Eco Friendly Hot Water Heater – AO Smith Vertex

picture-21Our cheapo hot water heater broke once last year and again this year.  It was only 6 years old however after battling with it more than 2x in a year I decided it was time to get a more energy efficient water heater.  I had initially thought about getting a tankless system as I thought they would be more energy efficient.  According to the specs they are around 80% efficient where standard units are around 75%. When I first started looking at systems, I thought “how ineffective to have 40-50 gallons of water sitting around being heated at all times”.  However after doing some research I realized a few  downsides to tankless systems:

  • You never get hot water w/o firing up the system
  • Tankless systems costs almost as much as the AO Smith but are only sightly better than tanks
  • Often you have to get multiple point of use tankless systems to supplement the whole house system

Here are some key features of the vertex:

  • 90% efficient
  • Up to 33% less NOx Emissions
  • Side mounted hot/cold taps for space heating / water heating applications (radiant floor heating)
  • Deliver endless hot water for showers

According to Consumer reports, this unit retails for around $1,400 and installation is around $500.  I found these number to be completely off in my area (Delaware).  I’m not sure if the price went up on this system recently due to the tax credit or if they priced it out in an area where it’s more readily available however I found the going price for this unit to be around $2,000 online.  As for installation, it can vary by installer.  I had one local company quote me $4,000 for this unit and they pretty much seemed annoyed when I called to get a price in the first place.  This company was actually on AO Smith’s website as a dealer for their product.  In the end, I wound up paying approx $3,200 with all the parts / labor.  That ends up being a $960 tax deduction for 2009 which makes it in the $2,200 price range.  Note, this number changed from my original estimated price as there were some additional parts needed to complete the job (ie expansion tank, 3″ pipe vs 2″ pipe, additional supplies / labor).

Installation is supposed to be just as easy as installing a regular hot water heater with a few exceptions.  The power vent needs to be vented through a wall instead of your chimney so you need to be able to run that to the outside.  The power vent also needs to be at least 4 feet away from any operating window.  In our case the vent is going to run through the laundry room (where the unit will be) in to our garage and out one of the walls of the garage.  Due to the distance from the unit, the plumber had to use 3″ PVC instead of 2″. Other than the powered vent, the system hooks up pretty much the same way as a standard unit. In all it took the plumber one day to install the unit and a few hours the next day to check it over / finish the job.

Based on CR’s numbers, they said payback would take approx 15 years however I don’t believe they accounted for the tax credit.  They also did not mention the decrease in NOx emmissions which in my book also makes this the only true green choice available in water heaters.