Author Topic: Best Hot Water Heater for the Money and Should I just Install Myself?  (Read 916 times)

onemorebike

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Wondering if there are any mustachian recommendations for a gas water heater for a family of four? Our 17 year old water heater appears to be leaking water out the bottom and seems like it might be time to replace. I've watched the youtube and the replacement seems pretty straight forward. Any caveats?

Thanks!
onemorebike

Sugaree

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Re: Best Hot Water Heater for the Money and Should I just Install Myself?
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2018, 06:15:33 PM »
Discretely ask about permits.  We replaced an electric water heater several years ago.  The city inspector gave us hell for DIYing it after he drove by and saw the old one by the street. It turns out that pretty much anything other than painting and flooring is supposed to be permitted in my city.  Now we just smuggle construction debris out under the cover of darkness.

onemorebike

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Re: Best Hot Water Heater for the Money and Should I just Install Myself?
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2018, 06:33:37 PM »
Permit required.

Discretely ask about permits.  We replaced an electric water heater several years ago.  The city inspector gave us hell for DIYing it after he drove by and saw the old one by the street. It turns out that pretty much anything other than painting and flooring is supposed to be permitted in my city.  Now we just smuggle construction debris out under the cover of darkness.

AccidentalMiser

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Re: Best Hot Water Heater for the Money and Should I just Install Myself?
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2018, 04:55:54 PM »
Now we just smuggle construction debris out under the cover of darkness.

This.  Unless you live in the boonies, it requires a permit so don't stick the old one out by the road.  Let your conscience be your guide about obtaining a permit.

It's not too difficult to replace a water heater like for like.  Get one that's the same physical size if you can, it makes everything a lot easier. 


J Boogie

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Re: Best Hot Water Heater for the Money and Should I just Install Myself?
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2018, 10:20:31 AM »
This is a good PSA about construction debris.

I have a big garage and about one car's worth of space is full of construction debris. I'll pay a craigslist guy a few hundred bucks to load it onto his trailer and haul to the dump.

I don't get dumpsters. They take up driveway/street space, they let inspectors know you're working on a project but for some reason don't have a permit posted on your door/front window, you have a limited amount of time to use them, and they cost a few hundred bucks anyways.

I don't get permits. I research the heck out of stuff, I know code, and I only break it if I'm breaking the "letter" of the law in a way that is logically bulletproof.

In my city, you can sell your house as is and the only thing the inspector can require you to do before selling the house is putting in a hardwired smoke detector.





Fishindude

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Re: Best Hot Water Heater for the Money and Should I just Install Myself?
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2018, 01:23:52 PM »
I'd just replace it with a similar tank type electric water heater, Rheem is a good brand.
Can't believe anyplace would require a permit for this?   I'd do it without the permit, to heck with the municipality.
Borrow a pickup truck to haul it to the dump, or cut it up in pieces and get rid of it in your regular trash.

SweatingInAZ

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Re: Best Hot Water Heater for the Money and Should I just Install Myself?
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2018, 03:03:10 PM »
I replaced an electric one a few years ago, and it was really easy. Less heavy than I expected, once it was drained.

I know several people with little home maintenance experience that have done gas ones. Just be careful and watch a few youtube videos about how to properly seal and test gas lines.

If this is your only gas appliance, consider going electric and dropping your gas bill altogether. If you're in a warm climate and you use a lot of hot water, a heat pump one could pay off. If the water heater is in a cool location, a heat pump won't help you.

I considered taking my old one to the dump myself, but I was able to get rid of it by posting it for free on craigslist!

Michael in ABQ

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Re: Best Hot Water Heater for the Money and Should I just Install Myself?
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2018, 07:31:43 PM »
They're not advertised much but there is a type of water heater that's essentially like a giant thermos and is much more energy efficient. Obviously it's a lot more expensive. Don't know what the breakeven is.

Wanderer10

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Re: Best Hot Water Heater for the Money and Should I just Install Myself?
« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2018, 08:58:16 AM »
I installed a $425 Rheem water heater from Home Depot about 3 years ago and so far so good. I thought about buying a pricier brand from the plumbing supply stores but I think this turned out fine. A lot of plumbing supply places won't even sell to you if you aren't a licensed contractor. You can use flexible sharkbite connections for the water lines which makes it a lot easier. If you have a hard pipe gas supply line the tricky part is getting the union to seal. Don't put any pipe dope on it, it's machined to fit perfectly. I found by putting shims under the tank and messing with them I got the union to sit perfectly so I could tighten it. Soap everything up and make sure there aren't any bubbles. If you can use a flexible gas line, it's a little easier. I was told this is a big no no in my northeast city, but I noticed all the gas water heaters in California use a flexible line, maybe for earthquakes??

