DIYers Gone Wild

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This tankless unit was purchased on eBay and installed by the homeowner. Because the unit—which was intended for outdoor use only—was installed and vented inside the basement, it was fortunate that no one was seriously hurt.

Depends on how you look at it, but DIYers could either be killing the trade or providing contractors with more work, when these installs ultimately fail. But one thing is for sure: purchasing plumbing and heating equipment through back channels or online is not an advisable route to take. It usually ends up—in the long run—turning into a disaster of some sort.

Case in point: Dan Foley, Foley Mechanical, recently texted an image which read, “Can you believe this?” Foley was called to a job to replace a tankless water heater, which was originally purchased on eBay, of all places. The homeowner bought the unit online, and being the weekend warrior he was, installed it himself.

Foley commented that because the flue products were vented indoors, in the basement, the homeowner was lucky that he wasn’t dead.

In reaction to the social media post, Jeremy Plasse, heating specialist, United Plumbing Supply, Springfield, Mass., said, “I hate to say this but this is what the Internet has spawned—between this and the YouTube people who think they can do everything. With most manufacturers, though, if you did buy it online you should have voided the warranty. Yet some manufacturers let it happen because that means more units sold.”

This pic was shared by Tim Duff, owner, Breezy Mechanical, Breezy Point, N.Y. Duff was called in to replace the heating unit—which had been running like this for a year The local maintenance man installed this on a side job. He tried to fix the boiler, took it all apart, and couldn’t fix it. Duff solved the problem by replacing it with a Navien combi unit.

“Unbelievable! Unit made for outdoors so no connection for exhaust. Internet or not, if a homeowner wants a unit, they’ll find one. The Internet just makes it easier,” says Steve “Wheels” Wieland, NTI.

Nevertheless, this isn’t to say there aren’t legit online resources such, which acts as “virtual wholesaler.”

Yet, according the Ryan Devries, plumbing and heating technician at Schubert Plumbing and Heating in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada, speaking on the topic of bad installs of DIYers, “This kind of thing is unfortunate but it just supports why we do what we do.”

The social media post sparked other comments relating to the dangers of installing without the help of a licensed professional. One comment featured a comment from a contractor that was called to a home that had a unit venting into the garage, and the garage had a vent fan that blew into the house. The homeowner, his wife and kid had all been seeing a doctor about headache for close to a year. I believe I saved some lives with the change-out and proper venting.”