Author Topic: Replacing a hot water heater  (Read 3302 times)

SimpleCycle

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Replacing a hot water heater
« on: January 02, 2017, 08:36:45 PM »
Hello, I am a first time poster here at MMM and I could use some advice.  How do you prioritize non-essential home repairs?  We live in a condo that is 19 years old.  Most of the mechanicals are original - hot water heater, furnace, and AC - which means they are also nearing end of life.  When we bought two years ago our home inspector recommended that we replace the hot water heater because it is old and end of life for hot water heaters often looks like 50 gallons of water on your carpet.  So far we haven't done it, even though we have the money set aside.  The quotes we have gotten are in the $1000 to $1250 range for a 50 gallon gas hot water heater.

I guess I'd just rather not spend the money, even though reasonably I know it needs to be done.

aspiringnomad

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Re: Replacing a hot water heater
« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2017, 09:28:00 PM »
Sorry I can't help ya much OP, other than to say that I would think a hot water heater and furnace would be a priority. Even if its eventual failure doesn't result in 50 gallons of water on your floor, it would suck to be without hot water or heat for a few days in most parts of North America during the winter.

Other than that, posting to follow as mine is nearing the end of its useful life as well. Not to hijack, but anyone have the wifi sensor enabled hot water heaters? Wondering if the extra $80 is worth the peace of mind in case there is a leak (it sends a message to your phone).




CatamaranSailor

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Re: Replacing a hot water heater
« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2017, 08:56:34 AM »
Replacing a water heater is pretty straight forward. The quotes you are getting sound reasonable from a plumber, but you can do it yourself for 1/2 price of the quotes you're getting. Maybe even less, depending on the type of WH. Gas water heaters require a certain amount of airflow and a carbon monoxide detector in the house.

You'll need to pull a permit, but that's a simple process (you can most likely do it online) and familiarize yourself with any code changes from when your original water heater was installed. The building department can help you with that as well. The last time I replaced a WH I needed to add an expansion tank, but that was simple. Watch some YouTube videos on replacing the type of WH you have. You'll see how easy it is. Put your old WH on the curb and run an add in Craigslist advertising it for free. It will be gone within an hour as even a dead WH has scrap value. Once the heater is installed, the inspector will come take a look and sign off on it.

I would replace the water heater PDQ.

The furnace I would simply start budgeting for a replacement (as long as the furnace is working correctly). 19 years on a furnace is a lot, but they are pretty simple devices. The biggest danger from an old furnace is from leaking carbon monoxide. I'd have an H/VAC guy come and do a service and cleaning. As part of that service they'll look for any hint of a problem.

Chances are you're biggest concern isn't from a bad furnace, but an inefficient one. Newer furnaces can be as much as 98% efficient. Yours is most likely somewhere around 80%. That's a lot of $$$ going up the flue.

Replacing a furnace isn't that hard either. http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2015/11/23/diy-gas-furnace/

I always assume that wherever I live, I'm going to end up replacing the WH, furnace and roof at least once. The good news is you are being proactive. Most people don't give any of this a thought until something breaks and they end up calling a service person at 2:00 am.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2017, 09:04:15 AM by Sailor14 »

SimpleCycle

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Re: Replacing a hot water heater
« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2017, 09:26:30 AM »
Thanks Sailor14!  We actually did just have an HVAC guy out to check the furnace and everything seems okay but aging.  We have carbon monoxide detectors as well.

I'll ponder the idea of DIYing the water heater.  I'm sure I could do it, but the wife might not be as excited about the idea.

Syonyk

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Re: Replacing a hot water heater
« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2017, 06:01:41 PM »
When we bought two years ago our home inspector recommended that we replace the hot water heater because it is old and end of life for hot water heaters often looks like 50 gallons of water on your carpet.

That's a decent suggestion, except end of life for water heaters can easily look like many hundred gallons on the floor, because while the heater may hold 50 gallons, there's a cold water feed connected to one side that won't just stop flowing because the heater is leaking.

Part of it, for me, would depend on where the heater is and what failure looks like.  If it were in a concrete basement with a drain nearby, I'd be less worried about it than if it were in a closet by the living room.

The advantage of replacing it before it fails is that you can shop around and get a good price, and the "non-emergency" labor rates.

Other than that, posting to follow as mine is nearing the end of its useful life as well. Not to hijack, but anyone have the wifi sensor enabled hot water heaters? Wondering if the extra $80 is worth the peace of mind in case there is a leak (it sends a message to your phone).

LOL.  No.  Save your $80.  The chances that the wifi will still be working in 20 years, the cloud service it talks to will still exist, and you'll still have your phone set up to receive the message?  About zero.

The chances of it becoming part of a botnet somewhere, because it's running vulnerable services for no good reason and it will never in its life ever get an update?  Greater than zero.

The "Internet of Things" is a great deal - for appliance manufacturers.  "Oh, sorry, your fridge is out of date - you know, we don't support that model anymore, but look at this new one that has an even bigger touch screen!"

I always assume that wherever I live, I'm going to end up replacing the WH, furnace and roof at least once. The good news is you are being proactive. Most people don't give any of this a thought until something breaks and they end up calling a service person at 2:00 am.

Yeah, but people who call the service people at 2AM are why a lot of the service guys have pretty darn new trucks! :)

========

Plan to replace the heater before it fails.  For a gas appliance, I'd be inclined to pay someone to do the work, but you can do it yourself if you're comfortable with leak testing plumbing/gas connections and such.

