Proactively replace water heater?

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psteinx
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Proactively replace water heater?

Post by psteinx »

Is there much reason to consider pro-actively replacing an old but working water heater?

Our house is ~18.5 years old and our water heater is original. 50 gallons. No problems with it. IIRC, at least one service guy who was out mainly to service our furnace perhaps a year ago took a quick glance at the water heater at my behest and said it seemed fine to him.

Assume:
No special rebate for a new water heater
On a pure efficiency economics (more efficient modern model) the economics are not compelling

Then:
Are there other good reasons to replace?
The biggest thing that I'm aware of is the risk of catastrophic failure dumping 50 gallons of water in our basement. Due to the positioning of the water heater, if this happened it could cause a few thousand in damages (the heater is in an unfinished area with a drain not far off, but a fast 50 gallon dump would potentially put water into other basement areas that have carpet, wallboard and the like).

I guess an unplanned failure would also impose a greater hassle/convenience factor than a planned replacement (i.e. no hot water for a few days until a replacement could be installed).

===

FWIW, I just got an e-mail from a plumber basically encouraging folks to replace before new, higher efficiency (and higher cost) standards go into effect in April. That said, I'd probably want something high efficiency anyways, so the e-mail's rationale is not compelling to me, but at least it made me think about this issue.
Last edited by psteinx on Thu Mar 19, 2015 9:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
livesoft
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by livesoft »

No.

And already asked, so check it out: viewtopic.php?f=11&t=129263
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psteinx
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by psteinx »

Hmm

The other thread talks about flushing a water heater once a year.

If I flushed my water heater this year, then I would raise my flushing frequency from <Not a Number> to once every 19 years...
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gwe67
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by gwe67 »

I just did replace a functional 14 year old natural gas water heater. I never flushed it once. It was working fine, but my concern was like yours, spilling 50 gallons of water in the house. Cost $750 including installation. I had a much larger pan installed in case the new one leaks. The old system also did not have proper ventilation, so the plumber installed a second fresh air vent into the attic. I don't expect any energy cost savings, but the new unit heats water so quickly it seems impossible to run out of water. I also had the hoses replaced. Old hoses could cause a very undesirable leak.
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gwe67
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by gwe67 »

One more thought...I would rather replace the water heater on my schedule than be forced to scramble when the old unit fails. I had to schedule the plumber about a week in advance.
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LeeMKE
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by LeeMKE »

I vote for early replacement. I've had water heaters go out twice. Both times it was an inconvenient moment and I would have rather scheduled a replacement at our convenience. One time it went out the night we were packing to leave for 3 weeks. We had to scramble to get help to get a new one installed and paid overtime for help.
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TallBoy29er
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by TallBoy29er »

Just had one go out after 16 years. I had to take a day off work and bucket out our crawl space/basement. I am sure I paid a premium to get a plumber out that day. Seeing as how the average life of a hot water heater is 8-12 years (source, Lowes), I would suggest not going through what I did, and pull the trigger.

Food for thought: If not now, when? It is always going to look good on the outside, you won't see the rust in the tank.
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cheese_breath
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by cheese_breath »

That must be a super water heater. I've never had any last near that long, but I did have one blow out the valve and spray all over the basement. Play it safe and get a new one.
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Svensk Anga
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by Svensk Anga »

Do not assume the dump is limited to the tank contents. Your water supply will just keep on trying to fill it. A catch pan may or may not direct the leak to a safe place. With good water pressure and a leak high enough (say the relief valve fitting), it may be that very little of the leak hits the pan.

I am sorry to bring you such cheery thoughts.

