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Tankless Water Heaters are not always the best solution

  One of my current clients is an Architect with Heimsath Architects and we’ve been working on bidding/estimating a new house for his family in Westlake.  He has a family of four with two children that are pre-teens and he’s designed a very efficient home that will rate a 5 Star in Austin Energy’s Green Building Program.  The Manual J calculations came back and the design shows 900 square feet per ton of cooling!  Most new homes in Austin are around 500 square feet per ton so his house is almost 2x as efficient!  Anyhow, he originally specified two exterior mounted tankless water heaters.  One to service the master bath and one child’s bath and one to service the kitchen, laundry, powder, and the other child’s bathroom.  It’s a great system for sure as those two units can be placed close to the point of use.  The tankless unit servicing the master would be on the stone wall right outside the master bed, the other unit would on the outside wall of the kitchen.  Great plan, but you pay a premium for two of these powerful (and expensive) machines.  We’ve been doing some “value engineering” on his house (read: cutting costs) and one item up for evaluation is the dual tankless hot water idea.  We don’t want to sacrifice efficiency and we don’t want cold showers.  Here’s my proposed solution:  One AO Smith Vertex 50 Gallon High Performance Gas water heater.  This is a pretty amazing product that’s been on the market a few years.  It’s like a standard gas water heater that’s been engineered for maximum performance and efficiency.  They make two models the Vertex 76 and the Vertex 100. Here’s what I like about them:

  • 90% & 96% Efficiency compared to 60% efficiency of a standard gas tank water heater
  • 76,000 & 100,000 BTU input compared to 40,000 BTU input of standard unit
  • Power Vented with PVC piping (sidewall) compared to metal atmospheric roof venting of standard unit
  • Reduced maintenance schedule compared to annual flush routine of tankless water heaters
  • Capacity to run 3+ fixtures at once compared to tankless units that max out at 3 fixtures
  • Price: One Vertex 76 is the price of one tankless unit.  So not doing two tankless units is a big savings.

Pretty amazing specs for a rather standard looking tank!  But there are some downsides:

  • Takes up house or garage space compared to an exterior mounted tankless unit
  • Some limits to output compared to tankless.  Very long showering families with lots of demand at the same hour could drain this unit.  One person showering could be limitless output.  
  • Some standby loss compared to a tankless unit.  Minimal but some nonetheless

So, in summary these Vertex units really fill a need when you’ve got a large family with more hot water demands.  I think this is a great upgrade from a standard gas unit and a potential money saver from using two tankless units.  I still like tankless units especially for smaller families.  When there are two people in the house it’s hard to beat a tankless unit but for bigger families or more complicated houses this Vertex model is a great solution.
  If you decide to buy one consider supporting my blog by buying your Vertex 100 from Amazon on this link.  
-Matt Risinger