Happy Christmas...leaking water heater! Recommendations on tank/tankless replacement

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Dma88

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Hope the collective can help... Happy Holidays to all! Woke up Christmas morning and found Santa left an unexpected 'present'. Asking for some advice about best way to proceed on water heater repair/replacement (mainly tank vs. tankless). Background follows:

A relatively recent electric water heater (50 gallon Lochinvar brand installed in May of 2019) installation failed and was leaking pretty good from the lower element port on Christmas morning. Secured power and drained tank. I have never really been happy with this water heater and had to turn the thermostat up pretty high to get comfortably hot water. This problem heater supplies the master bathroom (relatively close to heater location) and kitchen sink (fairly good distance away) - the other areas of the house are serviced by another tank heater that has worked flawlessly for several years (and has more of a hot water demand than the problem unit). A Grundfos recirculation pump has been installed on the heater pump outlet and the magic mixing valve installed in the kitchen sink supply lines but has never really seemed to make a difference in getting hot water at the kitchen sink (in a timely manner). You can turn on the hot water and wait a couple minutes for it to come out of the kitchen spigot.

We bought the house in summer of 2019 and the Lochinvar was a replacement for a leaking heater that was discovered during our pre-purchase inspection. The property is located in the North Phoenix area and the house has a Kinetico water softener. The previous owner said the same heater was replaced in summer of 2018. I'm not sure if it's a combination of the caliche laden water, improper installation (suspected dry fire of Lochinvar unit), relatively infrequent use, etc. but it seems the heater in this system/application fails way too frequently to be coincidence. As it stands now, it is just my wife and I in the house and we have occasional visitors - seems like a bit of a waste to keep 50 gallons of water heated up.

My sense is replacing the bad tank with another tank heater is gonna lead to the same outcome so I am looking for recommendations and things to ask the plumber when they come to provide repair estimates. I have an engineering background and suitable DIY skills but I plan to leave this one to the pros to get the issues mentioned above addressed once and for all. My gut tells me replacing the tank heater is the simplest and lowest cost repair option but not sure it will resolve the performance issues.

I am wondering if an electrically powered tankless heater is a viable solution. The space for the heater is in an exterior accessible utility room and right next to the main electrical load center (where I have plenty of knockouts remaining for some new tankless water heater circuits). A buried propane tank is on the same side of the property but would require supply/piping to the heater location. Given what I have learned about the hard water here in AZ, a set of isolation/service valves are a good idea for frequent descaling of the tankless elements and periodic cleaning of the tankless unit. The sizing guidelines seem pretty straightforward given the current fixture count/demand. Good/bad/indifferent idea to oversize the tankless unit if we want to add an outdoor cooking area or outside shower (potentially in the future)? Can the existing recirculation system be used on a tankless system? I have a little bit of experience with a 24kW Stiebel-Eltron tankless system in a previous building that seemed to work adequately. Any particular brands to recommend/stay away from? Special installation considerations given Arizona water? Reasons for untimely failure(s)? Other considerations?

Thank you for reading this far and thank you (in advance) for your opinions/recommendations. Hope everyone has a safe and prosperous New Year.
 

Reach4

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I am wondering if an electrically powered tankless heater is a viable solution.
Probably not. They take a tremendous amount of power.

If you want to save electricity, look into hybrid water heaters. Use hybrid as a search term in this forum in the search box, above.
 

Dma88

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Thanks, Reach4. I am familiar with hybrid water heaters and given the location of this unit (uninsulated exterior mechanical room), I'm not sure a hybrid is the best solution (and also not sure why two tank units have failed in a little over 3 years).

But when the water heater in the garage (unit that supplies the rest of the house) starts leaking, I'll probably replace that one with a hybrid unit. I like the idea of using the heat generated by the air conditioner to heat the water and the cool air will be a welcome addition to a garage in Arizona. Thanks again for your opinion.
 

Reach4

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City water probably. Some city water seems to be harder on WHs. Maybe it could be salt without enough hardness materials. For wells, there are treatments.

It would be interesting to inspect the anodes on the failed tanks. It is hard to get anodes out of old tanks. Usually takes an impact wrench. They put those in needlessly tight.

If using resistance heating, the Marathon water heaters are supposed to be very durable.
 
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