Navien Tankless Water Heater Review: Products, Problems & Comparisons

Tankless water heaters have evolved dramatically over the years. They are more readily available, offer more cost-saving benefits, and have a smaller physical and carbon footprint than tank-style water heaters. Navien is one of the newest faces in the tankless water heater market that is worth looking into if you are in the market for a tankless water heater. 

Navien is relatively new to the North American market. Navien is a top-name in tankless water heater technology, alongside other big names like Rinnai and Rheem. Navien has received international recognition in creating energy-efficient, environmentally friendly products and reducing CO2 emissions. 

Navien has a shorter history than most other water heater companies, but they are the fastest growing. Let’s explore Navien a little deeper.

A Brief History of Navien Tankless Water Heaters

Navien was founded in 1978 in Seoul, South Korea, and was known as KyungDong Navien, or KD Navien. In 1988 KD Navien became the first company in Asia to develop and produce a highly efficient, environmentally friendly condensing boiler. The company quickly expanded overseas. Navien exports HVAC products to more than 30 countries nationwide.

In 2006 the company expanded to North America, becoming the largest condensing gas water heaters manufacturer in North America. The company’s North American Branch is headquartered in Irvine, California. Until recently, Navien products were only made in South Korea. The company is soon expanding to the east coast of the United States.

Navien was among the first to adopt the European standard for all boilers, ensuring world-class quality in every country their products are sold. They continue to lead the way in designing and manufacturing green-wise products. One such example is the Navien HYBRIGEN SE.  According to Navien’s website, “This is the next-generation green technology capable of resolving the global power supply crisis while reducing fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.” (1)

Navien also takes great pride in making sure their water heaters are installed and maintained by qualified professionals. To that end, Navien offers hands-on training at three state-of-the-art training centers in Irvine, California; Moorestown, New Jersey; and Woodbridge, Ontario. (2)

How Reliable Are Navien Tankless Water Heaters?

Navian water heaters come with the highest efficiency rating on the market and both LEED and Energy Star® certifications, making them among the greenest on the market. These certifications confirm that Navien water heaters have longer lifespans, use less energy, and leave a smaller carbon footprint than other water heater manufacturers.   

Navien produces two main lines of tankless water heaters: condensing and non-condensing. 

One of the benefits of a tankless water heater is its ability to quickly heat water upon demand since it is not heating a tank of stored water. This intense heat creates steam very quickly. Once the steam cools, it condenses back into water. The condensed water is now highly acidic and can damage the water heater and pipes. 

A condensing tankless water heater extracts the additional heat internally. The acidic water is neutralized either by being filtered or diluted before it is drained outside. 

A non-condensing tankless water heater vents the steam outside, where it can cool outside the tank. 

Some features of Navien’s condensing and non-condensing tankless water heaters include:

  • NaviTech™ – Dual stainless steel heat exchangers and burner.
  • ComfortFlow® Built-In Recirculation System – A built-in insulated buffer tank and recirculation pump that can use existing supply lines without the need for external pumps or controls. 
  • EZNav™ Intuitive Control Panel – This control panel makes set-up and troubleshooting easier, displays temperature, water flow rate, and status of cascade operation. 
  • NaviCirc™ – An optional recirculation valve of domestic hot water when a dedicated return line is not available. 
  • H2Air™- Optional kit for combination space heating and domestic hot water system. The system has a pump that circulates hot water to a radiator-like heat exchange located in a furnace or air handler. The unit’s blower pulls the warm air over the heat exchanger and distributes it through the ductwork, removing the need to purchase an additional circulator for the heating system.
  • NaviLink™ – Optional Wi-Fi remote control system. You can adjust the temperature, check usage data, and monitor the health of your water heater all from your phone.
  • HotButton™ – Optional hot water activation system at the push of a button. The boiler is heating and storing water inside the supply lines. At the push of a button, you activate the recirculation pump and burner without opening the tap.

How Long Do Navien Tankless Water Heaters Last?

While tankless water heaters, in general, are more preferred than their tank-style counterparts because of their longevity, Navien’s patented and trademarked features are designed to extend the life of their water heaters for decades. You can expect a Navien tankless water heater to last 15 to 20 years, even longer with routine maintenance.