Mine, 14 years old, is in the garage where it should do little damage. I replaced a heating element several years ago. It was no big deal: the heater just wasn't keeping up with demand. Prior house had a 20 year old heater when we moved out and no issues.
DSInvestor
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by DSInvestor »

Here's a youtube video where the guys from This Old House show you how to change the anode rod in a water heater. The anode rod is sacrificed to protect the steel tank of the water heater and once it's gone, the water will attack the tank.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IUNIUZz4Os
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IowaFarmBoy
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by IowaFarmBoy »

Water heater lifespans can vary greatly with the mineral content of the water. I've heard of areas where you can only get 6-10 years out of a heater, other areas are much longer. Maybe ask around to see what the lifespan is like in your area. As DSInvestor said, checking the anode rod might be a good idea, particularly in bad water areas. As an example of mineral issues, I've had several gate valves (like in cutoffs under sinks) plug up due to minerals in our water. The ball valves seem to do much better.
roflwaffle
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by roflwaffle »

Water heaters use a surprising amount of energy via just the pilot light, so the economics of going with something like tankless water heater aren't too bad. At $1/therm, I think my mom's used ~$10-15/month just for the pilot light, plus the burner/tank probably aren't very efficient.

The tank uses something like 260 therms/year, so compared to a 160 therms/year tankless it costs an extra $120/year and probably provides less hot water. A 7.5 year payback is probably within the life of the tankless water heater, but that's only with a DIY install.

http://www.homedepot.com/p/Rheem-EcoSen ... /203404940
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mmmodem
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by mmmodem »

I'm a big fan of NOT fixing something that isn't broken. Water heaters don't all catastrophically dump its entire contents when they fail. I've been through two failures and both started out as leaks and dumped maybe a gallon or more onto the floor before we noticed. I also don't consider a water heater failure an emergency. I can certainly use the stove or a friends shower a couple of days while I schedule a convenient day for a plumber to come in. We replaced the water heater last year, I wanted to get an electric tankless one but electricity costs in CA made it more expensive in the long run.
davebo
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by davebo »

According to my home inspector when I moved in, he said my water heater was on its last legs and I should "keep an eye on it". Then I installed a new HVAC system and asked the guy to take a look and he said the same thing. I then had a humidifier installed and the guy said the same thing. Finally, I had a new sump pump installed and the guy told me to put a water alarm down because it'll probably start to leak soon.

Finally I just told that guy I wanted to do it now and get it out of the way and he swapped it out for a new unit. After the fact he said that it's a good thing I did because the venting was horrible and it probably would've started leaking soon.

I'd rather be proactive personally....how much do they cost? Like $900 installed or something? To me, it's not worth fussing around with....just get it done....personal preference though.
angelescrest
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by angelescrest »

I'm about to replace mine. 17 years or so, original. Bradford 50 gallon, quoted by plumber for $1200. Power vent. Seems pricey to me, but other quote was $1380. 6 yr warranty. Starting to leak very slightly.
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lthenderson
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by lthenderson »

I live in an area with high mineral contents so I have to replace mine about every 8 to 10 years or so. Mine have only sprang slow leaks and never a catastrophic failure. But whenever I go on vacation, I still turn off my water heater and shut off the main water supply in case something catastrophic happens like losing a valve.

When I replace mine, I notice that the newer ones heat the water faster due to lack of sedimentation covering the anodes. I also have more hot water with the increased capacity. With all the mineral sedimentation, the old water heater is usually about twice as heavy as the new one.

New gas water heaters, at least in some states and maybe everywhere, are completed sealed so they are aren't supposed to leak gas into your house and cause an explosion. I think this was mandated over ten years ago so a replacement will offer you a bit more safety protection.
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psteinx
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by psteinx »

What is the benefit of flushing a hot water heater?

How is this done, typically (open a valve on it and direct the water to a drain, let it go 10 min, then close the valve?)

With our 50 gallon heater, we have rarely if ever run out of hot water, despite a family of 5. Not sure if there is another benefit to faster heating or whatever...

