Look mom, no tank

rinnaiA growing number of Richmonders are installing tankless water heaters to lower energy bills.

“Once they started raising the price of electricity it became worth the investment,” said Ross Herring, a plumber who sells and installs the units for Marshall Mechanical.

Within the last 8 months the plumbing company has installed 20-25 tankless water heaters, up more than 50 percent from last year.

Installing a Rinnai can be expensive, between $2700-$3900, depending on installation factors such as venting and removal of the existing unit. That is more than twice as much as a traditional gas water heater installation.

But Herring says customers can expect to pay it off through energy savings in two to five years.

He doesn’t recommend the Rinnai to everyone. For a single couple living alone it probably isn’t worth switching, he says. The more additional family members in a home, the more value they will get. Herring says the one exception to the single couple rule, is if they own a hot tub.

Because the Rinnai heats the water as it’s used instead of storing a limited amount in a tank, some customers hook up their outdoor hose to hot water for car washing, power washing, or for pesticide-free insect control in their garden.

Sean Cantrell, owner of Marshall Mechanical said customers are a mix of people who are environmentally conscious and those just looking to improve savings. Most are upper middle class making more than $120,000 a year. He says the company has installed units all over the area including The Fan, the West End and Salisbury.

The heaters use a coil system to provide a continuous supply of hot water as you use it, instead of storing a limited amount in a tank. The coil is heated by natural gas, which Herring says is a big relief to homeowners who previously used oil to heat their water.

The price of residential natural gas increased 17 percent nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. But the Richmond Department of Public Utilities announced they are reducing the rate by 13 percent starting with next month’s utility bills, down to $1.18 per 100 cubic feet.

Traditional hot water heaters can take up to 30 percent of a home’s electricity usage, using upwards of 20,000 watts. Rinnais use just under 4 watts of electricity.

Cantrell says the Rinnai can also be hooked up to a home’s heat pump, potentially cutting the winter heating bill in half.

Rinnai Corporation was formed in Japan in 1920 as a stove company, and began selling its expanded line of products in North America in 1970. Herring says the company has taken the lead when it comes to advertising and providing training and support to installers.

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