Advice on Water Heater Replacement

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by jrejre, Dec 23, 2004.

  1. jrejre

    jrejre New Member

    Messages:
    61
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Hi. My hot water heater is 12 years old now. I know what can happen when a heater fails and plan to replace it before it goes. That also gives me time to think about what best suits my needs and shop.

    I'd like opinions on what I am thinking. First of all, although I am not expert plumber, I have done plenty of handy homeowner work. I've repiped about 75% of my first home, relocated gas water heater, etc. Yet every place I call seems to insist that I shouldn't do this myself. Any idea why? The home is pretty new, has 4" gravity venting, fresh air source, etc.

    Secondly - I currently have a 50 gallon AO Smith 40K BTU unit. It has provided good service - with now problems other than the proverbial TP valve leak (I already replaced the valve). I have liked the AO Smith unit and have liked it better than (much) older Rheem units I've owned. I think I'd like to buy another AO Smith, but can't seem to find a local source other than contractors that want to install it too. As soon as I tell them I want to install it, the "unit alone" price is then almost the same as the installed price (clearly over priced). One of the local plumbing supply places will sell me direct, but carrys Bradford White. I've never owned a BW.

    Any opinions on AO Smith vs. Bradford (or other brands). I think I've figured out that there are now only 4 mfgs in the US, right?

    Next question... What type to buy. It's installed in an unfinished basement. Natural gas. 4" gravity vent already there although it would be easy to run horizontal PVC venting. We have 4 people normally here and pretty often have 1 or 2 house guests. We do run out of hot water pretty often. Not all the time... but, with 2 teenage girls that seem to shower forever... well, you know. All it takes is a shower or two while doing laundry or running the dishwasher and Dad (me) is left with a cold water shower. I am thinking about a 65 or 75 gallon NG unit. I would rather put the money into an efficient, long lasting unit. I also have a whirlpool tub that we use a few times/month that takes the whole 50 gallons.

    I'm thinking about the AO Smith ProMax plus High Recovery 50 or 65 gallon (60K/65K BTU) or maybe even going to a commercial model - the Cyclone XHE 120 gallon (smallest size for that model)

    http://www.hotwater.com/frame.html?topage=/RESIDENT/reshome.htm

    http://www.hotwater.com/frame.html?topage=/commercial/comhome.htm



    Any opinions on which unit would be best? Are the commercial units typically longer lasting in residential applications?

    Thanks for your help.
  2. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,812
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    wh

    Last question first. A commercial heater may last longer than a residential one, but if it doesn't they normally have much shorter warrranty periods than a residential model. Second, you might be hard pressed to find a commercial model with a 4" flue, and since the burner size is limited by the flue size, the commercial model would not provide any more hot water than the residential unit with the same btu input. With a 4" flue your maximum burner size will be about 75,000 btu. The reason they advise you not to install it yourself is that you may put the new one in exactly like the old one, but there is no guarantee that it was installed properly.
  3. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    1. Water heater manufacturers: Bradford White/A.O. Smith/Rheem/State/American Water Heater Co. It is true that A.O. Smith only is distributed to contractors.

    2. The reason many people will recommend against DIY: You have GAS, FLAMES, Carbon Monoxide, and water piping. A lot of things to go wrong. Some areas, here in San Diego for example, do allow a homeowner to pull a permit and do this themselves.

    3. If you want to change the venting, you have to check the specs on the unit you purchase. A "regular" model may only allow vertical ( over to 45º ) with metal flue, 6" clearance to combustible if single wall.

    4. There are a number of so-called high output models produced today. You need to do some shopping (on-line). You will have to balance the higher initial cost and higher energy costs ongoing vs. your overall need for hot water.

    [​IMG]
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2009
  4. LonnythePlumber

    LonnythePlumber Plumber, Contractor, Attorney

    Messages:
    319
    Location:
    Wichita, Kansas
    Fvir

    I want to point out that the residential heaters now are all Flammable Vapor Ignition Resistant (FVIR) and that brand loyalty in the past may not attach to the new systems. You may also want to shop what the different manufacturers say to do if your pilot goes out.
  5. jrejre

    jrejre New Member

    Messages:
    61
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Thanks for all the help/feedback.

    A few comments / follow on questions:

    Jimbo - I think State is now combined with AO Smith. Right? or??

    hj - the Commercial unit I mentioned (AO Smith Cyclone XHE) touts one of its' features as "flexible venting" - 3" or 4" PVC, ABS, or CPVC pipe is recommended. The Cyclone XHE vents vertically, horizontally and is also approved for direct vent sealed combustion applications. 50 ' max. using 3" pip and 120' max. using 4" pipe. Can also use traditional 4" gravity venting. Here's more info http://www.hotwater.com/Cyclone1.htm

    Lonny - any opinion on the best FVIR mfg right now. I'll have to weigh that in with the other factors.

    The plumbing supply places I have talked to have all seemed to dislike the new FVIR systems. The feedback is - that it's a good idea in concept, but not perfected. In my area (Minnesota), they also have said that they tend to be prone to clogging in basement installations. It seems to me like a typical California garage installation would be even more prone to clogging.

    Thanks again!
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2004
  6. LonnythePlumber

    LonnythePlumber Plumber, Contractor, Attorney

    Messages:
    319
    Location:
    Wichita, Kansas
    Too Early

    I think it's too early to tell which FVIR's will have less problems. We are starting to get more and more problems with the fuseable link thermocouples and gas valves but no particular manufacturer seems to be more or less prone. Also the problems in my area do not seem to be from lint clogging the combustion air openings.
  7. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,812
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    wh

    It looks like it will do the job, but from the specifications I would assume it costs a ton.
  8. jrejre

    jrejre New Member

    Messages:
    61
    Location:
    Minnesota
    hj - I just talked to the local building inspector after talking to my original HVAC contractor that put in the 4" vent when the home was built. It's rated upto 280,000 BTUs. I was concerned after your post about 75,000 being the maximum. ?? :confused:
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