What would cause a catastrophic failure as opposed to a slow leak? I would assume if something rusts through, you would start with a leak at/near the rusted spot. I assume that there is only normal household water pressure within, so a catastrophic failure seems unlikely, unless perhaps a slower leak was ignored for a while. But I don't really know...
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lthenderson
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by lthenderson »

psteinx wrote:What is the benefit of flushing a hot water heater?
It helps reduce sedimentation in areas with high mineral content. It helps extend the life of your water heater. I've always thought to do a more effective job, it needs some sort of stirring device and more frequent purgings and then your water heater would only be limited to the rusting factor.
psteinx wrote:How is this done, typically (open a valve on it and direct the water to a drain, let it go 10 min, then close the valve?)


Open the valve near the floor and let the water flow out until it appears clear of sedimentation. I generally only purge it a minute or two at most.
psteinx wrote:With our 50 gallon heater, we have rarely if ever run out of hot water, despite a family of 5. Not sure if there is another benefit to faster heating or whatever...
In my case, I'm guessing we get 25 gallons of space full of sedimentation so the actual hot water capacity reduces from 50 gallons down to 25 gallons which doesn't last long with two kids, dishwasher and clothes washer running. I pick my times to take a shower.
psteinx wrote:What would cause a catastrophic failure as opposed to a slow leak? I would assume if something rusts through, you would start with a leak at/near the rusted spot. I assume that there is only normal household water pressure within, so a catastrophic failure seems unlikely, unless perhaps a slower leak was ignored for a while. But I don't really know...
I've heard of valves going bad and there are also check valves on your water heater if the pressure gets to high due to a run away heating situation. At normal water pressures, you can end up with a lot of water in a hurry in your basement especially if the gradient to your drain isn't very steep or the distance is far. I've never had a catastrophic failure but once I notice a leak, I generally try to have a new water heater in place within a few days.
tim1999
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by tim1999 »

I bought a house once that had one that was 18 years old at the time. I replaced it shortly after closing even though it was working fine. I got burned once when a 14 year old one started a major leak while I was on vacation. The water supply just kept refilling it and it kept leaking. Who knows how long it was leaking for. Major pain in the butt as I had to take a day off work (when I had a lot of work I needed to do because I had been on vacation) to find someone that could come do it same-day, and be there while they put it in. I think I'd proactively replace after 12 years or so.
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gwe67
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by gwe67 »

Install a new one the day before the old one fails...."market timing".
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Ninegrams
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by Ninegrams »

My electric model is ... wait for it .... 27 years old! Our water is devoid of minerals which probably explains most of it. I tried swapping out the anodes once a few years back, but could budge them even with a breaker bar, so I gave up and figured it would just die eventually and that would be that. I guess I could get a new one which might pay off in a decade or so, but the DW and are light water users and I do subscribe to the if it ain't broke don't fix it school of thought.
DSInvestor
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by DSInvestor »

I used to live in an apartment and I proactively replaced my 40 gal electric water heater at around 10-11 years. I think it had a 6 yr warranty. My neighbor downstairs had spent 150+K renovating their apartment and I didn't want to risk any damage to their apartment if I sprung a leak. They use very expensive contractors.
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batpot
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by batpot »

As others have said: assess your risk tolerance.

I proactively replaced mine because it did not have a drip pan, it sat inside the house on laminate flooring, I had steel pipes, and the outlet pipe was looking really bad.

Cost ~$500 for the tank, and ~$900 for labor, but the high labor was partially due to strict permitting requirements in that particular municipality; some plumbers I called wouldn't even take on the job. :annoyed

I was happy not to have to do it myself because, especially when I learned that the outlet pipe broke off inside the wall. He got done in a few hours what would have taken me a weekend. He also did a nice job plumbing the pressure relief valve and the drip pan outside.
exrook
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by exrook »

psteinx wrote:FWIW, I just got an e-mail from a plumber basically encouraging folks to replace before new, higher efficiency (and higher cost) standards go into effect in April. That said, I'd probably want something high efficiency anyways, so the e-mail's rationale is not compelling to me, but at least it made me think about this issue.
Heard from a neighbor who is replacing their larger model (75 gallon) water heater that the increased insulation required to meet the new standards increase the size enough that fitting it through a standard door frame is problematic. This is one of the reasons they are doing it now vice next month.
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jeffyscott
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by jeffyscott »

Cherokee8215 wrote:I got burned once when a 14 year old one started a major leak while I was on vacation. The water supply just kept refilling it and it kept leaking. Who knows how long it was leaking for.
When no one will be in the house for an extended period of time, you can turn off the water at main and turn off water heater. A water pipe, washing machine hose, dishwasher hose could also start leaking leaking, turning off the water prevents any of these from tuning into a huge mess.

