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An Interview with John Dietz about Tankless Water Heating

Hello, this is Steve with TanklessAdvisor.com, and I have here with us today John Dietz of JD Service Now company of Durham, North Carolina. How are you doing, John?

Hey, Steve, doing great, how are you?

Not bad, not bad. Thank you for taking the time out today and putting together some information here for your clients on tankless water heating. Before we get into it, just to let you know: John has a pretty extensive background in the plumbing trade. He started out at 18-years-old working for another plumbing company, and at age 24 he was promoted to a service manager. By the time he turned 25, he had started his own plumbing company. Today he hasn’t looked back; he has 13 trucks in the Durham, Raleigh, North Carolina area, where they offer five year guarantee on work, and he has one of the strongest reputations here on Tankless Advisor. John, thanks for taking the time, is there anything I missed that you may want to tell folks about JD Service Now?

That’s great Steve, and in addition to plumbing just last year we started a heating and air division. We really enjoy being in the trade and helping people. We’re trying to do the right thing, and we’ve seen that there are needs for a great heating and air conditioning company. As I looked around personally for one, I struggled to find one, so we decided to start one this past year and we’re really enjoying that also.

Excellent, excellent. So, today’s topic is obviously tankless water heating, and for the folks listening to this CD, maybe you can tell us a little bit about tankless heating compared to your traditional, conventional water heater.

You bet! The tankless water heaters are fine-tuned machines, so they tend to be more efficient than your standard tank type. A tank is big, it’s clunky, there’s stored water, and the stored water is heated, so that means there’s also stored energy. That energy is lost as it sits over time. With a tankless water heater, the great thing is that when it’s not running, you’re not using energy, and when it is running it’s being very, very efficient. It’s using all of the gas or all of the power that it’s drawing and it’s dedicating it directly to the hot water, so there’s really minimal loss of energy.

So is there a specific tankless that you would recommend to folks as they go out and start the buying process?

Well, you know, tankless water heaters have come a long way, and there are quite a few manufacturers, so there’s a lot to choose from. Very seldom do you find two that are exactly alike. There are specific functions for specific applications. Us personally, we like Rinnai Tankless quite a bit. We install Rinnais almost exclusively. Every now and again, we’ll put a Bosh in, and they tend to hold up quite well, but we just like Rinnai. They have great support from a technical standpoint. You can call them and get instant service, and they’re very fast on turnaround parts if there’s any warranty issue. And that said, there’s very few warranties, and the few times we’ve had to deal with them on that it’s been great. Now, there are other manufacturers that we know their technical support very well, and we know their warranty divisions very, very well…better than we think we should get to know them, if you know what I’m saying.

Absolutely. It’s very important to have a brand that will stand by their products. I myself have a Rinnai tankless water heater installed in my home and I love it, I would never go back to a traditional water heater. One of the reasons I decided to get a tankless unit was because I wanted to refinish my basement. What do you find are the #1 reasons why people decide to invest in a tankless water heater?

That’s a great question, Steve. There are so many reasons. People have lived in a home, and they have the nice bathroom, the master bathroom they’ve always dreamed of, and they’ve got a tank-type heater that by the time they get a puddle in the bottom of that big bathtub, they’ve run out of hot water. The nice thing about the tankless is that you’ve got an endless supply of hot water, so you can fill up that tub. If there are a lot of people in a home, say a family of five, so you’ve got three children and the kids are growing up, they’re teenagers, and they take showers like crazy, they’re into sports and in the mornings it’s hectic trying to get out of the home there’s taking one shower after another, well somebody will get stuck taking a cold shower. That’s usually one of the questions we like to ask: who gets stuck taking the cold shower? Because I want to talk to that person. They tend to be real interested in tankless heaters! And like you said, anytime there’s an attic remodel or a basement remodel or a new plumbing fixtures being put in, that’s a great opportunity to upgrade to a tankless.

Now, can you tell me a little bit about tankless technology over conventional water heating technology and would I expect my tankless water heater to last longer than my conventional water heating tank?

Yeah, I mean, to put things in perspective: for a tank-type water heater, the life expectancy on it is 8 to 10 years, maybe 8 to 12. Now, there are those cases where they last longer, but the average is 8 to 10, 8 to 12. The manufacturer puts a 1 year warranty on parts and a 6 year warranty on the tank itself. Tankless water heater manufacturers, almost exclusively longer; I mean, I think the lowest warranty out there is a ten year warranty. And many of them will go 12 or 15 years. So the life expectancy is almost twice as long as a tank-type. They’re very, very efficient, these are fine tuned machines. They’ve really dialed them in. There are components on that, if anything is going to go wrong, there are safety valves and safety switches; they are just really, really nice. There’s even heaters to protect the heat exchangers in cold areas so, in any environment, no matter where you live ,whether you’re in a cold climate or a warm climate, these are great for any application.

So, if I go out and purchase a conventional water heater, I may purchase 3 tanks in the same time that I can own 1 tankless water heater.

Oh, you bet.

So that alone will ultimately pay for the installation of the unit.

It’s funny: on paper, dollars and cents, with real money, it just makes sense financially to do it. They do pay for themselves. The initial installation and placement of the heater is more expensive than just replacing a tank-type water heater, but once it’s installed and the infrastructure is put in place, they’re very, very affordable to replace if that time every comes. Now, that said, unless you’re going to live in your home for 30 years, once you put this in, you’re not thinking about it again. It’s done. You’ve got an endless supply of hot water, and for every dollar you pay in fuel to heat that hot water, you’re only wasting 2 cents. Your average tank type heater, you’re wasting 30 to 40 cents for every dollar you put into it. So dollars and cents wise, yeah, it just makes sense.

