LESLIE: Marilyn in California, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
MARILYN: I’m the president of a homeowners association in a condo building. We have six small townhouses and one water heater. It’s about 16 years old and one of these days it’s going to go. And I’ve been wondering if it’s possible to use a tankless water heater to replace this for, you know, six units.
LESLIE: Well, it would be a tankless per unit, correct?
TOM: Not necessarily, Leslie. It depends on the size. Now, you would have to have it sized correctly by the plumber that installed it but it might be that a single tankless could do it or there could be a series of two or three tankless that are hooked up together side-by-side that work together. This is a very common situation in a commercial building and very often the solution is some number of water heaters hooked up in series. But they have to be done correctly because they’re all computer-controlled and in order to keep the flow where it needs to be, they need to be properly installed. But certainly, tankless is a good option. I presume here, Marilyn, that you have a gas-fired water heater?
MARILYN: We do.
MARILYN: But here’s an issue because I’ve been in some condos where they had them in individual units and one person I know had it retrofitted and it’s on the third story and it takes forever to get hot water in her kitchen downstairs. And we have a pump, a circulating pump, that keeps hot water going for a good portion of the day.
TOM: I see.
MARILYN: So how do you stop from having to use a lot of water to get to your hot water or could you?
TOM: Well, you would have to do some new plumbing.
TOM: The advantage of tankless water heaters is that they’re small. I don’t think you need one per unit but maybe one per floor or something like that. You may be able to get additional ones but, remember, that’s going to require additional plumbing work to close that loop. The idea that you’re circulating a hot water loop throughout the whole building is wasting an enormous amount of energy, an enormous amount. And I’d love to see you find a solution around that but I think that at this point, considering the age of that unit, it’s a good idea to bring in a good contractor or a number of them and let them give you some options and some pricing for those options because, as an association, you have the ability to fund that perhaps over some number of years so it wouldn’t be a dramatic cost all at the same time.
MARILYN: (overlapping voices) Right. OK. Alright, I really appreciate all that feedback and I love your show; I listen to it every week.
TOM: (overlapping voices) You’re welcome, Marilyn. Thanks so much.