Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

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IMD801
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Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by IMD801 » Sat Dec 28, 2013 3:18 pm

We have a 10 year old 40 gallon Rheem water heater in our basement that seems to be working fine. It was recently inspected and flushed and there were no issues.

My wife and I have experience with two catastrophic water heater failures several years ago - one of which caused thousands of dollars in property damage. Given the age of the unit and the inevitable need to replace it sometime in the near future, is it worth replacing now to avoid a basement disaster? The guy who inspected it seemed surprised that we were worried about it suddenly rupturing. :confused

rec7
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by rec7 » Sat Dec 28, 2013 3:20 pm

Did you flush the old one once a year?

IMD801
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by IMD801 » Sat Dec 28, 2013 3:23 pm

It's been flushed twice in five years.

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pteam
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by pteam » Sat Dec 28, 2013 3:25 pm

How about a tankless water heater? They save you a lot of money in heating and don't have a huge tank of water to spill ...

rec7
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by rec7 » Sat Dec 28, 2013 3:25 pm

I have one 25 years old and flush it once a year. Mine is in a unfinished basement so that helps to.

Geologist
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by Geologist » Sat Dec 28, 2013 3:37 pm

Depending on what you bought 10 years ago, this might not be a consideration, but highly insulated water heaters (these typically have longer warranties and heavier other parts too) can save on operating costs. The savings in operating costs can be who high as to pay for the capital cost of the water heater in a couple of years.

sscritic
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by sscritic » Sat Dec 28, 2013 3:43 pm

Here is how I read:
My wife and I have experience with two catastrophic water heater failures several years ago
It happened in the past. It involved two different water heaters (I am assuming that after a catastrophic failure you can't just put some electrician's tape over the hole and continue to use the failed heater).
Did you flush the old one once a year?
Which old one? The first old one that failed or the second old one that failed?
It's been flushed twice in five years.
Did you mean to say "It had been flushed twice in five years" (before the failure)? But then, we are back to the singular to refer to two different old water heaters. Or perhaps you are referring to the current water heater, in which case you are not responding to the question about the two old water heaters.

I am so confused.

IMD801
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by IMD801 » Sat Dec 28, 2013 3:45 pm

The two failures occurred in different places of residence than our current home.

sport
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by sport » Sat Dec 28, 2013 4:53 pm

Hot water tanks contain a sacrificial anode, made of aluminum or zinc, which protects the steel tank from corrosion. Over time, the anode corrodes (is eaten away) as it should while protecting the tank. After about 5 years, or so, the anode has sufficiently decreased in size so that it no longer provides proper protection. When this happens, the steel tank starts to rust, ending in a failure. However, the anode is replaceable. A good home mechanic can do it, or any plumber could do it. Replacing the anode will significantly extend the life of the tank. Interestingly, when I had a plumber replace the anode in my tank, he told me it was the first time he had ever replaced one. He also indicated that he felt a little strange doing it because he was reducing the need for him to replace the tank. As I recall, the cost to replace the anode was about $75 for parts and labor. I looked at the old anode after it was removed from the tank and it definitely needed replacing after 7 years service.
Jeff

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soaring
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by soaring » Sat Dec 28, 2013 5:00 pm

jsl11 wrote:Hot water tanks contain a sacrificial anode, made of aluminum or zinc, which protects the steel tank from corrosion. Over time, the anode corrodes (is eaten away) as it should while protecting the tank. After about 5 years, or so, the anode has sufficiently decreased in size so that it no longer provides proper protection. When this happens, the steel tank starts to rust, ending in a failure. However, the anode is replaceable. A good home mechanic can do it, or any plumber could do it. Replacing the anode will significantly extend the life of the tank. Interestingly, when I had a plumber replace the anode in my tank, he told me it was the first time he had ever replaced one. He also indicated that he felt a little strange doing it because he was reducing the need for him to replace the tank. As I recall, the cost to replace the anode was about $75 for parts and labor. I looked at the old anode after it was removed from the tank and it definitely needed replacing after 7 years service.
Jeff
Marathon electric water heater (bought by Rheem a few years ago) is a fiberglass tank with lifetime warranty. No anode is needed since there is no steel tank to protect. Also bottom element is titanium and you can order a top titanium element. It is a few hundred more but worth it IMO.

