Allentown Plumbing: When to Replace a Water Heater

Replacing a water heater is easy. They are light when empty.
They are not cheap. Home center may post an installation price of $200 or so in addition to the cost of the unit. However, when the installer comes to your house, he may (will) find several items that need to be corrected AND WILL CHARGE YOU for them. It doesn’t matter if its been working just fine for 30 years. You will pay for new venting, shut offs, electric service, gas lines, physical access, fittings, down tube for pressure relief valve, drain pan and drain lines, expansion tank, permits, testing, platform if installed in a garage, strapping in earthquake zone (what you have won’t be good enough) and every other code requirement, whether you like it or not.

BTW If any water or steam whatsoever comes out of the Temperature and Pressure relief Safety Valve, something is wrong and needs to be corrected immediately. The water could be boiling and producing steam. The down tube is required just in case there is a failure and steam blows out of there, the steam does not scald you. The down tube serves no other function and is a safety requirement. Of course, to be injured, you would have to be standing right there when the failure occurred. In some areas, building codes require this to be piped outside to save property from water damage in the event of a failure. If water is occasionally spitting out of this safety valve, you may need to install a thermal expansion tank.

Modern water heaters are well insulated and a thin blanket of insulation wrapped around the outside of the unit will do little to save any energy. Kind of a gimmick. A person installs the blanket then uses less hot water because they are conscious of the expense. There’s the savings. Installing an expensive timer to turn on/off an electric water heater is Third World and can greatly reduce the convenience of having hot water available when you need it. Worse yet, these timers are often poorly installed by home owners and create a real safety hazard. The temperature and on/off cycle is controlled by a thermostat. Turning down the water temp by a couple degrees would be a better option for energy conservation. This tank stores hot water all night and does not kick on until the first shower is taken in the morning.

A proper flexible water line connector has a rubber washer at the mating surface and a plastic sleeve under the flare nut. This breaks the copper pipe to steel tank contact and can greatly reduce galvanic corrosion of the dissimilar metals, which essentially dissolves your water heater. They also provide an important thermal break to reduce heat conducting out of the tank and radiating out of the pipes even when the water is not flowing. The connectors cost about 10 bucks each and are often skipped to save the installer’s money. In the video, I reused some copper pipe for the down tube. I replaced it the next day with CPVC to reduce heat dissipation. I also installed the in/out pipe insulation pieces that came with the new heater. If you want the best efficiency, install these items.

You may find an information sheet at the home center near the water heater display that is a comparison chart for every model they carry. I found it handy. Just because a certain model cost $500 more, doesn’t mean it is $500 better. I care not whether the drain valve is brass or plastic (plastic will radiate less stored heat) or if the recovery time is 5 minutes less etc. It just makes hot water. This is a 50 gallon coffee pot. Spent $400 plus some fittings and valves.
Good Luck.

Some people don’t like the term “hot water heater”.
They say,
“You don’t need to heat, hot water”.
Funny.
I say,
“If the water heater is cold,
it is broken”.