Expansion tank for water heater

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by mar3232, Dec 21, 2013.

  1. mar3232

    mar3232 Member

    Messages:
    108
    Location:
    Indiana
    My Mother lives in a condo complex built 10 years ago and the water heater is shot.

    We have a home warranty that will cover parts and labor to replace the water heater itself but the tech who came out wrote up 495 bucks worth of additional costs including an "expansion tank".

    My realtor said that's hogwash -- there is no expansion tank in there now, we're on city water and my guess is, no one else in the complex is using an expansion tank but I will check on that Monday.

    It's a gas water heater and seems to me if they can find an exact fit model (which I realize may be tough) then it would be a cinch to somply replace it. (I'm going over there today and get the model number to see if they still exist, or at least a model with the same fittings locations). (The old heater was built in 2003).

    What is the deal with the expansion tank? Are they now required by code or something? I live in Indiana.

    Thanks.
  2. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,146
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    If you have a separate water meter, and it's check valved, then yes the expansion tank is required. That became a requirement when they started added check valves at the meters. It makes the water heaters last longer. We charge $99 to install one at the same time with the water heater replacement.
  3. mar3232

    mar3232 Member

    Messages:
    108
    Location:
    Indiana
    Thanks Terry -- so I'll ask about the check valve and your 99 bucks is what I should expect to pay -- would think with a home warranty that the cost should also include requirements for code because in essence what they're saying is "we can replace you water heater and cover labor and parts".

    "but for it to be legal we need to charge ......." !

    sounds rather contradictory doesn't it? not to mention ridiculous.
  4. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,146
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    We price the two of them separately.
    Sometimes the expansion tank is placed on the cold water side and has already been done. They won't know until you tell them that the expansion tank isn't there.
    It's common for some shops to charge more for earthquake strapping, redoing relief lines if needed. Perhaps a stand for the water heater or work on the venting.

    You can't tell until you look whether you want to marry that gal. :)
  5. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,873
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    quote; but the tech who came out wrote up 495 bucks

    The warranty company pays them a minimum amount to change the water heater, then they ALL add the "necessary changes" in order to make a profit. When mine went bad a few months ago, the company from the warranty company also tried to add charges to it. Rerouting the T&P valve line $85.00 although it would only be 2" from the existing drop line, $90.00 for a new gas flex line, and 80.00 for a 3x4 flue increaser even after I explained to him that the new heater already had a 3x4 increase on the draft hood. HE also tried to add $140.00 for an expansion tank and $80.00 for a water heater pan. I told him to do the basic installation and I would make the gas, T&P, and vent hookups, but he said his company required that he did everything. I told him in that case don't do anything and I will have the company pay me to do it myself, which I did. I had asked him HOW he hooked up any water heaters if those three items were not included, but he couldn't answer me. When HD or any other company, such as your warranty plumber, low balls the installation costs, you WILL be hit with additional charges that will increase it PAST what an independent contractor would have charges.
  6. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,146
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    I love your post hj.

    We too charge what it takes to do a basic water heater install.
    We expect to install new flex lines, connect the relief within reasonable distance, strap it and connect the vent.
    If it needs expansion, that's an add.

    The installers that post the low-ball price, lower than what I would have done, but when they get out there, OMG, it needs to be connected to the plumbing, that will cost you lady! What??
    That seems like a bait and switch.

    Our basic install, actually installs a water heater.
    We plug in enough to make it worth our time, and don't play the add, add, add game.
    We also sell better heaters than the box stores. At least that's how it looks considering how many box store water heaters we have been pulling out lately.
  7. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,873
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    qutoe; That seems like a bait and switch.

    Not much different than the contractors who charge $50.00 to show up and then give an inflated estimate, knowing that the majority of people will accept it since they already have $50.00 invested, (and the "guy" is already there ready to do the work), and it will be rebated against the price of the job. Otherwise, they have to add the $50.00 to the price any one else proposes to come up with a "total price of the job", so the "other company" has to be at least $50.00 cheaper to make it economically feasible to get the job.
  8. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,362
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    The short answer on the need for an expansion tank is this. If you have a "closed system" which is caused by either a pressure reducing valve (PRV) or a water meter that has a check valve build in, you need an expansion tank. Heated water expands and with a closed system, this expansion can not be absorbed by the city main. This results in the T/P valve on the water heater to open are release water when the pressure in the tank reaches the T/P limit.
  9. mar3232

    mar3232 Member

    Messages:
    108
    Location:
    Indiana
    So --

    In an EXISTING installation where there is NO expansion tank and was built in 2003, unless it's required by code there is no need to install one. I'm linking the home warranty company to all of this.