that is what we installed last year
http://www.marathonheaters.com/consumers.html
Desiderata

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Watty
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by Watty » Sat Dec 28, 2013 5:40 pm

They make inexpensive water sensors that are vaguely like smoke alarms and cost about the same. These will not help with a sudden failure but if it starts out with a slow leak this will help alert you to the problem.

tomd37
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by tomd37 » Sat Dec 28, 2013 7:05 pm

If you are in the 10th year of life of a cheaper water heater, then you may be ready for issues. On the other hand, if you are in the 10th year of life of a more expensive water heater, then you might have many more years to go before issues develop. Can you provide more details about your current unit? Is it a cheaper Rheem or a better one?
Last edited by tomd37 on Sat Dec 28, 2013 7:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Tom D.

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mhc
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by mhc » Sat Dec 28, 2013 7:11 pm

I preemptively replaced mine this year. It was 14 years old. A new gas 50 gallon tank cost $1000 installed. I think it was well worth it. I might have gotten a few more years out of it because we do not have hard water. I sleep better with a new tank. If you can afford it, go for it.

I decided against a tankless because of cost, my house would require a very high flow rate, and I like have a 50 gallon water reservoir for emergencies.

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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by likegarden » Sat Dec 28, 2013 7:44 pm

I read somewhere that waterheaters usually fail in 6 years. When ours had 6 years we got it replaced with a 9-year warranty one, and will replace that when it is 9 years old. Our basement is used for storage and is partly finished. The furnace maintenance man also drains the water heater everytime, once a year.

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frugaltype
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by frugaltype » Sat Dec 28, 2013 7:55 pm

IMD801 wrote:We have a 10 year old 40 gallon Rheem water heater in our basement that seems to be working fine. It was recently inspected and flushed and there were no issues.

My wife and I have experience with two catastrophic water heater failures several years ago - one of which caused thousands of dollars in property damage. Given the age of the unit and the inevitable need to replace it sometime in the near future, is it worth replacing now to avoid a basement disaster? The guy who inspected it seemed surprised that we were worried about it suddenly rupturing. :confused
I had exactly the same sequence of events. Now when it gets to be ten years, I replace it.

MindBogler
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by MindBogler » Sat Dec 28, 2013 8:10 pm

We replaced one this year that was almost 16 years old, I forget the brand but it came installed when the house was built. It actually didn't fail catastrophically, it was just not heating like it used to. Knock on wood, but that is the only appliance that has been replaced in this house and we don't live in a model home by any means. Like all appliances, YMMV.

livesoft
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by livesoft » Sat Dec 28, 2013 9:44 pm

We have replaced both water heaters in our home. They failed after 15 years or so, but not catastrophically. Both heaters were in the attic in pans that drained to the outside. For each one, failure was obvious and caused no damaged as they leaked since the drain pans did their job. Based on my experience, I would not replace a water heater until it failed.
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Ged
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by Ged » Sat Dec 28, 2013 9:52 pm

My water heater is something like 23 years old. However it's in a garage where a failure would not likely cause any damage. I have been considering changing it for the past 5 years or so.

Who knows. Maybe I'll do it in 2014.

Carlton
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by Carlton » Sat Dec 28, 2013 10:29 pm

To save some cash, install a flood guard or similar leak detection system. You might get another 10 years out of your heater. I would install this on any water heater, new or old.

http://www.floodmaster.com/products/wat ... hutoff.php

Texas hold em71
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by Texas hold em71 » Sat Dec 28, 2013 11:12 pm

Depends on what a basement disaster means. We have one on the garage that won't cause much damage if it goes out. We have another in the house near hardwood floors and drywall that I preemptively replaced two years ago.

