The licensed midwives of Tourmaline Birth and Wellness Collective, recently opened in San Diego’s Pacific Beach community, are medical providers trained in supporting women during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. In addition to the standard tools maternity providers have, midwives have one very unique tool: lots and lots of water! The midwives use warm water to fill their birth tubs and provide gentle relief during labor.

The center has two 100-gallon birthing tubs. The moms are in and out of these tubs multiple times during labor. Which is why one of Tourmaline’s first construction priorities was finding a water heater that could provide this high volume of hot water continuously, and at a consistently correct and comfortable temperature.

They hired Erik Arnett, owner of Arnett’s Water Systems, who specializes in tankless water heater conversions and installations. Initial conversations centered on large, storage-tank-type water heaters. However, with a tank water heater, the center would likely run out of warm water in the middle of a birth. The recovery time on a storage-tank water heater is hours once they are emptied, Arnett said. And a baby won’t wait on HVAC.

Hot water is Tourmaline’s biggest coping mechanism in the birth setting. They use hot water instead of medicine for pain relief. For example, one mom was recently in the bathtub for hours, and a midwife used a hand-held shower on her back the entire time. So steady, continuous access to hot water is critical.

Additionally, the water heater would be located on the second level of the center, and there wasn’t space for there wasn’t room for the amount of hot-water storage that a tank water heater would require.

So Tourmaline’s ownership decided on a tankless heater: a Noritz EZ111, a high-efficiency condensing unit with a capacity range of up to 11 gallons of hot water per minute. Unlike most tankless water heaters, Noritz’s EZ Series is designed with hot- and cold-water connections on top of the unit, not the bottom. This positioning in a tank-to-tankless conversion allows the flexible water lines used by the previous storage tank heater to be quickly and easily reconnected to the new unit, saving time and money on the installation.

Consequently, in replacing the conventional 50-gallon water heater at Tourmaline, the contractor was able to use the existing water supply lines, as well as the venting and gas-line connections.

Arnett said top-mounted connections look nice from an aesthetic standpoint, and the unit is mechanically easier to install because there’s no need to build extra plumbing. The total installation time at Tourmaline was about three hours, half of which was devoted to removing the old tank unit.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tourmaline Birth and Wellness had to delay its startup by several months. Now that it has opened, demand for its special support services has remained consistently strong.

Photos Courtesy Of Noritz.