Navien maybe a newcomer to the world of tankless water heaters, but they can compete head-to-head with the likes of Rinnai and Rheem, two of the big players in the industry. If you're looking for a new water heater, Navien is definitely worth considering.
Is Navien a Good Tankless Water Heater?
Navien is a solid choice when it comes to tankless water heaters. Their units are manufacturered by a company that takes pride in quality, design, and user friendliness. In fact, there's no shortage of satisfied customers!
If you do decide to buy a Navien tankless, we don't think you'll be disappointed with your purchase at all. And with a wide range of models and features to choose between, you'll be able to find the right heater to meet your household needs.
The Tankless Trend
In recent years tankless water heaters have gained in popularity. Many homeowners have found that going tankless has many advantages over the more conventional tank-style water heaters.
Tankless systems are compact, versatile, eco-friendly, and far more economical to operate than their tank-style cousins. Without the need to store and maintain 50-gallons of water at a temperature of 120°, the majority of the energy a tankless system uses can go directly into heating water.
With today's demand for connectivity, tankless manufacturers have answered the call and designed models that can be remotely controlled even while you're on vacation!
Many people haven't heard of Navien and to be fair, the company is a relative newcomer to the tankless water heater industry. But don't let that fool you, they've built quite a reputation and can compete head-to-head against big players like Rinnai and Rheem.
Today, Navien is headquartered in Irvine, California, but they were founded in 1978 in South Korea and were known as KyungDong Navien (KD Navien). Although the products are still manufactured in South Korea, the company operates training centers in New Jersey, Ontario, and California.
Although, better known in Canada, Navien's US presence is growing. And for homeowners who are motivated to support "Green" companies, Navien was honored as an eco-leader in 2018 by Green Builder Magazine.
Navien Tankless Water Heater Recall
In 2018 Navien needed to recall 3,400 tankless water heaters because of a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the recall and it involved two condensing models, the NPE-180A and the NPE-180S and a condensing combination boiler, the NCB-180E.
The recall was the result of a kit used to convert the units from natural gas to propane and the possibility that it could cause unsafe levels of carbon monoxide. Navien offered owners of these models a free replacement conversion kit.
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Navien Tankless Water Heater Product Line
Choosing a tankless water heater can be a confusing process, but we recommend first deciding if you want a condensing or a non-condensing system. The differences between the two are not difficult to understand, but they are very important.
Condensing tankless water heaters have always been a part of Navien's model line-up, but more recently they've added a non-condensing series.
Navien's NPE-A Series and the NPE-S Series make up the condensing models. And the NPN-U and NPN-E series are part of the non-condensing line-up.
Condensing vs Non-Condensing
The main difference between condensing and non-condensing is how they vent (or don’t vent) the condensation produced during the water heating process.
In both cases, the intense temperature needed to instantly heat your home’s water, as it passes through the tankless water heater, creates steam very quickly.
When the steam cools, it condenses back into water. Only now, as a result of the heating process, the “waste” water is highly acidic and can easily corrode parts, pieces and pipes.
A non-condensing tankless water heater handles that by venting the hot gases outside, where they can cool outside of the unit. With gases as hot as 300° F they must be vented through special, non-corrosive venting materials that can withstand the heat.
And since the internal parts of a non-condensing tankless water heater don't need to withstand the corrosive wastewater, the internal parts can be less expensive.
On the other hand, condensing tankless water heaters extract the additional heat from the exhaust gases through various means within the unit itself. Because of this, they exhaust cooler gases, around 100° F., and the acidic condensation water is neutralized through filtration or dilution before it’s drained outside.
Since the exhaust gases are much cooler, they can be collected inside the unit and less expensive venting material can be used. However, the internal parts of condensing units tend to be pricier because they need to withstand the corrosive wastewater.