IMD801
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by IMD801 » Sat Dec 28, 2013 11:19 pm

tomd37 wrote:If you are in the 10th year of life of a cheaper water heater, then you may be ready for issues. On the other hand, if you are in the 10th year of life of a more expensive water heater, then you might have many more years to go before issues develop. Can you provide more details about your current unit? Is it a cheaper Rheem or a better one?
It's a Rheem Fury 42V40

Thanks for your replies, everyone.

MnD
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by MnD » Sat Dec 28, 2013 11:27 pm

We preemptively replaced one at 17 years that was working perfectly and the "best quality" replacement failed at 6 years.
I have a water sensor alarm next to the tank and in the crawl space just below it.
i don't plan to preemptively do any more tank replacements.

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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by tomd37 » Sat Dec 28, 2013 11:36 pm

IMD801,

The Rheem site indicates the manufacturer warranty on that particular unit is 6 years. IMO that is a lower end product and you might start thinking and planning on a replacement as a preemptive move. Last minute decisions and actions can sometimes be very costly.
Tom D.

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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by Bidwell » Sat Dec 28, 2013 11:59 pm

We replaced a working water heater that was 11 years old two years ago on the basis of improved efficiency. With things that work 24/7 year after year, it's a no brainer to replace if you have a concern. With the 10 year service provided, your unit has paid for itself. Appliances aren't life time tools or brick and mortar, in my view they are expensive consumables. We had a GE dishwasher that worked fine. One day GE sent a form letter to us that described a problem "in only a very few" units. And, GE asked us to check the units serial number against their data base (GE sent the letter knowing full well what the serial number was). Certainly our dishwasher was one of those units that GE advised could likely short out and cause a fire in the door's wiring and that baby was gone inside a week. Replace it, you'll be happier.

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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by bhsince87 » Sun Dec 29, 2013 12:26 am

Jeez, ours is 27 years old! I'm thinking I should replace it, but on the other hand, if it made it this long.....

I do have to replace the elements every 2-3 years.

We have fairly hard water, and I've read that calcium/minerals can coat the inside of the tank and actually prevent leaks. But I'm thinking I probably should replace the whole thing it soon.
BH87

hudson
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by hudson » Sun Dec 29, 2013 6:13 am

IMD801 wrote:We have a 10 year old 40 gallon Rheem water heater in our basement that seems to be working fine. It was recently inspected and flushed and there were no issues.

My wife and I have experience with two catastrophic water heater failures several years ago - one of which caused thousands of dollars in property damage. Given the age of the unit and the inevitable need to replace it sometime in the near future, is it worth replacing now to avoid a basement disaster? The guy who inspected it seemed surprised that we were worried about it suddenly rupturing. :confused
IMD801, Terry Love's Plumbing forums might help? http://www.terrylove.com/forums/forum.php
There is a water heater section.

Cigarman
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by Cigarman » Sun Dec 29, 2013 7:33 am

I've replaced two preemptively at 10 year intervals. Last one was replaced with an exterior tank-less model this past fall (I'm in NC). For some reason in my neighborhood the builder's thought it wise to install many of the heaters in the attics of 2 & 3 story homes. A number of my neighbors have had floods that caused significant damage upon failure of these attic installed units.

My tank-less has a 25 year warranty and has eliminated any potential catastrophic damage to the inside of our house. In addition, any water heater will catastrophically fail when you least expect it, like when you are on vacation.

protagonist
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by protagonist » Sun Dec 29, 2013 8:28 am

Interesting. I bought my house in 2009. The previous owners were renting the HW heater from the gas company- a cheap one I assume. When I bought the house I purchased the HW heater from the gas company for something like $30 because it was nearing the end of its "expected life" based on rental period. I haven't really thought about it since, because it works flawlessly.

