As you may know, All Clear Plumbing is the sponsor of our show. In fact, your host Anja is one of the owners along with her parents Scott & Trina Smith.
We thought it was appropriate to start the show with Scott, a Master Plumber, as Episode One. Scott was awesome enough to sit down and talk about traditional tank water heaters vs tankless water heaters. We get this question a lot, as far as which is better and when you should upgrade to tankless.
This was such a great way to kick off the podcast and we are so greatful that you took the time to listen.
(Transcript has been cleaned up for clarity.)
[Beginning of Transcript 00:38]
Anja: Today we’re talking to Scot Smith, the master plumber and owner at All Clear Plumbing. All Clear Plumbing is a local upstate plumbing repair and drain cleaning company. If you listen to our introductory podcast, you’ll know that All Clear is also the sponsor of our show, so I thought it was appropriate to start our first episode with you Scot, so welcome!
Scott: Thank you for having me on this first podcast. Glad to be here!
Anja: Normally, I’m going to start off each of these episodes by asking our guest how long they have lived in the Upstate. Unfortunately, I sort of stole your thunder by talking about that last week in the intro podcast. But why don’t you tell us in your own words what it was about the Greenville area that so captured you and entranced your attention, that it was enough to pick up and move what was at the time your young family?
Scott: It was just one of those things where it was such a friendly little town and it looked like it would be a great place to live, so luckily we were right.
Anja: Now that you’ve been here for a little while, and you’ve had a chance to sort of find your way around the upstate for a while—I mean, like, 20 years, so it’s been a good long while—but what’s your favorite thing about living in the upstate?
Scott: We’re close to the mountains, but we’re far away enough that we don’t have to deal with the weather extremes. Greenville is just one of these places that’s easy to live here.
Anja: Now, as far as your professional career, how long have you been in the plumbing industry?
Scott: Early on in my life I worked in the trades and did mechanical work. You always circle around to the plumbing trade, and it was my go-to. And when a job became available, I worked for a franchise and said, “You know what? This is where I need to be.” That’s what spurred me on to learn more, get my license, and then this is what led me to where I am today.
Anja: Can you explain to us what the difference between a tankless and a traditional water heater are?
Scott: Sure. A tankless, or on-demand, water heater doesn’t make hot water unless you’re using it. It means, if you turn the faucet on, it makes exactly what you need; no more, no less. It doesn’t have a tank that holds it. In our traditional ones we had 40-50 gallons of water sitting there all day with thermostats keeping it hot. A tankless is ready to use in a moment’s notice. Everybody growing up and who’s lived in the United States has run out of hot water at one point or another. Traditional ones, the gas, is tremendously efficient. And the electric is almost… Now, with the new rules, the electric ones are just as efficient. They have just made a change in the last year and a half where the water heaters have… They’ve added two inches of insulation on the sides and on the top, and it affects the residential market more than anything is that some places that we traditionally would stick an electric water heater, they won’t fit any longer because they’ve gotten taller and they’ve gotten wider, so we can’t get them in the attic, so we can’t get them through closet doors, so we’ve had to go to alternatives.
Anja: Is that a good use case, a good candidate, for a tankless one?
Scott: For a tankless. Yes, it is. Because a tankless, the nice thing about that is it doesn’t care where it’s set. They have outside cabinets, inside cabinets. It mounts on the wall. It doesn’t take up a lot of real estate. Traditionally we put a gas tankless water heater for residential use. They’re the most efficient. They’re the most convenient. You know, someone that would have a 50-gallon water heater in their attic, you know, if that water heater tank has a failure, have a little more piece of mind that, yeah, there’s water pipes in my attic, but at least it’s contained in that tank, rusting over the years and going out. So that’s where, you know, we put in a lot of tankless… replace that big storage vessel in the attic with a tankless on-demand water heater.
Anja: So, just to clarify, when you talk about a 50-gallon water heater in an attic failing, what you’re really talking about is that 50 gallons of water flooding the bottom floors of that house, right?
Scott: Yes, yes.
Anja: I mean, that’s what happens. The bottom will rotten out and then that water…
Scott: It will run, you know, and that water… You have to remember you have 50 gallons of water up there plus you have the water pressure going into it that’s trying to keep up with the hole that’s in it, so you’re going to get more than 50 gallons of water if you’re not home. We’ve had some situations where they’ve had catastrophic water damage in a home.
