of electricity” in terms of kilowatt-hours (i.e., how electric usage is billed). The electricity costs associated with *operating* a tankless electric water heater will almost certainly be a lot less than the electricity costs associated with operating a standard electric water heater, but since it draws so much current, the home is likely to require an electric service upgrade, which will cost at least $2000 and probably more. The savings in operating costs won’t be that substantial, though, so the time horizon for recouping the cost of the electrical upgrade though more efficient operation is likely well over a decade.

  • Jen

    I looked into getting one a few years ago & was told it wasn’t possible in my townhouse because I have a 4 story house & the tankless aren’t strong enough to push hot water up to the 4th floor. I’d have to get 2 which required moving walls to make room so I dropped it.

    Mine water heater is gas so that wasn’t an issue.

    • ah

      Wait – what? If you can get water up there, you can get hot water up there. It’s a question of overall water pressure.

  • Jen

    I looked into getting one a few years ago & was told it wasn’t possible in my townhouse because I have a 4 story house & the tankless aren’t strong enough to push hot water up to the 4th floor. I’d have to get 2 which required moving walls to make room so I dropped it.

    Mine water heater is gas so that wasn’t an issue.

  • Anonamom

    My house now has a propane tankless heater. There’s no gas to the house and the landlord was told the same thing about electric, so she put in propane. It’s also for our heat. I can check the maker when I get home.

  • gotryit

    I recommend looking at the specs on it. You’ll want to look at the chart that shows how many gallons per minute (GPM) it can push through vs. temperature rise. For DC, you’ll probably want about a 70 degree temperature rise (50F water incoming in the winter to 120F). Then you can see how many GPM it can put through. Then look at your showers, baths, sinks, etc. and figure out how many GPM each take and then you’ll see if you have enough. If you don’t know, time how long it takes to fill a gallon bucket and then calculate.
    I went with a 199,000 BTU gas tankless because that would let me run at least two showers at the same time. It hasn’t disappointed. If I remember the electric options at the time right, it was hard to get the same power.

  • AMDCer

    I replaced my tank water heater with an electric tankless about two years ago, mainly because my old heater was built up into the ceiling of my bedroom closet and took up a ton of space. There was no way a plumber would replace a tank heater in the same space (it couldn’t have been to code), so I opted for tankless. They did have to tap into my electric panel but I must have already had capacity because it wasn’t thousands of dollars. Mine works well – though water pressure does drop in the winter since the ground water temp is much colder (takes longer to heat), which is only a problem in the shower, not from other taps. I’m perfectly happy with mine, so I wouldn’t say “don’t bother” – I would say it depends on your circumstances. FWIW I used JM Plumbing and was very happy with them.

  • I replaced my (gas) tank unit with a (gas) Rinnai tankless and it’s wonderful. I can’t believe all new apartment buildings aren’t switching to these. The space savings alone are worth it. We used Polar Bear to install it, and we use them for service on all of our rental properties too. Joe will be up front and candid with you on exactly what product your space needs and has never tried to oversell me on something. And they will match any competitors’ prices, so at the very least if you’re getting quotes give them a call. I believe our unit actually qualified for a $1,000 DC rebate as well, not sure if that program is still going or not.

  • stuff

    We have a gas powered tankless Rinnai that has functioned flawlessly for two years with zero maintenance. It is amazing. I would never go back. Heard the same concerns about electric heaters as you heard, I wouldn’t risk one of those.

    • anon

      cheer up — my Bosch worked flawlessly for 3 years before it became a nightmare needing multiple repairs before failing. Buyer beware.

  • DCFed

    I too have an Rinnai gas tankless, It was installed in 2008, has never had a problem. Hot water is continuous, very slight delay and as one responder said you just have to turn the shower up a little higher in the winter because the water coming in is so cold. Very low gas bills, in the summer my gas bills are in the teens. I can have two showers, the dishwasher and the washing machine going at the same time with no drop.

  • Shalom

    We just installed solar hot water. If the sun’s not strong enough, it uses gas (or electric) — but we turned the gas off in mid-April, have been on 100% solar since then.

    If you’re in DC (better incentives than MD or VA), would otherwise be using electric (more expensive and higher emissions than gas), and have space on your roof, then solar could be the way to go!

  • ERD

    I have a gas tankless Triangle Tube. It does both hot water and heats the house. It’s absolutely terrible. Don’t ever think about installing the combination units. Every time it breaks I have no hot water and no heat.