Spork

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Re: Replacing a hot water heater
« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2017, 06:10:19 PM »
Other than that, posting to follow as mine is nearing the end of its useful life as well. Not to hijack, but anyone have the wifi sensor enabled hot water heaters? Wondering if the extra $80 is worth the peace of mind in case there is a leak (it sends a message to your phone).

In addition to what Syonyk said (which I fully agree with)... the biggest peace of mind is actually making sure you're following the latest code changes.  One of those requires a catch pan that is plumbed to drain outside or to a drain.  If construction doesn't allow a catch pan, you are required to have a shut off sensor (no wifi required).  The downside of the shutoff sensor is that it will shut the incoming cold water feed, but you will still potentially have 50 gallons of leakage.  (You probably won't... because without something to vent the tank, it drips REALLY slowly... but it is theoretically possible to have a leak that splashed all 50 gallons on the floor.)

The plumbed catch pan really is a great code update. Lots of benefit for very little cost.  Ask anyone that's had a water heater leak!

SimpleCycle

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Re: Replacing a hot water heater
« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2017, 08:33:56 PM »
That's a decent suggestion, except end of life for water heaters can easily look like many hundred gallons on the floor, because while the heater may hold 50 gallons, there's a cold water feed connected to one side that won't just stop flowing because the heater is leaking.

Part of it, for me, would depend on where the heater is and what failure looks like.  If it were in a concrete basement with a drain nearby, I'd be less worried about it than if it were in a closet by the living room.

The advantage of replacing it before it fails is that you can shop around and get a good price, and the "non-emergency" labor rates.

Good point.  Hot water heater is in a utility closet off a finished, carpeted lower level, so failure would be annoying and expensive enough to be worth avoiding.

As it turns out, you can't pull a permit to replace your own hot water heater if you live in a condo building in my city - you need a plumbing license for everything that's not a single family home.  So that's decided, time to find the best deal.

Syonyk

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Re: Replacing a hot water heater
« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2017, 09:16:55 PM »
Huh.

Apparently you do, theoretically, need a permit to replace a gas water heater out where I live.

Not that anyone I know has a gas heater.  Electrical grid?  A thing.  Gas grid?  Well, that's called the propane delivery truck.

aspiringnomad

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Re: Replacing a hot water heater
« Reply #8 on: January 03, 2017, 10:11:03 PM »

Other than that, posting to follow as mine is nearing the end of its useful life as well. Not to hijack, but anyone have the wifi sensor enabled hot water heaters? Wondering if the extra $80 is worth the peace of mind in case there is a leak (it sends a message to your phone).

LOL.  No.  Save your $80.  The chances that the wifi will still be working in 20 years, the cloud service it talks to will still exist, and you'll still have your phone set up to receive the message?  About zero.

The chances of it becoming part of a botnet somewhere, because it's running vulnerable services for no good reason and it will never in its life ever get an update?  Greater than zero.

The "Internet of Things" is a great deal - for appliance manufacturers.  "Oh, sorry, your fridge is out of date - you know, we don't support that model anymore, but look at this new one that has an even bigger touch screen!"


Fair enough. Regular ole' water heater it is. Appreciate the advice.

bigalsmith101

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Re: Replacing a hot water heater
« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2017, 11:49:29 PM »
Quote
Good point.  Hot water heater is in a utility closet off a finished, carpeted lower level, so failure would be annoying and expensive enough to be worth avoiding.

As it turns out, you can't pull a permit to replace your own hot water heater if you live in a condo building in my city - you need a plumbing license for everything that's not a single family home.  So that's decided, time to find the best deal.

Being that you're in Chicago, your quotes of around $1250 is actually very reasonable. My dad is a retired plumber who specialized in water heaters for 25 years. I've been into homes to help him on the job dozens of times. I've seen 30 year old water heaters that were still working, and I've seen 11 year old tanks fail a year out of warranty. To be honest, not many tanks make it to 19 years without failing. You're easily within the minority. That being said, the duplex I'm renting now has an 18 year old tank in it that's still going strong...

Even if your tank was in a sloped garage that drained to a sewer, I'd recommend that you'd be better off replacing your water heater now. Being that it's in a carpeted closet, I'd tell you that you're risking disaster. I've seen ground floor condos/apartments flooded with 3 inches of water from a failed tank seam. Seriously, it's impressive how much water can accumulate while you're at work.

Be careful when getting replacement quotes to make sure that the quote includes removal and disposal of your old tank. You don't want to find out that "that's extra". Inquire about the odds of needing an expansion tank should your water pressure in the building require one (that can easily be an extra $150 bucks, and you may not need it, but they could sell you one anyway!). Then, inquire about a cash discount, as many self employed plumbers are apt to accept that in lieu of a 5-10% reduction in price. Cash in hand to many tradesmen is like magic. Ideally, get a set price over the phone and make certain there aren't going to be any surprises. Some companies won't give you a set price, as they train their plumbers to up-sell the when they arrive on site. Other will be happy to do so. I've witnessed both sides often enough to know it's worth asking.

You could even ask what the connection fee would be for a plumber to come out and replace your water heater with a new one that you already have on hand. This would require you to go buy one at Home Depot or Lowes, etc, and haul it into your house, but it would remove any potential mark up on the plumbers end. If you disconnect your old water heater, and have the new one ready to go, you might save a hundred bucks or more.

Good luck!
« Last Edit: January 03, 2017, 11:53:18 PM by bigalsmith101 »