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Heating water accounts for up to 30 percent of the average home’s energy budget. Some makers of gas-fired tankless water heaters claim their products can cut your energy costs up to half over regular storage heaters. So is it time to switch?

Probably not. Gas tankless water heaters, which use high-powered burners to quickly heat water as it runs through a heat exchanger, were 22 percent more energy efficient on average than the gas-fired storage-tank models in our tests. That translates into a savings of around $70 to $80 per year, based on 2008 national energy costs. But because they cost much more than storage water heaters, it can take up to 22 years to break even—longer than the 20-year life of many models. Moreover, our online poll of 1,200 readers revealed wide variations in installation costs, energy savings, and satisfaction.
With the help of an outside lab, we pitted Takagi and Noritz gas-fired tankless water heaters against three storage water heaters. We didn’t test electric tankless heaters because many can’t deliver hot water fast enough to replace a conventional water heater if ground­water is cold. Even in areas with warm groundwater, most homeowners would need to upgrade their electrical service to power a whole-house tankless model.
Our tests simulated daily use of 76 to 78 gallons of hot water. That’s the equivalent of taking three showers, washing one laun­dry load, running the dishwasher once (six cycles), and turning on the faucet nine times, for a total of 19 draws. While that’s considered heavy use compared with the standard Department of Energy test, we think it more accurately represents an average family’s habits. We also ran more than 45,000 gallons of very hard water through a tanked model and a Rinnai tankless model to simulate about 11 years of regular use.
Here’s what else we found:

Water runs hot and cold Manufacturers of tankless water heaters are fond of touting their products’ ability to provide an endless amount of hot water. But inconsistent water temperatures were a common complaint among our poll respondents. When you turn on the faucet, tankless models feed in some cold water to gauge how big a temperature rise is needed. If there’s cool water lingering in your pipes, you’ll receive a momentary “cold-water sandwich” between the old and new hot water. And a tankless water heater’s burner might not ignite when you try to get just a trickle of hot water for, say, shaving.

Nor do tankless water heaters deliver hot water instantaneously. It takes time to heat the water to the target temperature, and just like storage water heaters, any cold water in the pipes needs to be pushed out. And tankless models’ electric controls mean you’ll also lose hot water during a power outage.

Up-front costs are high The tankless water heaters we tested cost $800 to $1,150, compared with $300 to $480 for the regular storage-tank types. Tankless models need electrical outlets for their fan and electronics, upgraded gas pipes, and a new ventilation system. That can bring average installation costs to $1,200, compared with $300 for storage-tank models.

Tankless units might need more care During our long-term testing, an indicator on the tankless model warned of scale buildup. We paid $334 for special valves and a plumber to flush out the water heater with vinegar. Many industry pros recommend that tankless models be serviced once a year by a qualified technician. Calcium buildup can decrease efficiency, restrict water flow, and damage tankless models. Experts suggest installing a water softener if your water hardness is above 11 grains per gallon. Ignoring this advice can shorten your warranty.

Efficient storage models are priceyWe also tested the $1,400 Vertex, a high-efficiency storage water heater by A.O. Smith. The manufacturer claims its installation costs are similar to a regular storage model. But its high cost offsets much of the roughly $70 per year the Vertex will save you. Instead, we recommend buying a conventional storage water heater with a 9- or 12-year warranty. In previous tests, we found that those models generally had thicker insulation, bigger burners or larger heating elements, and better corrosion-fighting metal rods called anodes.

Posted: September 2008 — Consumer Reports Magazine issue: October 2008

WHAT IS KITEC

Kitec is a plumbing system  that was manufactured by a Canadian corporation named IPEX sold in the  United States until IPEX discontinued the product line in 2007.   Kitec became a popular alternative to copper in the mid-1990’s due  to its inexpensive cost and simple installation. IPEX marketed Kitec  as a rugged, corrosion-resistant alternative to copper that would hold  up under aggressive water conditions.

The Kitec plumbing system consists  of both pipe and fittings. Kitec water pipe was manufactured as a composite  cross-linked polyethylene (“PEX”) and aluminum (“AL”) pipe,  whereby a thin, flexible aluminum layer was “sandwiched” between  inner and outer layers of PEX plastic.  Thus, Kitec water pipe  was commonly referred to as “PEX-AL-PEX” pipe. Kitec pipe and fittings  were connected together using either a crimped aluminum or copper ring  or a compression fitting using a locking nut and split ring.