Our water heater is 18 years old (and neglected...never drained, never replaced anode rod), I am having this same debate with myself about replacing it. I think if Home Depot has a sale I will do it proactively. I thought it was gone some months ago when it looked like there was a slow leak coming from the bottom of it, but on closer inspection it was a water pipe above that was dripping on the water heater and the water was running down the side of it.
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jeffyscott
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by jeffyscott »

BTW, the change in efficiency standards looks to be quite minimal for 50 gallon gas water heaters. If I have calculated correctly the required "energy factor" changes by only about 4%.

http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/a ... oductid/27
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Jim180
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by Jim180 »

I think you answered the key question to this decision when you said a major failure would cause thousands of dollars of damage. Get it replaced.
Yipee-Ki-O
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by Yipee-Ki-O »

You might be interested in this study from the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety:

https://www.disastersafety.org/studies- ... ure-risks/

Based on its findings,

The rate of failure resulting in a claim begins to dramatically increase for a water heater beginning at age 5 – when 12% of all failures occurred. By the time a water heater reaches age 12, nearly three quarters of have failed.

I think I'll replace my 10-year old tank which was "guaranteed" for 9 years. It was installed without a safety tub underneath and due to its location a failure would be expensive. I'll just look at the expense as an insurance payment.
eharri3
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by eharri3 »

TallBoy29er wrote:Just had one go out after 16 years. I had to take a day off work and bucket out our crawl space/basement. I am sure I paid a premium to get a plumber out that day. Seeing as how the average life of a hot water heater is 8-12 years (source, Lowes), I would suggest not going through what I did, and pull the trigger.

Food for thought: If not now, when? It is always going to look good on the outside, you won't see the rust in the tank.
Submersible pumps will run about 100 bucks for a decent one plus 20 or 30 dollars in plastic vacuum hoses. Very worthwhile investment. Connect hose, route where you want the water to go, put pump in water, plug it in, and watch it pump the water out.
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Aptenodytes
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by Aptenodytes »

psteinx wrote:Hmm

The other thread talks about flushing a water heater once a year.

If I flushed my water heater this year, then I would raise my flushing frequency from <Not a Number> to once every 19 years...
0 is a number where I live.
I flush my heater a couple times a year, but if I were in your shoes, with 18 years of trouble free service behind you, I probably wouldn't want to change things up. Best practice also calls for replacing the anode, which also reduce the risk of corrosion in the tank.
I treat this question as an insurance question. Although livesoft and others are convinced that you don't need to replace the water heater on a schedule, because the majority of failures of non-catastrophic, I think less about the most likely expectations and more about the plausible very bad scenario. In my case we have lots of things in our basement that would be damaged by a major leak, with little realistic options for moving them out of harm's way. So I replace on a rough schedule, where rough means about 50% beyond the waranteed life.

You also might want to take into account the cost of alternate scenarios -- replacing quickly when the heater fails or replacing at your leisure on a rough schedule. Logically, unless you are very lucky, if you wait for failure you will probably pay more for labor. In my case, I also think about slack for coping with household emergencies. At times it is high, but at other times it is quite low (e.g. if I'm out of town on business). A water heater failure that occurred during a period of very low slack would be very stressful and probably more expensive.

When I used to drive a diesel car, the diesel experts all said that you didn't need to change your oil on a schedule, you could test the oil for evidence of chemical breakdown and contamination and change it only when needed. The trucking fleets do this and save a bundle. Guess what, for me it was far easier to change the oil on a schedule.