    If it IS required by code then the home warranty company is saying exactly this --

    "We'll pay for a new water heater and it's installation (less my 100 deductible)" ......
    "But it won't be legal"


    Sounds kind of ludicrous, doesn't it?
  10. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,873
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    quote; "We'll pay for a new water heater and it's installation (less my 100 deductible)" ......
    "But it won't be legal"
    1. they only "reproduce" what is there;
    2. A reputable company will NOT make and "illegal" installation
    3. The warranty company has no control over any requirements introduced after the original installation
    4. Reputable companies will NOT try to sell you anything that is NOT required to give you a legal installation,
    5. Disreputable companies will try to take advantage of your trust and WILL try to "sell" you stuff that should be included in a standard installation. (In their eyes there are no standard installations, and have never been.
  11. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Messages:
    1,901
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Just call the plumbing inspector (building inspector) in your jurisdiction and find out what's required and when.

    PS Enough with the "ludicrous". What's being proposed by your insurer is not a great deal but of itself it isn't outrageous. What's outrageous is the prices that the techs are putting on the items that they believe need to be added. And that's them, not your warranty company.
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2013
  12. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,362
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    FWIW an expansion tank installation is child's play. The water line is cut and a tee is installed to rejoin the line. On the other end of the tee, a couple of simple fittings are sweat on which include an adapter that is furnished with the tank. The tank is then screwed onto that adapter and the job is done. The tank does have to be well supported and the pressure in the tank matched to the PRV setting, but this too is very easy. If the plumber is already there to install the heater, this should not add very much to the bottom line, but if you can sweat a joint, (that's sweat not smoke) it's a simple enough DIY. Now, it is possible that you do not need the tank, but that you will have to determine as others have suggested.
  13. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,180
    Location:
    New England
    Bottom line, some places require an expansion tank, regardless. Other than the initial cost (not really all that much), and that they do eventually fail (cheap to replace), it doesn't hurt any installation to have one there. If you need one, and while you may not right now, if they require one, it is likely that sometime down the road, the utility will service or replace the meter and then you WILL need one, so it is being done as a prep so they don't' have lots of calls coming in complaining that their WH T&P valves are now weeping.

    When they do fail, they become full of water, so, say it has a 4-gallon volume, that's nearly 40#...that's why you need to support it, not so much when new, but for when it fails.
  14. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,873
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    quote; so it is being done as a prep so they don't' have lots of calls coming in complaining that their WH T&P valves are now weeping.

    If it didn't do it with the old one, it should not happen with the new one.
  15. mar3232

    mar3232 Member

    Messages:
    108
    Location:
    Indiana
    3. The warranty company has no control over any requirements introduced after the original installation

    but they should. what's the point in paying for the insurance then, from a consumer's view?

    they wanted my 100 deductible PLUS 495 to replace the 2003 water heater. (and that's just my share !) add the water heater and labor cost to that.
    *&%k 'em -- (I'll end up doing it myself with a licensed buddy for the cost of the water heater and a pizza -- < 300 bucks).

    they need to cover the cost of any updates in code as well or it's really in essence -- just a LIE.
  16. mar3232

    mar3232 Member

    Messages:
    108
    Location:
    Indiana
    do you suppose in all the rebuilding they're doing on the jersey shore, insurance companies are asking the consumer to pay the extra cost of new code requirements to build the homes on much higher foundations?

    i can think of other examples also.
  17. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,873
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    quote; my 100 deductible PLUS 495 to replace the 2003 water heater.

    With a legitimate company, that IS almost the cost of just replacing a water heater. The company you are referring to is getting the standard fee from the warranty company, and then trying to milk you for as much additional money as they can get out of you. Tell the warranty company you want to get your own plumber and have them send you the amount they would have paid the plumber, if you want to do it yourself, assuming YOU CAN do it properly.
  18. mar3232

    mar3232 Member

    Messages:
    108
    Location:
    Indiana
    just to complete the thread, I just talked to a local plumber (my zip code) and he told me the expansion tank is NOT required by code.

    the guy is "upselling" the job so he can make a profit on the home warranty situation.

    upselling is NOT in my vocabulary.

    thanks for the feedback however. -- great forum.
  19. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,362
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    We've kick the can down the street and back on this, but what it comes down to is simply this. IF you do not have a closed system, you do not need an expansion tank. The water main will absorb the expansion. IF the T/P opens periodically and your system is NOT closed, then replace the T/P. IF the T/P opens periodically and your system IS closed, this is a sign you need a tank.
  20. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,180
    Location:
    New England
    I'll add one thing to Gary's summary...an ET is also required if your local codes require it, regardless of whether your system is open or closed at the moment (this would be in preparation for planned installation of closed supplies). There are safety considerations regarding keeping the public water supply safe...check valves are likely to be in your future, and they may be requiring the ET to make it more seamless for the homeowner so they don't get a rash of angry people when it does happen because all of a sudden, their WH are leaking from the T&P valve.
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