So your tankless water heater is 97% while your conventional water heater is 60, 65% efficient?

65% when they’re brand new. The first day they’re installed. Because, you know, water quality, scale build-up, and things like that tend to reduce the efficiency of your tank type heaters.

That actually brings up a good point: when is the right time to say goodbye to your old water heater? When do I know that it’s time for me to replace it?

When the cost of the repair times the age of the water heater exceeds the replacement cost of a heater, that’s when we say it’s time. So, the reality is, a tank-type water heater, we even replace them sometimes when their only 5 or 6 years old. That’s not always the case, it depends on the area that folks are in, and we always give the option. But you would be surprised! Given the option of a 3 or 4 100 dollar repair versus a replacement, people a lot of times will investigate the tankless and they’ll consider the tankless. It’s a real consideration at that point. They really take a hard look and think, “Oh my gosh, do I pour perfectly good money into an old appliance or do I finally upgrade and get what I want, what’s really going to be comfortable?

At the end of the life of a conventional tank, I’ve heard horror stories where people go on vacation and they know they need to fix the problem, but when they return there’s gallons and gallons of water flooding their basement or their slab. Would I expect that to happen with the tankless unit?

No, no. There are very few things that can go wrong with a tankless water heater. Now, with any plumbing in the home it can leak at any time. There are safety measures that can be put in place to prevent this, and they can certainly be put in place with a tankless. On a tankless, it’s the same thing in that there are pipes, but there’s no storage tank to fail or rupture. These storage tanks, there’s a lot going on with them. There’s energy loss from corrosion that takes place in them, so we’ve got all kinds of things that are counteracting the metal. With tankless water heaters, these are copper and stainless heat exchangers so you’ve got high quality materials in them, and they don’t fail. The tanks, these are just iron tanks with a glass lining, and if they’ve been bumped or anything at all, that glass lining is compromised, and there’s a significant loss of life for that compact heater.

Can you walk me through, step-by-step, the tankless installation process, and what can I expect as a homeowner when I hire JD Plumber to do the job?

Sure! When we come out and meet with the homeowner, we’re going to ask a series of questions. The questions we ask are geared towards who is using the hot water, what times a day, where are the showers being taken, because we can most of the time put the tankless right back where the tank is or we can relocate it to a better area. So we want to know what works best for our homeowner. And then at that point, just give us the keys to the kingdom for a day- nah, I’m just kidding. Really, though, it is a one-day job. We get in and get out on the same day. That morning you take a shower with you old water heater, that evening you take a shower with a fresh, clean, crisp, warm, consistent shower with your tankless and you can take it for as long as you want. We have to connect gas to it. There’s a 120 volt wire that gets run to it, and otherwise we just reroute the water pipes and put a vent, so if it’s an outdoor installation we bolt it up to the exterior of the home, and if it’s an interior installation we usually mount it to an exterior wall inside the home or we’ll want to vent it through the roof. We show up, we put shoe covers on, we put floor mats out, we protect the home in plastic we protect all the areas we’ll be working in, and when we leave at the end of the day, you don’t even know that we were there. Or if you do know that we were there, it’s because we’ve cleaned up better than it was. We take great care in keeping the home clean and tidy, and if anyone ever has a different experience than that, you need to call me directly. Because that’s one of those things that everyone knows that we do. There’s not a speck of dust on the floor when we leave.

Nice. So once it’s all set and done, what does the labor warranty look like? Is there any maintenance that I have to be concerned about over time?

Good question! Yes, the manufacturer recommends that they be serviced once a year. We also, with the manufacturer, recommend it. What a lot of folks don’t know is that the tank type water heaters are supposed to be maintained every year too! So regardless of whichever one you have, they should be getting serviced every year. We come out and we check the filters. There are internal filters and screens and things and we flush the system with vinegar, a food grade vinegar. We just clean the pipes out and make sure the unit is running at maximum efficiency. And we do this every year. With a tank-type water heater, we do a five year guarantee on all our repairs within the 5 year warranty for all our work. If anything…well, things don’t happen to them if you take care of them, bottom line. Nothing happens. It’s really a worry free set up. It really is.

Would you recommend a tankless unit to someone selling their home in the next few years?

Sure! Selling a home, you’re in competition! If I’m selling a home, I’m in competition with everybody on my street, and I want to do anything and everything to get an edge on that buyer. If I’ve got a tankless water heater in my home, I think that appeals to people and they’d be more likely to lean in that direction knowing there’s one less thing that they have to take care of when they move in. And you know, you’re maybe trying to sell a home and you’re going to live in it hopefully for just a couple of weeks before it sells, but sometimes we live in them for years, so we might as well enjoy it while we have it.

Nice. Well, John, I’d like to thank you for your time today and for walking us through your tankless program. So if I’m a homeowner in your area, how do I learn more, and how do I get in touch with you?

Well, you can go on to tanklessadvisor.com and we’ll be there. Or you can reach out to us at JDservicenow.com on our website: there’ll be a link there for tankless water heaters, so check us out there! Also, our phone number is 919-3837000.

Alright John, thank you for your time.

Thank you, Steve!

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