All that said, I am pretty sure that hardly anyone replaces water heaters on a schedule. It if it were so horrible to not to do so I think you'd have heard about it.
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Aptenodytes
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by Aptenodytes »

eharri3 wrote:
TallBoy29er wrote:Just had one go out after 16 years. I had to take a day off work and bucket out our crawl space/basement. I am sure I paid a premium to get a plumber out that day. Seeing as how the average life of a hot water heater is 8-12 years (source, Lowes), I would suggest not going through what I did, and pull the trigger.

Food for thought: If not now, when? It is always going to look good on the outside, you won't see the rust in the tank.
Submersible pumps will run about 100 bucks for a decent one plus 20 or 30 dollars in plastic vacuum hoses. Very worthwhile investment. Connect hose, route where you want the water to go, put pump in water, plug it in, and watch it pump the water out.
True, but it only addresses this problem to the extent that the water gushing from the heater flows into the pit containing the pump. I know my basement is not engineered to do that, though in theory it could be done easily when initially building the house. By the time we get smart enough to build all our houses like that, we'll no longer be using these kinds of heaters.
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by eharri3 »

Aptenodytes wrote:
eharri3 wrote:
TallBoy29er wrote:Just had one go out after 16 years. I had to take a day off work and bucket out our crawl space/basement. I am sure I paid a premium to get a plumber out that day. Seeing as how the average life of a hot water heater is 8-12 years (source, Lowes), I would suggest not going through what I did, and pull the trigger.

Food for thought: If not now, when? It is always going to look good on the outside, you won't see the rust in the tank.
Submersible pumps will run about 100 bucks for a decent one plus 20 or 30 dollars in plastic vacuum hoses. Very worthwhile investment. Connect hose, route where you want the water to go, put pump in water, plug it in, and watch it pump the water out.
True, but it only addresses this problem to the extent that the water gushing from the heater flows into the pit containing the pump. I know my basement is not engineered to do that, though in theory it could be done easily when initially building the house. By the time we get smart enough to build all our houses like that, we'll no longer be using these kinds of heaters.
I'm not sure we're talking about the same thing. I don't mean sump pump. I mean a submersible pump, a little different. Stand-alone, portable unit you place in the standing water. Attach hose, run it to wherever. Plug in extension cord to the nearest outlet, and it clears the water out.
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Aptenodytes
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by Aptenodytes »

eharri3 wrote: I'm not sure we're talking about the same thing. I don't mean sump pump. I mean a submersible pump, a little different. Stand-alone, portable unit you place in the standing water. Attach hose, run it to wherever. Plug in extension cord to the nearest outlet, and it clears the water out.
I see. That still wouldn't help people whose basements are like mine. Water would spread far and shallow, with much of it causing damage by soaking into porous things.
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Epsilon Delta
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by Epsilon Delta »

Aptenodytes wrote:
eharri3 wrote: I'm not sure we're talking about the same thing. I don't mean sump pump. I mean a submersible pump, a little different. Stand-alone, portable unit you place in the standing water. Attach hose, run it to wherever. Plug in extension cord to the nearest outlet, and it clears the water out.
I see. That still wouldn't help people whose basements are like mine. Water would spread far and shallow, with much of it causing damage by soaking into porous things.
I think the pump is an alternative to bucketting out the flooded basement, rather than something that would prevent damage in the first place. Although if you get it set up fast enough it might prevent some damage.
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by stlutz »

So this ended up being an expensive thread. I just re-carpeted my basement and this thread convinced me that a proactive water heater replacement would be a good idea. :happy
JustCurious304
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by JustCurious304 »

I replaced my water heater in my garage after about 20 years. A few neighbors had leaks with theirs which I wanted to avoid.
kazper
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by kazper »

After we bought our house, I had our water heater and washing machine both replaced with more energy efficient options (both electric). We received rebates from our county and tax credits from the govt.

