Need Help On Chimney Liners

Hello. I recently got a house I am buying inspected and I am having a difficult time deciding what I should do about a chimney liner.
The house currently has a 13 year old gas powered hot water tank. The inspector said this tank is past its avg life expectancy and has a high chance of failure. He gave two options: one being to replace the tank with a new gas powered hot water tank when it fails, but we would also need to install a chimney liner as the house does not currently have one.
His other option was to install a tankless hot water heater and he said this would also save on energy bills by about 40%. I have researched into tankless heaters extensively on the internet and I’m sure you all have your own opinions on them. My problem is that I’m not sure which is the better option for me. The tankless is a lot more money and a even more money to have professionally installed, on top of that much of what I read about having one in northern climates (I’m in Buffalo) does not sound promising as far as energy savings vs extra cost for unit goes.
For this reason I have been leaning towards a new hot water tank, but that means I need a chimney liner and this brings me to my questions. Why is one so important? Can I get by without one? Would that be a stupid decision? And what kind of damage could already be done since the house hasn’t had one since it was built in the 50s?
Also, I know estimates aren’t something that are usually easy to give on a house you know nothing about, but am I looking at $100, $1000, or more?
Thanks for any help you can offer

Have your gas company install a power vented (induced draft) hot water heater they can vent it using ABS plastic and vent it horizontally out a wall. No chimney or liner required.

Raymond Wand
Alton, ON

My thoughts were the same while reading your post. A simple remedy.

Advantages and Disadvantages Of Tankless water Heaters

  • Tankless water heaters are compact in size and virtually eliminate standby losses - energy wasted when hot water cools down in long pipes or while it's sitting in the storage tank.
  • By providing warm water immediately where it's used, tankless water heaters waste less water. People don't need to let the water run as they wait for warm water to reach a remote faucet. A tankless water heater can provide unlimited hot water as long as it is operating within its capacity.
  • Equipment life may be longer than tank-type heaters because they are less subject to corrosion. Expected life of tankless water heaters is 20 years, compared to 10 to 15 years for tank-type water heaters.
  • Tankless water heaters range in price from $200 for a small under-sink unit up to $1000 for a gas-fired unit that delivers 5 gallons per minute. Typically, the more hot water the unit produces, the higher the cost.
  • In most cases, electric tankless water heaters will cost more to operate than gas tankless water heaters.
    Here are some drawbacks to demand water heating:

  • Tankless water heaters usually cannot supply enough hot water for simultaneous uses such as showers and laundry.

  • Unless your demand system has a feature called modulating temperature control, it may not heat water to a constant temperature at different flow rates. That means that water temperatures can fluctuate uncomfortably - particularly if the water pressure varies wildly in your own water system.

  • Electric units will draw more instantaneous power than tank-type water heaters. If electric rates include a demand charge, operation may be expensive.

  • Electric tankless water heaters require a relatively high electric power draw because water must be heated quickly to the desired temperature. Make sure your wiring is up to the demand.

  • Tankless gas water heaters require a direct vent or conventional flue. If a gas-powered unit has a pilot light, it can waste a lot of energy.
    High Efficiency Gas Water Heaters

High-efficiency gas water heaters have several features that reduce the cost of heating water. First, the tank walls have higher levels of foam insulation. Secondly, instead of having a standing pilot light, a high-efficiency model utilizes an intermittent-ignition to reduce the time that the pilot light burns. The intermittent-ignition device provides a spark to ignite the pilot flame only when needed. Finally, heat exchanger efficiencies are improved, allowing heat from the gas burner to more efficiently and completely heat the water in the tank.

http://www.bchydro.com/images/rx_images/pshome/body1872.gif

What To Look For

Efficiencies of water heaters are expressed by a number called an Energy Factor. Units with an Energy Factor of .60 or higher are considered energy efficient.
Insulating Pipes

Hot water pipes should be insulated in unheated areas, using a foil-faced fiberglass insulation or foam insulation sleeves. It is recommended that the first 2 metres (six feet) of both cold and hot water pipes from the tank be insulated, even in heated areas. The fiberglass can be installed in strips tied to the pipe with wire or tape every 15 to 20 cm (six to eight inches), foil facing out. The foam simply slips onto the pipe through a slit in the sleeve; the slit is then sealed with tape. The foam is recommended, as it is more effective and much easier to install.
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If you go with a water tank type you can save even more by buying a insulative jacket it for it.

Raymond Wand
Alton, ON

Check the manufactures' information. Some will void any warranties if an insulating jacket is installed on it. Sneaky bastages.

If you can put a jacket on you should turn down the temp setting.

If buying tankless system I have had people tell me it is best to upsize?

Raymond Wand
Alton, ON

Nick,

Have you considered electric?

In this scenario, am I having the gas company install just this pipe or my whole water heater? If so, do I just buy it and wait for a gas tech to come to my home to install it? Is a "power vented hot water heater" specifically listed as such? Does anyone know of any links where I can read up on these tanks and this procedure?

Also, I have concidered an electric tank, but my research indicated that if you previously had a gas tank that it would me more econimical to goto another gas tank or a gas tankless rather than an electric of either. I didnt understand why this was, but i saw it mentioned at a few different sites.

Thanks again for your time.

With the newer water heaters (post 1994 I believe), which are double-walled, installing a blanket on them is simply a way for the plumber to make an extra $100-$250. A totally useless piece of crap unless you have some children who need something to tear apart and eat; then they are useful. Rather than spending that kind of money on a blanket, buy a more efficient, higher quality water heater. Just my own opinion, of course.

How is the house heated? Is the chimney shared by the furnace and HWT? Did your inspector tell you WHY you need a chimney liner?

It's gas heated, forced air. The furnace is new and high eff. He didn't state why a liner was needed (but I wasn’t present for the inspection) but the part of the home inspection manual he gave me that mentions liners talks about protecting the mason chimney from the gas exhaust

The principal reason he is suggesting a chimney line is because the furnace had been updated to high efficiancy. When doing so, the flue gasses are exhausted through plastic pipe, usually through the side wall. Thats good, right? Yes it is, except now the HWT is the only gas appliance venting into the masonry chimney. The exhaust gases created by an HWT are to cool to reliably start the chimney effect. More often, the problem is that the HWT flue gases are too cool to make it all the way up the chimney without condensating. The condensation is very acidic and will attack the mortar joints in the chimney. I have seen numerous cases where the owner thought they had a chimney flashing leak, but actually had a condensation issue. All the solutions previously offered are good solutions. Powervent, on-demand, or a chimney liner.

Note to my friends- we should never leave a client wondering why something is required. Im not saying we should engineer the fix, but if something is suspect, report it as suspect and recommend follow-up with specialist. If you are certain that something is an issue, then I think its our job to explain why it's an issue. While I'm on my soap box- Nick, next time, unless you're out of town or near death, make it to the inspection. ;-)

a gas water heater is listed as just that, and the power vent is a "sold seperatly" assembly as some don't need it.