Water Heater Disaster


Old 01-22-08, 06:43 PM
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Water Heater Disaster

I have a service where someone comes yearly to inspect the water heater, furnace, etc. The guy came a week ago and said that the build-up on the inside bottom of my water heater put it in danger of the bottom dropping out and flooding my whole basement. They called my house and said that it would cost $1400 to replace water heater. I know nothing about plumbing and went on line simply to decide what type of heater I should get for my $1400. As you all probably already know, the $1400 was about twice what it should have cost, including installation. Today, at work, someone said that I shouldn't replace the water heater unless there is something wrong with it. Does the bottom often drop out of a water heater, or does it simply start leaking like my friend at work said? The water heater is about 12 years old, and the $700 is doable, but I don't want to replace a water heater that works perfectly well unless there is a good reason to do so. Thanks.
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Old 01-22-08, 07:20 PM
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Dontcha love it when they do that? Figure $300 for a water heater, $30 for fittings and valves, and the rest goes in his pockets for a 2 or 3 hour job. Figure the hourly rate yourself. If it isn't leaking, hook a hose to the spigot on the bottom, turn the power/gas off to the heater, turn the water inlet valve off, run the hose to a drain or out the door and turn on the spigot. You may not get a real good flow at first, and it may be gooky. That's OK. Open the hot water valve on a tub or sink faucet to give the heater head air space. The water will flow more freely now. After the tank is empty, turn on the cold water inlet and let it partially fill the tank again, and drain it. You may have to do this a couple of times. Seal it back up and after it fills up with water, turn the power/gas back on. You should be ok. How old is the water heater, anyway? If you decide you need a new one, you can install it yourself. We are here to help.
Old 01-23-08, 03:03 AM
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$1400 seems a little high, but I've seen worse.

Often prices are given based on how hard of an install/removal it's going to be. Example, bringing it into a basement with no head room and a narrow set of stairs will be more expensive than walking it in to the first floor.

In addition to the cost of the heater, likely between $300 and $500 depending on what you're getting, there's man hour, vehicle, insurance and any other overhead costs. Then they will have to dispose of the old heater.

Being your water heater is 12 years old, it probably isn't a bad idea to think about replacing it as it's about the average life of a water heater. I've seen some go in less than 10 years and some last upward of 20 years (which is rare in my experience). Quality of water often dictates to how long the water heater will last.

As far as "the bottom dropping out"? Well, it's often not that dramatic, however, once they start leaking, it only gets worse. I've seen some water heaters start leaking with a trickle, only to flood out a week later. I've also seen some let go all at once where you will have a flood in no time. One thing that needs to be realized, when it starts leaking, you're not just going to have 30 or 40 gallons (the size of the heater) to contend with but you will have a continuous flow of water spilling out until the water supply is shut off.

If this happens and it goes unnoticed, I can almost guarantee that the $1400 spend now won't even begin to cover the water damage caused later.

Additionally, if you wait until you develop a problem, don't expect same day service on a replacement. I've seen water heaters go at the worse times causing great inconvenience to the customers.

Example: Christmas eve when it falls on a Thursday or Friday. Customer calls up my water heater is leaking. I explain to them all I can do is to shut off the water supply (and gas or electric) and nothing else would be able to be done until the following week as the supply houses are closed and there is no water heaters available until then. The customer then calls me every name in the book and demands I replace their water heater immediately as they are having company with a big holiday dinner, etc, etc, etc.

Mind you the specifics in the example are rare, it does happen.

You also have the option that some of the big box stores (Home Depot or Lowes) will do same day replacements if called before a certain time. Again, you're at the whim of store hours, store stock and the fact that I wouldn't want some of there service techs to even step foot in my house let alone do any work. I've seen what they do and it's not often pretty.

If I were in your shoes, having limited knowledge of plumbing, I would get one or two more estimates for replacing the water heater (many contractors should give free estimates) and consider having it replaced sooner than later before something happens.
Old 01-23-08, 10:15 AM
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For $1400 - that hot water heater better be in the attic of a 5 story building without an elevator/heat/cooling. If you can't DIY - get some estimates - both from the big box stores - and local plumbers. A hot water heater install isn't rocket science, in fact, it's one of the easier DIY plumbing jobs out there - though, in certain areas, a licensed plumber is required as is a permit.
Old 01-23-08, 10:39 AM
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Get another quote!!!

For the most part, plumbing is out of sight-out of mind. You are wise to spend a little and have things checked out. Preventative matinence with plumbing is crucial. As said, it could go in 20 years, or Christmas day 2008. If you have the funds, and it were my house, get a new one put in. In Northern Illinois, a reputable company will install (flat rate) a 40 gallon gas water heater between $600-$800. Good luck!
Old 01-23-08, 10:47 AM
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I think Id find another service company to call and use after they try this. 12 years old if you have hot water and no leaks let it alone.
Old 01-23-08, 11:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Ed Imeduc View Post
I think Id find another service company to call and use after they try this. 12 years old if you have hot water and no leaks let it alone.
Sorry, but I agree with Ed as well. I do have a "if it aint broke, dont fix it" mindset as well. Mull it over a while. In my experience...the bottoms just dont fall out. They get pinholes and leak when the water heater is being used because the holes get bigger, then contact when they cool down. Good luck!

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