Install a tankless water heater
A-1 Total Service Plumbing installs an outdoor Noritz
We caught A-1 Total Service Plumbing’s field supervisor Mike Henderson mid-project. He was working to convert a home from an outdoor tank water heater in a utility room in the back of the house to an outdoor tankless unit mounted on the side of the home near the gas meter. The tank unit, a nearly 15-year-old, 50-gallon GE Profile Performance “SmartWater” heater, which was still in place but disconnected when we arrived to visit and see what was up, had been isolated from the system and temporarily replaced by a “loaner” tankless Noritz NRC111SV condensing unit.
Today’s job is to remove the loaner tankless and replace it with a brand new Noritz 98OD tankless and run permanent water lines from the new tankless heater to the utility room.
POTENTIAL DIFFICULTY SCALE:
1. “We’re taking the old one out and relocating the new one, so this has been a little more complicated than typical,” Henderson says. This house also has a whole-house filtration system from Pentair and a water heater filtration system.
2. He put about five wraps of Blue Monster Teflon tape on the new water heater’s fittings. He says other Teflon tapes can take up to 15 wraps to seal properly because it is thinner. Then he tested the fit to the components already installed on the house. Some adjustment would necessary. Other products used on this job include Elkhart fittings and brackets, Uponor PEX, Milwaukee Tools and solders and fluxes from LA-CO.
3. Once the new heater was permanently mounted to the wall, Henderson needed to make some adjustments to the piping previously installed to accommodate the temporary tankless heater. He takes his job seriously: “I’m the guy who gets to hang his art on other peoples’ walls,” Henderson says.
4. We cut and threaded a 12.5” long, 3/4-inch galvanized pipe for the gas feed. Once that was in place, the water lines needed to be massaged to fit into the unit.
5. Henderson pulled all the fittings from the “loaner” unit. The new water heater is non-condensing because there’s no place to dump condensate water in the installation area because of concerns about the family dogs and stained concrete.
6. Henderson un-sweated one of the old fittings with acetylene so he could install a longer piece of copper pipe on the water fitting. He deburred his cuts inside and out to prevent turbulence in the water flow that could lead to corrosion or a clogged heater. He carefully wiped the solder and flux residue from the new copper to keep corrosion away. He fitted a metal heat shield behind the pipes to prevent damage to the home. Then he transferred the electrical pigtail from the loaner to the new heater.
7. He needed about 80 feet of new copper to get to the water supply, located at the back of the house in the utility room housing the old tanked heater. He prepared for the new water lines by installing brackets on the chimney and house where the new pipe will run around to the water supply. One pipe will be for cold water input and the other for hot water output. The attic crawlspace is non-existent in this house so everything had to be installed on exterior walls using copper fittings from Elkhart.
8. It turns out there wasn’t quite enough copper on the truck to run hard lines all the way to the water supply. According to code, the supply piping outside must be of a metallic material, Henderson says. Temporarily, he made water connections with a pair of 30-foot runs of Uponor PEX to get the system running. The PEX will be removed as soon as copper shows up to be sweated in place.
9. Uponor PEX fittings need a few seconds after expansion with the tool to regain its shape and create a good, tight seal. “Milwaukee Tools have the best warranty for the tradesman,” Henderson says. “I’ve used them all.”
10. There was enough copper on the truck to extend a pair of copper pipes previously installed all the way to the corner of the house. This will temporarily connected with PEX until he can get back to the job with more copper.
11. At this point the job became an exercise in completing the plumbing with the temporary PEX.
12. While the old tanked unit was pumped dry, he drilled holes through the exterior wall of the utility shed to make the new water connections so the tankless can be hooked up.
13. Here’s an awesome trick. Henderson found the homeowner’s pruning shear in the utility closet and he used them as a field-expedient lifting device to haul the old tanked water heater from its former home in the utility shed.
14. He went into the utility closet to prep and solder the water connections. He installed FNW’s full-port ball valves for easy shut-off if required for maintenance. Then the new tankless was fired up, checked for leaks. He also cut away the tanked water heater’s vent stack close to the ceiling. It will be left in place until a roofer can come and repair the now-unnecessary hole. Everything was copacetic except the temporary PEX, which has probably been long replaced by the time you read this.
Protect customers’ investment
A Common Sense Guide for Longer Service Life
Craig Porter | Bosch Thermotechnology
Unlike their traditional, storage tank-based counterparts, tankless water heaters are capable of providing a virtually constant, uniform hot water temperature on demand. End users can typically save up to 40% in annual energy costs versus tank-type water heaters. In order to enjoy all the benefits of tankless water heaters, it’s imperative that the system receives routine maintenance, as it’s a key component for high performance and a long service life.
By conducting proper recommended maintenance, tankless units are expected to last far longer than tank-type units. While a conventional water heater typically requires replacement every seven to 10 years, the tankless model could last up to 20 years with recommended annual maintenance.nlike their traditional, storage tank-based counterparts, tankless water heaters are capable of providing a virtually constant, uniform hot water temperature on demand. End users can typically save up to 40% in annual energy costs versus tank-type water heaters. In order to enjoy all the benefits of tankless water heaters, it’s imperative that the system receives routine maintenance, as it’s a key component for high performance and a long service life.
Before servicing any tankless water heater unit, always shut off the electrical power supply, manual gas valve and water valves. Annual maintenance includes inspecting the venting system, combustion chamber, burner, pressure relief, water filter and condensate trap. Maintenance also includes descaling the heat exchanger yearly and cleaning the fin coils of the heat exchanger bi-annually (every two years). Examine the water heater and its components for wear or fatigue and immediately repair all faults to avoid damage to the system.
In areas where the water supply has a high mineral content, the heat exchanger should be flushed with a descaling solution. Scale buildup will shorten the life of the water heater and damage resulting from scale may not be covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. A water softener is required if the water hardness exceeds 6 grains/gal (180 mg/l) calcium carbonate.
Water quality can have an impact on appliance longevity and may void the manufacturer’s warranty, as well. For water analysis data call your local water department, or if on a well, have well water analyzed periodically. If the tankless water heater is operating in applications where the outlet temperature exceeds 140°F, a water softening system is strongly recommended. The higher the set temperature is on the appliance, the greater the risk for scale/mineral deposits.
In addition to routine maintenance, tankless water heaters should also be winterized for seasonal use. If the unit must be installed in a location where it may be exposed to freezing temperatures, all the water needs to be drained from the heater. For full details on maintenance and winterizing tankless water heaters, always consult the manufacturer’s installation and maintenance instructions.
Similar to check-ups at the doctor and car inspections at the auto shop, routine maintenance on tankless water heaters helps address any repair issues early and ultimately extends the life of the unit.