LPG

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Re: Best Hot Water Heater for the Money and Should I just Install Myself?
« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2018, 12:44:34 PM »
I installed a $425 Rheem water heater from Home Depot about 3 years ago and so far so good. I thought about buying a pricier brand from the plumbing supply stores but I think this turned out fine. A lot of plumbing supply places won't even sell to you if you aren't a licensed contractor. You can use flexible sharkbite connections for the water lines which makes it a lot easier. If you have a hard pipe gas supply line the tricky part is getting the union to seal. Don't put any pipe dope on it, it's machined to fit perfectly. I found by putting shims under the tank and messing with them I got the union to sit perfectly so I could tighten it. Soap everything up and make sure there aren't any bubbles. If you can use a flexible gas line, it's a little easier. I was told this is a big no no in my northeast city, but I noticed all the gas water heaters in California use a flexible line, maybe for earthquakes??

Yes, flexible lines are required in CA due to eathquake concerns. They're far less likely to lose their connection when the ground gets all rumbly. The water heater is also required to be strapped to some sort of support to keep it from tipping over in the event of a strong earthquake.

As for buying a new water heater, I'd say it depends on your values. If you want to cost-effective, I'd simply replace it with what you currently have. Gas storage tank water heaters have come out with several new features in the last 17 years that will increase the efficiency, but none of them are likely to be cost-effective. If high efficiency, energy savings, pollution, etc are your primary concern I have a few more detailed thoughts:
  • Gas tankless water heaters: You will definitely notice energy savings relative to the storage tank water heater. The have very low standby losses, whereas a storage tank is always losing heat to the surrounding air. Be careful about the size of your gas line though. Larger tankless units require 3/4" gas lines, and you likely have a 1/2" line going to your storage tank. Upgrading the cost of the gas line would add a few thousand dollars to the installation. Also check the vent on your water heater - If you have a vent pipe directing combustion gases out the wall that will facilitate installing a tankless unit. If not, you may have a problem. Finally, tankless water heaters require electricity for a fan and controls. If you don't have electricity by your water heater, that's no good.
  • Condensing water heaters: A condensing storage tank water heater could be a relatively straightforward change. They typically occupy about the same space, and have the same gas input requirements. You would need to add a condensate line, directing the condensed flue gases to a drain, but that might not be too hard if there's a drain pretty close by. Condensing gas tankless water heaters would have multiple concerns - The condensate drain, the size of the gas pipe, the exhaust vent, and the electricity needs.
  • Heat pump water heaters: Heat pump water heaters are the most environmentally friendly option, especially since you can choose to purchase solar or wind power in many areas. They typically employ 50-80 gallon storage tanks, and may be larger than your current model. The biggest concern is electricity demands. If you have electricity available by your gas water heater it is probably 120 V/15A service. A heat pump water heater would require 240V/30 A service, and the upgrade would be very expensive. So make sure to check that if you're interested in making the change.

onemorebike

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Re: Best Hot Water Heater for the Money and Should I just Install Myself?
« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2018, 01:35:23 PM »
LPG,

I think swapping for a similar gas hot water heater is my most likely approach here, but I appreciate being able to consider the options. Quick question, it looks like the easiest way to install and ensure fit would be to use the flexible hosing option for both water and gas. This would likely be the only thing any different from the original installation. Where would I go to check this approach against local code? Google searching isn't doing me justice, I must be using the wrong terms?

Thanks,

onemorebike

LPG

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Re: Best Hot Water Heater for the Money and Should I just Install Myself?
« Reply #11 on: November 16, 2018, 08:06:37 AM »
LPG,

I think swapping for a similar gas hot water heater is my most likely approach here, but I appreciate being able to consider the options. Quick question, it looks like the easiest way to install and ensure fit would be to use the flexible hosing option for both water and gas. This would likely be the only thing any different from the original installation. Where would I go to check this approach against local code? Google searching isn't doing me justice, I must be using the wrong terms?

Thanks,

onemorebike

Sorry, can't help with that one. I know the CA water heating code because it happens to be my job, but am pretty clueless (And glad to be!) about building codes outside of this state.

Syonyk

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Re: Best Hot Water Heater for the Money and Should I just Install Myself?
« Reply #12 on: November 16, 2018, 08:12:37 PM »
Where would I go to check this approach against local code?

Call your relevant building code place and ask about it.  They should be able to tell you.

acepedro45

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Re: Best Hot Water Heater for the Money and Should I just Install Myself?
« Reply #13 on: November 20, 2018, 12:16:09 PM »

Quote
I'd just replace it with a similar tank type electric water heater, Rheem is a good brand.
Can't believe anyplace would require a permit for this?   I'd do it without the permit, to heck with the municipality.
Borrow a pickup truck to haul it to the dump, or cut it up in pieces and get rid of it in your regular trash.

Fishindude, why do you think switching to electric is better? I recently went through this exercise myself and decided to replace an electric tank with a gas tank. The general internet consensus is that this is usually cheaper (especially if you must still retain gas service for other appliances) and I found savings when I crunched our specific numbers.

Since the OP already has gas installed, I would think he/she should definitely stick with it. I offer this comment in a constructive spirit...I certainly don't know it all.