This thread has me thinking......is it really that much of a "ticking time bomb"? I just sort of assumed that "failure" likely meant either a slow leak or inability to heat water and I would just replace it when it failed or when I saw a visible defect.

likegarden
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by likegarden » Sun Dec 29, 2013 8:59 am

Our furnace (water baseboard heat), water heater and water softener are in a small room which has a 1 inch step on 2 sides and a 4 inch wide and deep 'crack' at the basement wall on the other 2 sides. That 'crack' (floating basement floor) goes to two sump pumps which would carry away any leakage from the water heater.

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SteveNet
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by SteveNet » Sun Dec 29, 2013 11:42 am

soaring wrote:
jsl11 wrote:Hot water tanks contain a sacrificial anode, made of aluminum or zinc, which protects the steel tank from corrosion. Over time, the anode corrodes (is eaten away) as it should while protecting the tank. After about 5 years, or so, the anode has sufficiently decreased in size so that it no longer provides proper protection. When this happens, the steel tank starts to rust, ending in a failure. However, the anode is replaceable. A good home mechanic can do it, or any plumber could do it. Replacing the anode will significantly extend the life of the tank. Interestingly, when I had a plumber replace the anode in my tank, he told me it was the first time he had ever replaced one. He also indicated that he felt a little strange doing it because he was reducing the need for him to replace the tank. As I recall, the cost to replace the anode was about $75 for parts and labor. I looked at the old anode after it was removed from the tank and it definitely needed replacing after 7 years service.
Jeff
Marathon electric water heater (bought by Rheem a few years ago) is a fiberglass tank with lifetime warranty. No anode is needed since there is no steel tank to protect. Also bottom element is titanium and you can order a top titanium element. It is a few hundred more but worth it IMO.

that is what we installed last year
http://www.marathonheaters.com/consumers.html
+1...Depending on your water an anode rod is designed to last to the warranted period. A "Better" Rheem (any brand) heater with say a 12year guarantee is the same water heater as a (6yr guarantee) but with two (2) anode rods to last longer. And perhaps a stainless heating element.
Cheaper to purchase the 6 yr guarantee tank and inspect and replace the anode when needed.
http://www.plumbingsupply.com/anoderods.html $20 to 50$ depending on the material.

If you have a Water softener and or have the heater set to a high temperature expect to replace the anode rod much sooner inspect every 2 years. And expect to replace it then.

The next time I replace a water heater I will replace it with a "Marathon" electric water heater and then just flush a few gallons ever month as I do now.
Being frugal is hard to learn, but once learned is hard to stop.

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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by Lafder » Sun Dec 29, 2013 11:58 am

What about installing a drain pan to catch leaks and divert to a drain or outside? We have that on an attic water heater but not on the first floor one. (I think it would have been useful on both)

Any waterheater is going to have a water hose under pressure that COULD fail, even an on demand unit.

We replaced a 29 year old working water heater only because we were putting the house on the market.

They just do not make them like they used to.

I do not lose sleep worrying about this. The actual leaks I have had damage due to were roof leaks and undersink leaks. So I do check under my sinks at least a few times a year since an undetected drip can do a lot of damage over months. And I walk around when it rains looking for early leaks. (Flat roofitis, my friends with flat roofs do this too)

I would not proactively replace a perfectly working water heater if I were living there.

Lafder

protagonist
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by protagonist » Sun Dec 29, 2013 12:41 pm

This reference: http://www.disastersafety.org/studies-r ... ure-risks/ paints a pretty dismal picture re: the cost of water heater leaks. The critical factor here is that the data is based on insurance claims, which makes it hard to evaluate. What is important is not what percentage of disasters are due to system failure, but rather what percentage of water heaters fail vs age (ideally divided by type of water heater and subdivided by model). I couldn't find those numbers.

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ClevrChico
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by ClevrChico » Sun Dec 29, 2013 12:45 pm

Our water heater is 27 years old. There's a nearby floor drain plus a sump pump to handle any leaks. One day it will start leaking, that's a given.

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runner9
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by runner9 » Sun Dec 29, 2013 1:43 pm

Our gas tank heater is 19 years old. I got a quote for tankless (for sure not worth it) and discussed with the guy and read online that most start with a small leak.