To make things even better, replacing these two devices dropped our electricity bills by about $100 a month. It wasn't high to begin with, but within a year the "upgrade" has just about paid itself off :)

Try to figure out how much you might save by doing the switch and then take that into account when trying to make a decision. In some cases, it might not make much sense to switch until you do experience the worst case scenario.
saladdin
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by saladdin »

kazper wrote:After we bought our house, I had our water heater and washing machine both replaced with more energy efficient options (both electric). We received rebates from our county and tax credits from the govt.

To make things even better, replacing these two devices dropped our electricity bills by about $100 a month. It wasn't high to begin with, but within a year the "upgrade" has just about paid itself off :)

Try to figure out how much you might save by doing the switch and then take that into account when trying to make a decision. In some cases, it might not make much sense to switch until you do experience the worst case scenario.
Not that I don't believe you but $100 a month decrease is huge. You must live in a high kwh area because no way I could save 100 a month replacing my water heater/fridge/washing machine and my fridge is a 1979 model, water heater is early 80's and washer/dryer is probably mid 80's. They are not certified energy saver. My electricity averaged $85 for the past 12 months for 2 people and my heat pump is electric (use wood pellet stove for heat).

People talking savings and breakeven should list the cost of their kwh.
ShiftF5
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by ShiftF5 »

gwe67 wrote:One more thought...I would rather replace the water heater on my schedule than be forced to scramble when the old unit fails. I had to schedule the plumber about a week in advance.
Great discussion.

Even though a case can me made either way I will be scheduling a plumber soon.
kazper
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by kazper »

saladdin wrote:
kazper wrote:After we bought our house, I had our water heater and washing machine both replaced with more energy efficient options (both electric). We received rebates from our county and tax credits from the govt.

To make things even better, replacing these two devices dropped our electricity bills by about $100 a month. It wasn't high to begin with, but within a year the "upgrade" has just about paid itself off :)

Try to figure out how much you might save by doing the switch and then take that into account when trying to make a decision. In some cases, it might not make much sense to switch until you do experience the worst case scenario.
Not that I don't believe you but $100 a month decrease is huge. You must live in a high kwh area because no way I could save 100 a month replacing my water heater/fridge/washing machine and my fridge is a 1979 model, water heater is early 80's and washer/dryer is probably mid 80's. They are not certified energy saver. My electricity averaged $85 for the past 12 months for 2 people and my heat pump is electric (use wood pellet stove for heat).

People talking savings and breakeven should list the cost of their kwh.
A little bit of skepticism is healthy, or at least that is what they tell me ;) We pay around 8 or 9 cents per kwh, I think.

The water heater we replaced it with is a GE heat pump geohybrid unit, so it only uses a fraction of the energy of a normal water heater. And the washer was upgraded to one of the energy efficient ones from something that had been around for 15+ years. I'd replace the dryer too if they made a more ee option, but the savings on that replacement would probably not be worth it at this point.
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jeffyscott
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by jeffyscott »

New front load washer using less water saves on water heating costs and on drying cost as the front loaders spin much faster there is much less water for the dryer to remove by evaporation.

Our utility rates are pretty average, we have gas dryer and conventional gas water heater (and range). Gas generally costs about 1/2 to 1/3 as much as electricity for the same amount of heating, I believe. Our bill for usage (excluding fixed charges) in non heating season is about $15. If I triple that, to account for electricity vs. gas cost, that'd still be just $45. Perhaps if we did not have a front load washer it might go to $60? That's for 3 adults, so I guess I could see how maybe 5-6 people could get to over $100 for the cost of heating water and drying clothes with electricity.
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tim1999
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by tim1999 »

kazper wrote: To make things even better, replacing these two devices dropped our electricity bills by about $100 a month. It wasn't high to begin with, but within a year the "upgrade" has just about paid itself off :)
Yikes, you must live in one crazy-high area for electric costs, take 10 showers a day, do 10 loads of laundry per day, or all 3. My entire monthly electric bill is less than $100 (unless it's June-July-August and I''m running central a/c, then it goes to around $125-$150) and I have electric hot water heating, electric washer, and electric dryer.
Cigarman
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by Cigarman »

It also depends on WHERE your water heater is located. In my neighborhood the idiots put a lot of them in attics (very few basements) and there have been numerous one's that failed and ruin walls, carpet, everything. We replaced ours with an outdoor, tankless water heater and never have to worry about that again.