Non-Condensing vs Condensing Tankless Water Heaters
There are some important and fundamental differences to consider when choosing between a non-condensing and condensing tankless water heater:
Non-Condensing Water Heaters
- Efficiency: Typically 80% or higher
- Venting: Requires more expensive venting
- Initial Cost: Typically the tankless unit is less expensive, but installation is more expensive
- Operating Cost: Since the unit's efficiency is lower, it'll cost more to operate than a condensing tankless
- Size: Frequently non-condensing units are slightly smaller than condensing tankless systems
Condensing Water Heaters
- Efficiency: Typically 98% or higher
- Venting: Less expensive PVC venting
- Initial Cost: Typically the tankless unit is more expensive, but installation is less expensive
- Operating Cost: Since the unit's efficiency is higher, it'll cost less to operate than a non-condensing tankless
- Size: Frequently condensing units are slightly larger than non-condensing tankless systems
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Navien Tankless Water Heaters: Models and More
Navien has done a good job of simplifying their product lines, and they've broken them into two categories: Non-condensing and condensing tankless systems.
Non-Condensing Tankless Water Heaters
Navien's non-condensing line-up includes the NPN-U ("U" for Universal) and the NPN-E ("E" for Exterior) tankless systems.
What's unique about the NPN line-up is that they have a stainless-steel heat exchanger with a patented stainless-steel burner that's designed to burn gas more efficiently than other systems on the market. And the universal NPN-U series can be installed either inside or out!
Condensing Tankless Water Heaters
Within Navien's condensing line-up is their standard NPE-S Series ("S" for Standard) and their advanced NPE-A Series ( "A" for Advanced).
Both the A and S Series are designed with dual stainless-steel heat exchangers to provide a longer life since they're better suited to resist corrosion than copper.
As you'd expect, the A Series has some additional bells-and-whistles such as Navien's ComfortFlow® technology. This system is designed to prevent the dreaded "cold water sandwich" that's common with tankless water heaters.
ComfortFlow® utilizes an internal recirculation pump and an insulated "buffer tank" to provide continuous hot water. It's a unique feature to Navien that we haven't seen with other manufacturers.
All of Navien tankless water heaters are Energy Star rated, and their Universal Energy Factor rating (UEF) is comparible to other major brands in the industry.
If you're someone who loves technology, Navien offers an add-on feature called NaviLink™ which enables your tankless to be controlled remotely from your phone. You'll be able to adjust the temperature, check the usage data, and even review diagnostic notifications!
When comparing warranties, keep in mind that the warranty a company provides is a strong indicator of the design, materials, and workmanship that goes into their products. And Navien offers a warranty that's among the best in the industry.
Residential water heaters have a warranty of 15-years on their heat exchanger, 5-years on parts, and 1-year for labor. However, Navien does all but require that you hire a licensed installer for your warranty to be valid. But having your tankless installed is a common requirement in the industry, and a best practice for homeowners.
Navien vs. Rinnai
Navien tankless water heaters provide a good balance between quality and performance, and compared to other top brands like Rheem and Rinnai, their price points are competitive.
Let's take a look at one of Navien's main competitors to see how they compare.
Rinnai's a big player in the industry, in fact, some would argue (and Rinnai claims) that they top the list when it comes to sales, company history, and name recognition.
In 1920, Rinnai was founded by a Japanese multinational company in Japan. Today, they manufacture many other products besides water heaters.
With years of experience ahead of Navien, Rinnai has a much larger and broader product line (they also manufacture tank-style water heaters). But to Navien's credit the technology and features are essentially the same.
In some of Rinnai's units a recirculation pump is used to improve the consistency of water temperatures. But Navien, actually takes it a step further by utilizing a "buffer tank" in addition to a built-in recirculation pump.
Overall, we think Navien is a strong competitor, but they're overshadowed by Rinnai's domination of the tankless industry. So if you search or shop for a tankless, you'll almost certainly run across Rinnai, but your salesman may not even be familiar with Navien.
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Is Navien the Right Tankless for You
Navien may be a relative newcomer to the industry, by their water heaters are loved by those who own them. Just take a look at a few reviews, and you'll find no shortage of happy customers.
With user friendly products that are easy to use and understand, and features such as the built-in recirculation pump with a "buffer tank", it's clear why Navien has become a popular choice.
For whatever reason, Navien has kept their distribution tightly controlled. You won't find their units in a big box store like Home Depot or Lowes, and at this time, they're not available to order from retailers such as Amazon either.
If you've decided that Navien is a brand you want to learn more about, we recommend contacting a professional who can help you determine which unit best meets your needs. He'll not only have been trained by Navien, but he'll also be able to install it properly so you can have years of troublefree use.