A lemon that thought it was a tankless water heater

A lemon

A lemon

After almost a quarter century of being renters, we finally bought our first house in September, 2010. Now, almost 5 years later, I am realizing what a double edged sword this purchase has turned out to be. On the one hand, we are building up equity and our mortgage is a fixed amount every month, so no yearly increase, as one gets as a renter. From what I understand about the Chicago rental market, not only have rents skyrocketed, but you have to prove that you will be a trustworthy tenant. In my day, we never had to produce our credit score, bank statements, SAT scores and the promise of our firstborn as collateral for an apartment lease. OK…probably not a firstborn, but some of the other stuff is true and these days you have to pay for a credit check which can be costly if you are doing that for multiple apartments.

On the other hand, it is SO very nice to be able to call your landlord and tell him your water heater is leaking or your kitchen faucet is broken or your roof leaks or the downstairs light and fan don’t work in the bathroom…you get the picture. You get to pick up the phone and say “Pay for a new one and do it quickly, pleeeeezzee!” and eventually, it gets done or you can withhold rent.

The water heater in our brand new, beautiful home was 16 years old when we moved in, so it had already well surpassed the “life expectancy” of a water heater. I decided that we should replace it BEFORE the thing stopped working. Being a new age, ecological, planet saving, green, hippy type, I started to consider getting a tankless water heater. In theory, a great idea…it takes up so much less room, it only heats the water when you need it and it uses less energy because your water isn’t being constantly heated.

Different brand/smaller than ours

Different brand/smaller than ours

We set off to the Chicago Green Festival at Navy Pier where we met the folks at Paragon Mechanical, Inc. They were highly recommending, no, I would describe it as touting, the Eternal Hybrid Tankless Water Heater as the best thing since sliced white bread. For the low, low price of $3,450, for which we would recoup all the energy saving in 5 minutes, I bought their sales pitch, hook, line and sinker, thinking I was saving the planet. Boy, was I wrong.

We had the heater installed and everything was hunky dory until 5 months after the 3 year warranty ran out…but, of course…when it started leaking. This is never a good sign in a water heater…nor any other electrical appliance, for that matter. I called up Kevin at Paragon Mechanical and was not all expecting to hear what he told me. The heater sucked, the company that manufactured it sucked and they were out so much money fixing the heaters that leaked that were still on warranty that they couldn’t help us…or rather, that they wouldn’t help us. What they could do was to charge us $218 to walk in the door and attempt to fix it…all out of pocket. I was beside myself.

I called the manufacturer, was told that my warranty had expired and they wouldn’t help us either. I asked to speak to a manager and got the same story. I tried to find another company who worked on these heaters and discovered there was only one other company in the entire Chicagoland area who serviced these monsters…and they charged $250 to walk in the door. I felt sick. And there was no telling if after we spent hundreds of dollars fixing the damn thing if it would last much longer. It was truly a lemon.

It seems to me that if you recommend a product, you should make it right if it turns out to be a crappy product. Amirite or amirite? Apparently, not, in this day and age. So, we just let it leak…for a year…and it kept working. But, then I decided I would give Paragon Mechanical a call and see if I could get a better response. Kevin stuck to his original offer of the previous year, but then when I begged for a better deal, he offered to replace the old heater with a new one he had in his showroom, since he wasn’t trying to sell them anymore. But, there was a catch. Clearly, he was determined to recoup some of the money he lost, so he told us it would take 4 hours to replace it. Hell, it only took 4 hours to put the first one in and that involved removing the old heater and doing a lot of additional plumbing. That seemed like a bad deal. The next time we talked to him, he upped the number of hours to 5. Bye bye, Kevin.

I managed to find a local heating company that had experience with tankless water heaters. Their assessment was that it would make the most sense to rip it out and put in a conventional heater. They moved some wires out of the way of the leak and the heater worked for another 2 months…until it stopped working altogether. So, $1,000 later, we have a brand new water heater with a complete 9 year warranty. I won’t have to worry about it until 2024. That proved to be a very expensive lesson.

Have you ever had a similar experience with a major appliance that turned out to be a lemon? I would love to hear your comments.

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