I have these sensors: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002Q8 ... UTF8&psc=1 and plan to change it as soon as it starts leaking, plus put a pan under the next one.

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SteveNet
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by SteveNet » Sun Dec 29, 2013 3:00 pm

Lafder wrote:What about installing a drain pan to catch leaks and divert to a drain or outside? We have that on an attic water heater but not on the first floor one. (I think it would have been useful on both)

Any waterheater is going to have a water hose under pressure that COULD fail, even an on demand unit.

We replaced a 29 year old working water heater only because we were putting the house on the market.

They just do not make them like they used to.

I do not lose sleep worrying about this. The actual leaks I have had damage due to were roof leaks and undersink leaks. So I do check under my sinks at least a few times a year since an undetected drip can do a lot of damage over months. And I walk around when it rains looking for early leaks. (Flat roofitis, my friends with flat roofs do this too)

I would not proactively replace a perfectly working water heater if I were living there.

Lafder
Having a catch Pan is a good idea in case it starts to leak, but if it starts to leak you have to replace the heater (unless it's a element seal) the regular leak is just the tip of the iceberg as it indicates a rust thru spot, the condition of the metal tank around the leak could be a major accident waiting to happen. I have known of water heaters slowly leaking that just suddenly give way at the bottom.
Never ignore a leak no matter how small. Catch pan or not.

Water Heaters generally do not have a "Water Hose" I have never seen one with a "Hose". It's a bad idea imo to use a hose for a connection.
Being frugal is hard to learn, but once learned is hard to stop.

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runner9
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by runner9 » Sun Dec 29, 2013 3:29 pm

Agree: when it starts to leak it's time to replace. The question is replacing before it leaks.

mn54
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by mn54 » Sun Dec 29, 2013 5:35 pm

we just replaced our water heater 3 weeks ago. It was a Rheem gas that was 28 years old. Went to take a shower and no hot water. Small leak under heater draining to a floor drain. Replaced with another Rheem. Total cost was 1K. Hope this one lasts another 28 years. Never replaced rod and never drained it. Did not keep it too hot and have a water softener.

GeauxBR
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by GeauxBR » Sun Dec 29, 2013 5:54 pm

Ours is 33 years old, older than the wife and i :mrgreen:

We are doing an addition next year though (master bed/bath), will look hard at the new tankless stuff.

protagonist
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by protagonist » Mon Dec 30, 2013 9:27 am

GeauxBR wrote: We are doing an addition next year though (master bed/bath), will look hard at the new tankless stuff.
From my reading of tankless, there are reported problems with sufficient heating in colder climates (this may not pertain to you), and also a high early failure rate (first few years). Hybrids and condensing units are very expensive but may qualify for significant rebates from the energy companies as well as tax incentives. Regular gas-fired units are less efficient but much cheaper. I'm not advocating one type of heater over the other, just passing on some things I picked up on the net. I think choosing, as well as knowing what to do about an older unit, is rather confusing. 10 or 20 years ago I would have just probably bought what my plumber recommended. Then again, 20 years ago I would have listened to my stock broker as well. Good luck in your search.
Last edited by protagonist on Mon Dec 30, 2013 9:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

protagonist
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by protagonist » Mon Dec 30, 2013 9:39 am

Does anybody have hard data re: failure rate as a function of age of gas-fired water heaters? With breakdown re: failure to heat vs. slow leak vs. rupture? I would have thought that a graph of such would have been easy to find on the net but so far I have come up empty-handed.

Without that basic information it is difficult to assess whether preemptive replacement is worth it. All we have are the horror stories and the scary insurance company claims data, with obvious significant incentive to get people to replace their heaters and reduce their own company payouts.

All I can say (purely anecdotal) is I cannot recall hearing about a friend or neighbor's water heater rupturing so I wonder how common it really is. I would think that anything short of catastrophic failure would not be a serious or overly costly problem for a heater in an unfinished basement.