If you can afford it, replace it. The type is up to you but sure as can be, as soon as you decide not to do it, there will be a problem!
Valuethinker
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by Valuethinker »

saladdin wrote:
kazper wrote:After we bought our house, I had our water heater and washing machine both replaced with more energy efficient options (both electric). We received rebates from our county and tax credits from the govt.

To make things even better, replacing these two devices dropped our electricity bills by about $100 a month. It wasn't high to begin with, but within a year the "upgrade" has just about paid itself off :)

Try to figure out how much you might save by doing the switch and then take that into account when trying to make a decision. In some cases, it might not make much sense to switch until you do experience the worst case scenario.
Not that I don't believe you but $100 a month decrease is huge. You must live in a high kwh area because no way I could save 100 a month replacing my water heater/fridge/washing machine and my fridge is a 1979 model, water heater is early 80's and washer/dryer is probably mid 80's. They are not certified energy saver. My electricity averaged $85 for the past 12 months for 2 people and my heat pump is electric (use wood pellet stove for heat).

People talking savings and breakeven should list the cost of their kwh.
At best guess replacing your fridge would save you $10-20 pcm. On the basis that the average 1980 fridge burned 2000 kwhr pa (say $220 pa at 11 cents/ kwhr) and 500 kwhr pa now. That's consistent with what others have reported here. My fridge/ freezer, which is not the most efficient there is (full upright but probably about half the size of the average American one) burns 300 kwhr pa, just for reference.

If you switch your washer to a front loader again energy savings of c. 60%. However it all depends on how much you run your washer and with 2 people probably not enough to justify it (unless water is also very expensive where you live).

There are gains available on heat pumps and on water heaters, but they are unlikely to have reasonable payback periods.

I agree re $100 pcm is a huge number and hard to fathom on the mentioned changes.
Valuethinker
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by Valuethinker »

kazper wrote:After we bought our house, I had our water heater and washing machine both replaced with more energy efficient options (both electric). We received rebates from our county and tax credits from the govt.

To make things even better, replacing these two devices dropped our electricity bills by about $100 a month. It wasn't high to begin with, but within a year the "upgrade" has just about paid itself off :)

Try to figure out how much you might save by doing the switch and then take that into account when trying to make a decision. In some cases, it might not make much sense to switch until you do experience the worst case scenario.
As per other posters at current US average electricity prices ($11 cents/ kwhr avg) that's just a huge number, over 900 kwhr pcm. Houses that burn that much usually have heat pumps/ HVAC running constantly. Even double that price which would put you in New England and California rates it would still be 500 kwhr pcm.

If you live in Hawaii or California (sharply tiered electricity rates) perhaps that is comprehensible.

I suspect there was something wrong with the previous WH that was really burning juice.

A washing machine run on a top loader should be about 2.5 kwhr btw (just under 1 if an efficient front loader).
Jonathan
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by Jonathan »

While water heaters can genuinely merit replacement, water heaters "exploding" is a common plumber-hustle meme.

Sometimes a brand new item is no more or less likely to fail than something that has performed flawlessly for decades, especially if the older item was manufactured before planned obsolescence became the norm.

Battery-powered water alarm, <$10 each: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002Q8GRPG

I would use a water alarm even with a brand new water heater installed by a trusted plumber. We use them next to our water heater, behind our washing machine, under sinks, behind fridge (ice maker), under house, etc. They're very easy to test, and loud!