THE PROBLEM WITH KITEC

In 2005, Kitec fittings became  the subject of a state class action lawsuit filed against IPEX in Clark  County, Nevada. Kitec fittings were for the most part made of brass,  which is mainly composed of copper and zinc. The Clark County lawsuit  alleged that Kitec fittings failed because of a chemical reaction called  dezincification. As alleged in the Clark County lawsuit, when hot and/or  “aggressive” water flowed through the brass fittings, the zinc leached  out of the fittings, thereby weakening the structural integrity of the  brass and, ultimately, causing failure in the fittings.

The Clark County lawsuit only  concerned Kitec fitting failures occurring in that jurisdiction, and  did not concern Kitec piping product, or Kitec fitting failures occurring  outside of Clark County, Nevada.  However, failures of Kitec hot  water pipe and fittings have been reported across the United States,  prompting the filing of multiple federal nationwide class action lawsuits  and investigations concerning the manufacturing process and composition  of Kitec hot water pipe. During the Kitec hot water pipe manufacturing  process, IPEX added an “antioxidant” to the PEX, which is a product  intended to prevent the PEX from quickly corroding under the effects  of light, oxygen, heat, and water exposure. In the case of Kitec hot  water pipe, it appears that the antioxidant is rapidly depleting from  the PEX, resulting in separation of the PEX-AL-PEX layers, corrosion  of the PEX and the aluminum core and, ultimately, premature failure  of the pipe.

WILL KITEC REALLY FAIL

A flood is one of the most  disastrous events that can occur to a home, given the damage that invasive  water can do to a home’s structure, appliances and furniture.   There have been numerous failures of Kitec fittings and piping components  reported across the United States, often resulting in severe damages  to homeowners (see map of affected states, below). Given the available  failure data, it is perhaps not a matter of if your Kitec Plumbing  System will fail, but when.

HOW DO I KNOW IF MY HOME  HAS KITEC

Identification of Kitec plumbing  should be performed by a qualified plumber.

IPEX manufactured Kitec pipe  in two primary colors for the interior of a home: blue for the cold  water side and orange for the hot water side. A typical sample length  of Kitec pipe prominently displays that it was manufactured by IPEX  in Canada, along with its pressure rating and other information (see  sample photographs of Kitec hot water pipe, below). Kitec fittings are  likewise prominently stamped with “Kitec” and the place of manufacture  on the obverse side of the fitting, (often Taiwan, as shown in the sample  photographs, below) and rating agency information on the inverse side.

Contractors who plumbed homes  with nonmetallic plumbing systems often affixed yellow stickers to warn  electricians not to ground the electricity near the nonmetallic plumbing  system. Homes that were plumbed with Kitec may have a yellow sticker  inside the electrical panel box or on their boiler (see sample photograph,  below). If you find this sticker in your electrical panel box or on  your boiler, it is likely that your home is plumbed with Kitec  or another nonmetallic plumbing system. You should only open your electrical  panel box if you have experience with its safe use.

The proper way to determine  whether your home has a Kitec plumbing system is to have a qualified  plumber inspect your home. In many cases it may be necessary to make  drywall penetrations to determine what type of plumbing is installed.

By Natalia on April 2, 2010 |

Once upon a time houses built with Galvanized water pipes. Today, however, houses are mostly piped with copper. If you wake up in the morning and normally get a glass of water from the tap and at first it comes out looking dirty and you have to let it run for a minute or two the chances are you have galvanized pipes. Over time the galvanized pipes corrode and rust. Below are some example of some corroded pipes.

Ew! That is pretty gross if you ask me! If you have Galvanized pipes you could be drinking water that has passed through pipes like those shown in the picture. Don’t be discouraged! There is hope. Plumbers can install all new copper plumbing very quickly and with not a whole lot of mess. When plumbers install new pipe it is called a “repipe”. Feel to visit our website and talk to us about getting a repipe done at your house. After all… “Older homes are our specialty!!”

  By Kenny Burley