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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by Sunny Sarkar » Mon Dec 30, 2013 9:53 am

frugaltype wrote:
IMD801 wrote:We have a 10 year old 40 gallon Rheem water heater in our basement that seems to be working fine. It was recently inspected and flushed and there were no issues.

My wife and I have experience with two catastrophic water heater failures several years ago - one of which caused thousands of dollars in property damage. Given the age of the unit and the inevitable need to replace it sometime in the near future, is it worth replacing now to avoid a basement disaster? The guy who inspected it seemed surprised that we were worried about it suddenly rupturing. :confused
I had exactly the same sequence of events. Now when it gets to be ten years, I replace it.
You guys are scaring me.

My water heater came with my 1994 home I purchased 6 years ago, and I didn't even know/think about flushing. It's a State brand 50 gallon natural gas water heater with a 5-year warranty, manufactured 1991, but seems to work fine and I do not see any leaks. However at 20 years and counting, I'm probably pushing my luck. Am I not?
Last edited by Sunny Sarkar on Mon Dec 30, 2013 5:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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runner9
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by runner9 » Mon Dec 30, 2013 10:04 am

Again: when I had a saleman out for a tankless he seemed very nice and honest. When I explained that our basement had flooded for other reasons and I was now concerned about the hot water tank's age as I didn't want another flooded basement he said that rarely do they just explode, it's almost always a small leak at first.

On a woodworking forum I follow there was recently a long discussion and that seemed to be the group opinion as well. A few even were keeping tanks with small leaks and just managing the leaking water with buckets/pans/etc.

Just my 2 cents.

GeauxBR
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by GeauxBR » Mon Dec 30, 2013 11:17 am

protagonist wrote:
GeauxBR wrote: We are doing an addition next year though (master bed/bath), will look hard at the new tankless stuff.
From my reading of tankless, there are reported problems with sufficient heating in colder climates (this may not pertain to you), and also a high early failure rate (first few years). Hybrids and condensing units are very expensive but may qualify for significant rebates from the energy companies as well as tax incentives. Regular gas-fired units are less efficient but much cheaper. I'm not advocating one type of heater over the other, just passing on some things I picked up on the net. I think choosing, as well as knowing what to do about an older unit, is rather confusing. 10 or 20 years ago I would have just probably bought what my plumber recommended. Then again, 20 years ago I would have listened to my stock broker as well. Good luck in your search.

I live in the sauna that is south Louisiana :). In my work I go into a lot of new construction homes and if I'm not mistaken that it may be a requirement on newer homes here now, they all have them. I know it'll be more upfront cost getting it put in, but while we are spending the money renovating and setting this house up for the long haul, it's one of the many things to consider.

Thanks

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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by runner9 » Mon Dec 30, 2013 11:46 am

I read that the cost for new homes is less because the piping can be put in for tankless. For an older home, replacing with a tankless is the cost of the tankless ($400ish more) plus increasing the gas line from the meter, moving the copper piping, etc.

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Sunny Sarkar
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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by Sunny Sarkar » Mon Dec 30, 2013 5:27 pm

Question: Is there a better way to replace a water heater than just walking into Home Depot & Lowes, choose a GE or Whirlpool with 9 or 12 year warranty, and ask them to simply take care of the installation (total cost approx $1000-1100 for a 50-gallon gas heater)?
"Cost matters". "Stay the course". "Press on, regardless". ― John C. Bogle

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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by Mudpuppy » Mon Dec 30, 2013 5:58 pm

Sunny Sarkar wrote:Question: Is there a better way to replace a water heater than just walking into Home Depot & Lowes, choose a GE or Whirlpool with 9 or 12 year warranty, and ask them to simply take care of the installation (total cost approx $1000-1100 for a 50-gallon gas heater)?
I personally wouldn't touch a Whirlpool (or any brand manufacturer by Whirlpool, and there's a lot of those too) hot water heater with a 10 foot pole. And I have a lot of other Whirlpool appliances (fridge, dishwasher, washer, dryer), but I've had bad experiences with Whirlpool hot water heaters. My parents bought one and it died within 6 months. Whirlpool sent a warranty technician (who was actually a local plumber chosen by Whirlpool) out. The plumber proceeded to demand about $400 from my parents for "code compliance repairs" that were not actually required by the building code in my parents' area (I checked) before he would even attempt the warranty repair. When one looked up the multiple companies owned by that plumber on BBB's website, one saw numerous similar complaints about him in the past.