One of the main advantages of having a tankless water heater is that it heats water as you need it, instead of the tank-style water heater that continuously heats an entire storage tank. While this in itself extends the life of a tankless water heater, there is much we as homeowners can do to extend that life expectancy – and save money in the long run. Here are four ways to monitor the health of your tankless water heater:

  1. Water quality – Is your water still running clear or has it become cloudy, rusty, or even has sediment in it?  The first step is to call your local municipal water supplier and see if there are any issues with the water source. If this is the issue, you may need to install a water treatment system. 
  2. Smell or taste of the water – Does your water have a metallic or other unusual smell or taste? This could be the result of iron in the water heater, making the water unsafe for consumption. Your plumber will be able to help you determine if the issue is from the water or the tank.
  3. Noise Your tankless water heater should be working quietly in the corner, but if you begin to hear any noises, this could be a sign that sediment is building up in the tank. The sediment will need to be flushed out so it doesn’t continue to build and you then need to replace the entire water heater.
  4. Pressure change – A lack of hot water and poor pressure is a sign the something serious is wrong with the system. Call your plumber right away!

Where Are Navien Tankless Water Heaters Manufactured?

Navien tankless water heaters are manufactured in Seoul, South Korea. However, in February 2020, Navien announced the decision to build its first manufacturing facility in the United States. The manufacturing and assembly operation will be located in James City County, Virginia. Navien will invest $77.5 million into the operation and bring approximately 180 new jobs to the city. (3)

The facility will only be used as a distribution center for the first two years and will begin manufacturing operations in 2023. Navien will expand the current 300,000 square foot facility to nearly 900,000 by 2026. Utilizing the Port of Virginia, an East Coast facility, will allow faster delivery to eastern markets while balancing current shipments coming into California. 

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Cost of Top Navien Tankless Water Heater Models?

Navien tankless water heaters range in price from $800 to $2,000 for the unit only. Since you can only purchase Navien products through an authorized dealer at this time, you will need to factor in hiring a plumber, any service fees, and installation fees. 

The biggest determining factor in price is the kind of water heater you decide on. Navien is known more for manufacturing two types of tankless water heaters, condensing and non-condensing. However, the company has expanded to include a combi-boiler series. These heaters will heat not only your water but also your home. This type of heating system will no doubt cost exceptionally more than the standard tankless water heating system.

A non-condensing tankless water heater will be less expensive initially but cost more to install. This type of tank requires a more complex and expensive venting system of special non-corrosive materials. Since the internal components do not need to withstand corrosive wastewater, these parts can be less expensive.

A condensing tankless water heater will cost less to install but will be more expensive to purchase. The condensing unit will not require a costly venting system because it neutralizes the heat and gases. However, the internal parts will be more expensive because they need to withstand the corrosive wastewater. 

Additional aspects that could affect the installation price are if a new gas line needs to be installed and if a recirculating water line is needed.

Optional add-on features will run the initial price up as well. Below are estimates for these features.

NaviLink™Wi-Fi remote monitoring – $200-$250
HotButton™ KitMounts remotely. Kit costs about $80; installation could be $150-$300
H2Air™ KitEquipment and installation could run about $1,500

Initial costs for a Navien tankless water heater will cost more than other tankless water heaters, but you will be saving money in the long run.

How is the Warranty on Navien Tankless Water Heaters?

Navien offers warranties that are the best on the market. All Navien water heaters come with a limited warranty covering labor, parts, and the heat exchanger.

The Navien warranty periods run from the date of original installation, offering a one-year labor warranty, a 3-to5-year warranty on parts, and a 5-to-15-year warranty on the heat exchanger. 

According to Navien’s website, you will void their warranties in the event the following occur:

  • The water heater was purchased and/or installed by someone other than an authorized Navien supplier or distributor.
  • Failure to perform regular maintenance, misuse, or operating the water heater in ways other than recommended in the User’s Manual.
  • Modifying or altering the water heater, including relocating the water heater from its original installation site.
  • Damage/problems caused by electrical surges, flooding, fire, or any other damage not directly caused by a manufacturing defect.
  • Performance problems that are the result of using the incorrect size water heater, gas supply line, venting connection, combustion air openings, electric service voltage, wiring, fusing, or any other components, parts, or specifications.
  • Operating the water heater when it is not supplied with potable water at all times.