The other option is a device that, instead of sounding an alarm, will turn off the water flow to a water heater or washing machine when a leak is detected: http://www.amazon.com/Onsite-Washing-Ma ... B000GF5DR4

I've also heard of people using a second water heater tank to pre-stage the incoming water. Incoming cold water fills the first tank, which is not heated. The cold water in the first tank warms up to room temperature. Then someone uses hot water, and the second (heated) water heater tank draws new water from the first room temperature tank, rather than from the incoming cold water line. I'd be interested to know if anyone else has experience with that.
killjoy2012
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by killjoy2012 »

What people haven't talked much about in this thread is avg # of heat cycles per day. Saying "my HWH last 20 years" means nothing w/o understanding the typical daily hot water demand and heat cycles the unit sees. I'm single, no kids - I take 1 shower a day, and wash clothes once a week. I should expect to get a longer service life than someone else that's married with 4 young kids - 6 showers a day, 2 loads of clothes per day, etc.

Some asked about the benefit of flushing. Yes, you mainly do it flush out the sediment from the bottom of the tank. But, you should also be able to see signs of rust when doing that if your tank is rotting. If you see any signs of rust, I would preemptively replace the unit. And if you hear any weird popping noises when the unit is heating water, I would also look to replace it soon.

All traditional HWHs have an anode rod that is there to sacrifice itself before the water attacks the actual water tank itself. You should replace these rods every +/- 5 years. Yes, it is not easy... but much easier if you have an air-powered (or electric) impact wrench. It takes 15 minutes with the right tools. Most plumbers will not want to come out and do it since the job is a PITA w/o an impact wrench, and not worth their 30 minutes of labor bill time. They would much rather sell youa $1k HWH every 10 years.
roflwaffle wrote:Water heaters use a surprising amount of energy via just the pilot light, so the economics of going with something like tankless water heater aren't too bad. At $1/therm, I think my mom's used ~$10-15/month just for the pilot light, plus the burner/tank probably aren't very efficient.
Yea, but go price an equivalent tankless HWH. You're likely talking $2-4k installed vs. $750-$1k for a traditional. That cost difference pays for a lot of $10/month pilot light bills. Converting to tankless requires a lot more labor since you now need a new electrical home run to the unit, NG lines likely need to be upgraded and plumbed to the new unit, copper water lines need to be re-plumbed, etc. Also, in the case of a power outage or zombie apocalypse, with a traditonal HWH I have 50 gallons of hot, drinkable water in my house -- you have nothing with a tankless.
Valuethinker
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Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by Valuethinker »

Jonathan wrote:
Sometimes a brand new item is no more or less likely to fail than something that has performed flawlessly for decades, especially if the older item was manufactured before planned obsolescence became the norm.
.
Modern products often follow a 'bathtub curve' on reliability. That's normal for electronic components.

We pack so much onto a chip now that there are inevitable flaws in manufacture due to size, quantum mechanics etc.

So something goes wrong, it goes wrong *early*. Or beyond the normal life of the product. Hence the bathtub curve.

As to not lasting as long. Yes and no. You'd have to look at it product by product. With gas fired water heating appliances the addition of the condenser heat exchanger has reduced lifespan. A traditional cast iron British boiler (65% efficiency say) will last 25 years+. The new condensing ones (90% efficiency) with a stainless steel condenser will last 10-15 years at most. At my gas prices, that's a tradeoff worth taking (my retail gas prices are 2-3x American ones).
Luke Duke
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Location: Texas

Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by Luke Duke »

If you choose not to proactively replace your water heater, you may want to get one of these.

I bought a 3 pack and put one in my water heater pan because I had the same concerns that you have. Six months later I had a leak that was immediately detected. Since my water heater is in the attic, the detector saved me a lot of money.
jon-nyc
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Location: New York

Re: Proactively replace water heater?

Post by jon-nyc »

Ive had two different home inspectors say that, around here anyway, water heaters tend to last around 10 years. I moved in to a house with one that was 10 years old. I fully intended to swap it out before it went.

Then it went before i got around to it.

On thanksgiving night, when i had 6 overnight guests.

From now on i'll be a vigilant proactive replacer.
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