When my parents couldn't convince Whirlpool of the fact that the technician was lying about the local code, I tried calling Whirlpool warranty service up to let them know exactly what the technician was lying about and that they needed to send a different technician out. They refused to send another technician out or to send the replacement part to us directly. Perhaps they would have sent the part to a plumber of our choosing, but my dad was so fed up with them at that point (and sick of being without hot water) that we just had a plumber chuck the Whirlpool and install another brand.

I would never deal with Whirlpool hot water heaters again after that experience. It was horrible customer service, absolutely horrible. If your customer tells you that the technician is lying and points you to the BBB website where he has an F rating for similar issues in the past, don't assume the customer is lying. Send a new technician or send the part so another plumber can install it.

Edit: Updated quote for Sunny's updated wording

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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by Sunny Sarkar » Mon Dec 30, 2013 6:10 pm

Thanks for the feedback. That narrows my choice to a GE from Home Depot ($419 for 50-gallon 9-yr warranty, $1100 installed). Is that a safe enough option? Or should I keep looking (where else do I look?)
"Cost matters". "Stay the course". "Press on, regardless". ― John C. Bogle

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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by cherijoh » Mon Dec 30, 2013 6:20 pm

Ged wrote:My water heater is something like 23 years old. However it's in a garage where a failure would not likely cause any damage. I have been considering changing it for the past 5 years or so.

Who knows. Maybe I'll do it in 2014.
I am in the same situation. My HVAC contractor has a sister plumbing business and every time an HVAC technician comes through the garage to get to the attic access to do the annual furnace check-up, they ask when I last replaced the hot water heater. No one believes me when I tell them it is 20 + years old and contractor grade to boot.

Having taken a class on reliability statistics, I can tell you that the failure rate likely follows a bathtub curve over time. Initially there is a pretty high failure rate per unit of time that drops off very quickly (those are the "lemons" that fail due to bad components). Then you are in a period of very low failure rates which is basically flat on a failed units/increment of time basis - this is the bottom of the "bathtub". After some time, the failure rate creeps up at a steady pace with a greater percentage of failures for each increment of time - this is the sloped back of the bathtub. Typically, the warranty period is set to optimize the warranty payout by the manufacturer vs. extra revenue they get from offering a longer warranty. But this is based on an "average unit". That means that an individual unit can last considerably longer than the warranty period.

So you need to weigh the potential costs of damage to your house versus the added cost of replacing it early when it still has useful life. You should also take any savings in operating costs (for higher efficiency) into account.

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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by aja8888 » Mon Dec 30, 2013 7:48 pm

Sunny Sarkar wrote:Thanks for the feedback. That narrows my choice to a GE from Home Depot ($419 for 50-gallon 9-yr warranty, $1100 installed). Is that a safe enough option? Or should I keep looking (where else do I look?)
If you are going to have a plumber put one in, go for a Bradford-White, one of the best out there and only sold to licensed installers. I also believe these are U.S. made.

http://www.bradfordwhite.com/

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Re: Preemptive water heater replacement: worth it?

Post by protagonist » Mon Dec 30, 2013 8:11 pm

aja8888 wrote:
Sunny Sarkar wrote:Thanks for the feedback. That narrows my choice to a GE from Home Depot ($419 for 50-gallon 9-yr warranty, $1100 installed). Is that a safe enough option? Or should I keep looking (where else do I look?)
If you are going to have a plumber put one in, go for a Bradford-White, one of the best out there and only sold to licensed installers. I also believe these are U.S. made.

http://www.bradfordwhite.com/
Check out this meta-review site. I use them frequently when buying something I know little about and have had good luck: consumersearch.org

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