You can find a complete description of warranty exclusions on Navien’s website. (4)

How Does Navien Compare To Similar Brands?

Navien may not have the long history other brands have, but it has proven it is worthy of being listed alongside well-known brands such as Rheem and Rinnai. Navien has a reputation for producing tankless water heaters that have proven time, and again they are of high quality and built to last for decades. Navien also sets itself apart in designing and manufacturing energy-efficient, environmentally friendly products and utilizing smart technology.  

Deciding which company you prefer comes down to what you are looking for in a company and product. To help you decide, here is a brief comparison of Rheem and Rinnai tankless water heaters.

RINNAI:

Rinnai was founded in Japan in 1920, manufacturing and selling gas appliances. From 1938 to 1946, Rinnai paused their gas appliances production to participate in the war effort, manufacturing aircraft parts. 

By the 1950s, Rinnai opened their Tokyo office and expanded quickly to other countries. Today, Rinnai is in over 20 countries. The American branch was founded in 1974 and is headquartered in Peachtree City, Georgia.  (5)

Most Rinnai tankless water heaters offer Circ-Logic™ technology. Hot water is circulated back through the pipes at scheduled times, so you have hot water when you need it, instead of the other way around. This technology helps make their water heaters more energy and cost-efficient. 

Rinnai’s tankless water heaters are also equipped with their control°r™ Wi-Fi module. This module allows you to use your phone or other smart devices such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home to monitor alerts remotely, manage schedules, adjust the temperature, and schedule maintenance. 

RHEEM:

Rheem was founded in Emeryville, California, in 1925 but was not known for water heaters. The business consisted of manufacturing steel drums, shipping containers, and even musical instruments.  It was not until the 1903’s that Rheem began manufacturing water heaters, boilers, and tanks. 

Rheem also took a short break from commercial work in the 1940s to support the war effort. By the end of the 1960s, Rheem had grown to include 19 countries. Rheem was purchased by Paloma Industries of Nagoya, Japan, a major producer of gas appliances. 

Today Rheem manufactures a variety of tankless water heaters within three categories: Tankless Condensing, Tankless Mid-Efficiency, and Tankless Electric. The Performance Line is more suitable for residential use and is available in many big-box retail stores. 

Rheem water heaters are energy-efficient, utilize smart technology for ease of use, and have recirculation pumps to reduce the wait time for hot water. 

As you can see from these comparisons, all three companies are worthy of consideration. 

Known Recalls for Navien Tankless Water Heaters

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Navien issued a recall on about 3,400 tankless water heaters in December 2018. The kit used to convert natural gas to propane could cause the unit to produce excessive amounts of carbon monoxide, creating the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning to consumers. (6)

Navien provided free replacement conversion kits. 

There were no reports of injuries or incidents.  

What Are Common Problems With Navien Tankless Water Heaters?

Common problems with Navien Tankless Water Heaters range from leaks to heater exchanges not working. The majority of the cases involved a lack of communication from the contractor with Navien. 

According to the Better Business Bureau, 33 complaints were filed in the last 3 years. 13 of those complaints were closed in the last 12 months. 23 of the complaints filed stemmed from problems with a product or service. Navien’s customer service is among the best with their responses to the complaints, even providing detailed information from their records as to why or why not you had reached a resolution at that time. (7)

We have a complete guide to Troubleshooting Tankless Water Heater Error Codes: Navien.

Final Thoughts

Navien is definitely the new kid on the water heater block, but the company has quickly gained popularity, and it’s not hard to see why.

Navien’s tankless water heaters may be pricer than their contemporaries, but when you factor in the energy efficiency, the smart technology, and the company’s commitment to reducing greenhouse emissions, purchasing a Navien tankless water heater is an investment in your home and family – and the environment, that you will feel good about for decades to come.

Contact your local plumber to begin the process of deciding which Navien Tankless Water Heater is best for your home.

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.

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