Lots of great contributors in this forum, so I hope I can tap into your knowledge and get some advice!
I have done lots of research, discussed options with my plumber, but I'm still stumped.
Here is all the information I've got:
1949 one and a half story (typical postwar double-brick house). 7 people currently living here. My wife and I, our two kids (4-year old twins), my wife's sister (temporary while studying), and our tenants (couple) in a basement apartment. The house has three bathrooms (three showers plus one bathtub - regular 5' soaker tub), two washing machines, one dishwasher.
The house has 1/2" copper plumbing throughout, including supply from city. Not great water pressure or flow, which means rarely will two showers run simultaneously.
Reasons for needing new water heater:
Current water heater is 18 years old, has some signs of rust and has probably never seen any maintenance (old rental house that we bought 4 years ago). Also, we are going to put in a new roof this summer, which give us the opportunity to get rid of the chimney which is in bad shape. The only appliance currently venting out the chimney is the water heater.
Current water heater:
Natural gas powered Rheem 60 gallon, 55,000 BTU, 48 gallon recovery rate located in utility room in basement. Location is next to outer wall where gas meter is.
- Want to get rid of chimney which means no atmospheric vent tank models
- Utility room is next to two bedrooms, which means we would like a water heater that is quiet (have heard horror stories about noise from power vent fans)
- Planning to stay in house forever, so looking for long term reliable solution
- Basement is finished which means limited access to plumbing except in utility room (this means a waste water heat recovery system is out of the question
- Wife hates the thought of the "cold water sandwich" experienced with tankless. We like to preserve water, so we often stop the shower to lather soap, and then turn on again to rinse, so this would be a real issue
- We do not take baths often - really only for the kids
- It would be a bonus to have a system with a smaller footprint since we could then shrink the utility room and make one of the bedrooms larger
- I'm reasonably handy and can handle annual water heater maintenance tasks
- Direct vent tank. We are looking for long term reliability, so we have only really considered Bradford White. My plumber has recommended a 50 gallon model that is pretty basic, but has also quoted us a 48 gallon model with higher input (faster recovery). There is also a 65 gallon model, but I think that is too big. Like the fact that a direct vent needs no electricity and would continue working during a power outage
- Our plumber also has a very good deal currently for a Rinnai RC80 tankless water heater. It's only $550 more than the 50 gallon BW and $150 more than the 48 gallon high input model. However, the cold water sandwich is a real concern, so I would probably want to add something like a 6 gallon electric tank as a buffer. However, then the energy savings wouldn't be as great, and the cost would be considerably higher.
- With these two options in mind I started thinking about alternatives since with the tankless with buffer we are suddenly in a different price range. I came across mention of condensing water heaters (BW has some commercial models, there's the Polaris from GSW and the Vertex from AO Smith). I do not know too much about how these work, how reliable they are, and whether they would be noisy (power vent)
That's about as much information as I've got, so if you've bothered reading this far, I would truly appreciate some feedback and advice.
Which solution do you think makes sense considering the factors mentioned above?
Are there options I haven't considered and are there pros and cons that I'm overlooking?