    Over the first year it broke three times under warranty. The warranty on the units is only 1 year. Now that it is about 5 years old, it has cost me more than twice the price of the unit since a new piece breaks every 6-12 months. It currently needs another $1k in service which I’m not doing. This summer I’m planning on ripping it out and putting in a standard boiler and standard hot water heater. Energy savings be damned when I’m cold and can’t take a hot shower.

  • We’ve had a gas powered Rinnai since early 2010, and we love it. We have no issues with it. We clean it every 1 – 2 years by cycling vinegar through it for a couple of hours to get rid of any mineral deposits. It’s an easy process and only cost $5 a year plus buying a lower flow sump pump and a five gallon bucket once. We love how small it is and we’ve never had issues with water pressure.

  • jenlen

    We installed a Stiebel Eltron in our 1 Br/1bath condo circa 2003. At the time, we lived there. Now we rent it. About 13 years and 2 units later (with fair amount of trouble shooting to diagnose issues) I would think hard about doing it over again. Your contractor is correct: electric units don’t last. 5 or 6 years is about what you can expect. It’s been a pain to deal with. That said, the 800 line is good and they’ll run you thru diagnostics. The warranty probably will be past, though. I have an old unit in my basement that we swapped out because it was too much hassle/cost to have contractor replace the part. We just bit bullet and purchased a replacement (let me know if you feel adventurous – I’ll sell for a song!) In contrast,I would not hesitate to recommend a gas tankless. We’ve had one of those for 9 and no fuss.

  • ljp805

    Tankless concepts. I have a gas Navien and was told to go gas over electric. These people specialize in tankless installs. I had an issue with my tankless once since install 2 yrs ago. Long story short the exhaust pipe slipped down and the unit was shutting itself off bc of that issue. JM plumbing told me the unit was shot without troubleshooting the unit, connections, or venting and quoted me almost $2700 including rebate to install a new one. Thankfully I called Tankless concepts and for the mere price of a service call I was back up in running after he did the work of checking that everything looked fine except the exhaust pipe that had somehow slipped down. Honest companies like this get my business and recommendations any day.

  • 13thStreetFan

    If you are looking at an electric tankless whole house water heater make sure you have at least 200amp service to your home. 10 years ago we replaced 2 electric tank units, one serviced the basement apt., which was 40 gallons, the other for the main house was a 50 gallons unit. Both heaters had been installed in the laundry room on the second floor and original installation was not up to building code. I was always concerned about all the weight and stress on the floor and worse if we had a leak, it would be huge mess.
    When we renovated the basement apartment I had our general contractor install one electric tankless to the basement and then installed another electric tankless back in the laundry room. The general contractor sub-contracted to his electrician and plumber. We had looked into gas, but we didn’t have a gas line nearby and even move important was venting the unit
    Electric tankless have pros and cons, Pros- gained alot of space back in the laundry room, tankless unit is the size of VCR and mounts up on the wall. Cons, electric tankless units are more expensive to buy and install. You need both an electrician and plumber for the installations. Another thing is if you go tankless to switch out all faucets and showerheads to low-flow, which have aerators that can reduce your home water consumption, and reduce your energy cost of heating the water.
    Another con is trying to find a contractor(s) to service the unit, my experience is that the plumber will only look at the pipes and electrician will only look at the wires. But if space is a premium in your home and you have 200amp service panel and capacity to due it, you might want to consider it. Again consult a electrician and go over the specs of the tankless unit with them, because it does draw alot of juice but only for times it is being used and a good electrician should be able to tell you if its possible. Hopes this helps.

  • Anon

    We have two in our house and have been happy with them. The first is a gas one and services our first and second floors (three baths and a kitchen). I don’t recall the brand but it has a very small “reserve” tank that keeps some water hot constantly, which is supposed to cut down on the lag time. There’s still some delay but it’s about the same as the lag time for the hot water to arrive at an upstairs faucet at my parents’ larger suburban home (from a tank heater in the basement).

    The other one is an electric that we use for our basement apartment rental. We had to upgrade our panel but it needed upgrading anyway — it looked like it was from the 1960’s or so.

    You do have to get them serviced regularly and the frequency depends on what’s in your water. We’re in DC and our plumber said we could do every 2-3 years because our water is soft. We did have trouble finding a plumber who was qualified to service them — that could be part of why there are so many plumbers who don’t recommend them. We ultimately had to go with a big company — Michael & Son — because none of the local plumbers we normally used could do it.

  • christina

    I have one of these and it’s been great. It’s only a one bedroom (about 500 sq ft) place but no issues and incredibly efficient.



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