A year ago, we suspected that our rented on-demand water heater wasn't going to last too much longer. The challenge with our furnace room is extremely limited space. When the time came, we were considering migrating to a proper boiler.
I called a few HVAC companies for a quote. Some weren't interested, and one guy gave a quote after inspecting our existing unit for exactly 30 seconds. Incredible, right? But my favourite was a respected HVAC company that gets high ratings on HomeStars: they were arrogant on the phone and gave me a quote ON THE PHONE without even bothering to come over and inspect our existing setup! They insisted that they didn't need to come over to provide a quote! I suppose business is good for them.
Sipco was actually the last HVAC company I contacted. Andy, the owner, came over with another HVAC expert. They took note of our furnace, existing setup, BTUs, and all that good stuff. I asked a few questions and they answered and never rushed to leave like Mr. 30 Second Quote or Mr. High Ratings on HomeStars. Andy stressed that any equipment they install is done properly. They do not take shortcuts or minimize use of good materials. He emphasized this a few times.
Fast forward a year.
A day before the major cold spell, our heat and hot water is gone. The rental company sent their technician who promptly declared our unit officially dead. (The company had gone bankrupt years back, and there were no replacement parts available.)
At first, we considered renting a new unit. But when we saw the quote (2.7 times our existing monthly fees) and horrible terms & conditions in their favour (it is really that bad / please read the fine print, especially the part about Big Rental Company acting as your attorney to basically take a lien against your house without having to provide you with copies of documentation - this is buried in the contract with clever wording), we decided 100% to buy our own boiler. It didn't sound like the math or terms would ever work in our favour.
So Andy sent his people over the same day our heat / hot water broke down. I received a detailed quote and cost for a premium equipment that fit our small space. He answered any questions I had. I suspect I repeated some questions because I'm not an HVAC expert, so the answers don't always stick in my head. And again, he stressed that the installation would be done properly.
The next morning, two technicians showed up at my house at 8AM. There were some challenges because of our limited space, but they made it work. Except for a few short breaks, they worked straight until 11:30PM to make sure I had heat AND hot water. I cannot thank Igor and Terry enough for their hard work!
The final verdict:
Just looking at the before and after pictures of my furnace room, the upgrade was very obvious. Thicker pipes, chunky flow valve, etc. But most importantly, properly working heat and hot water. The heat flowing through the vent is definitely hotter than before. And we have an endless supply of hot water compared to before.
Of course installing your own boiler and water heater will require upfront cash. But if you do the math on a 7 year rental contract and take into consideration that on-demand heaters have a short life span of maybe 7-10 years, you basically paid for the cost of a new PREMIUM boiler and heater in the same time period. So financing on a line of credit to purchase your own boiler (which should last at least double the time) will make more sense. Because after the 7 year rental period, Big Rental Company will not replace your on-demand system unless you sign ANOTHER long-term contract. Not to mention, the hassle of constantly calling them for repairs (even if it's covered) because of an inferior on-demand system.
If you plan to sell your house, so rental will be more cost effective, that's fine. Just hope that your buyers won't force you to buyout equipment at an inflated price prior to closing. Probably not in this heated Toronto market, but you never know. Also, if you ever plan major renovations that require changing your heating system, good luck with the really high buyout price. It always works in the favour of Big Rental Company.