Anja: So we’ve kind of talked about the use cases of if you want to eliminate a traditional tank water heater on a second floor or in an attic, we’ve talked about if you need to replace a water heater in a tight space. Are there any other benefits to getting a tankless water heater?
Scott: Yes. Now there’s size limits on residential units. They’ve cut it off at 50 gallons. They’re used to be able to buy 75 up to 100-gallon residential. Now 50 is the most. We can do them in series, but then you’re talking about a lot of real estate that these heaters are taking up, and that’s where our tankless system is going to excel. And then the nice thing is if you have a large family in an older home, and it’s got this 40-gallon little gas heater that sits in the garage, and you’ve got a family of 5 moves in there, you could replace that with a tankless and size it, and you’re going to go into that same space or less space, and you’re going to accommodate. Everyone can take a nice long shower. Girls can wash their hair and that, and you’re not going to have the traditional problems that we once did. It was kind of a thing, you’re, “Well, I want to put another heater in, but I don’t have a spot for it,” because we had this big tank. The tankless, when you turn the faucet on, it makes hot water.
Anja: So let me ask you this because I’ve also heard tankless referred to as endless hot water systems. Is it helping with both volume and length, so volume, as well as longevity?
Scott: If you put it in and size it correctly, and if you go by the size, like if you have a two-bedroom home and there’s four people in the home, that’s kind of how we size them by how many people, how many bathrooms, and their normal use. If you’re going to be above that normal use, there’s a thing called a rate of rise. It can only heat so much water at so much time. You’ll have endless hot water. It might not be as hot as you would like it.
Anja: Got you.
Scott: But it will make hot water all day, all… Well, you’re going to run out of money paying the gas bill long before you run out of hot water. I tell people it’s like if you’re going to live here for five more years, putting in a tankless water heater because the equipment costs were a little higher on the front end.
Anja: I was going to ask about cost, the difference in cost between the two. That’s a good segue.
Scott: It’s going to be a five… if you have a large family, five-year return on investment. If you don’t have a large family, it could be up to 10 to 15 years on the return on investment.
Anja: And when you say return on investment, you’re talking about energy savings, right?
Scott: Energy savings and the cost because you’re looking at three times the cost of a traditional water heater on a tankless. Every house is different.
Anja: So it sounds really like it’s really kind of a discussion you need to have with your plumber.
Scott: That’s correct. And don’t think that, oh, just because I have the old-style heater, that it’s a bad thing. You know, they sell blankets.
Anja: You’re talking about like an insulation blanket?
Scott: Insulation blanket, so you’re just keeping them warm then. I mean, they put more insulation on because people weren’t putting the blankets on there, so they kind of did it for us, and made them more efficient. And they’ve made them self-cleaning where you don’t have to do the maintenance. You know, it used to be they tell you to flush it once a year and every five years change the sacrificial anode in them. Nobody did that. Nobody does that. And that’s one of the things with the tankless where it has to be serviced every five years, just like flushing your coffee pot out. It’s going in there, we run a solution through there like it’s almost like a vinegar, will take those deposits out of that heater. And the new heaters, like the tankless heaters, they run off a computer, so it has to have a plug. Traditional older gas, they run off of a thermo-coupling, which is a… like electricity runs off a outlet. Now, if your power goes out, with the tankless water heater you don’t have hot water.
Anja: That’s true.
Scott: So that’s something that people don’t think about and then they say, “Well, my water heater’s not working.” It’s the tradeoff of saving money, and they do save you a lot of money because they only use gas when you’re heating water, and you’re only heating water when you’re using water.
Anja: Right, instead of that constant stand-by.
Scott: That stand-by capacity of having 50 gallons of water there, and it has to be at 120 degrees all the time standing by. So it’s happened to come on and off 15 times a day to keep that heat because you couldn’t put enough insulation around them to make them as efficient as what the tankless is.
Anja: Scott, you’ve given us a lot to think about today, and it’s been extremely informative. I really appreciate the time that you set aside for this, and thank you again for allowing All Clear to sponsor this podcast. I’m sure that we’ll have you back on fairly often. There’s clearly a lot more that you could share with us over time, so we’ll look forward to those conversations, but for now I’m going to ask you one more question—What, in your opinion, is the upstate’s best kept secret?
Scott: Its wealth of restaurants. We have some of the best in South Carolina.
[End of Transcript 11:50]