Gas-fired HWH - new install

Discussion in 'Water Heater Forum, Tanks' started by cgs878, Sep 11, 2012.

  1. cgs878

    cgs878 New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Bellmore NY
    Hello all...

    My home had a fire last year, and everything was gutted & rebuilt. Now, I'm in the process of converting from oil to gas. I need a stand-alone gas-fired hot water heater to be installed in my basement (since there's already a combination furnace & A/C unit in my attic, installed by the contractor).

    I have two estimates from a local plumber for a complete "rip out the old & install the new" job (in Nassau County, Long Island, NY):

    Estimate #1:
    1- remove & dispose of the old oil burner & boiler, including all connected pipes and vents
    2- "cap off" (whatever that means) the exterior wall chimney hole
    3- install a new plastic PVC vent pipe through the exterior wall
    4- install a new AO Smith GPHE-50 (65,000 BTU) gas-fired power vented water heater
    5- install a new thermal expansion tank on the cold water inlet piping to the heater
    6- install the gas connection + hot & cold water piping connections to the water heater
    7- start, test, and adjust the new installation

    Price is $3495 + tax or signed capital improvement form.

    Estimate #2:
    Same as #1 except:
    3- install a new stainless steel chimney liner for the new water heater vent pipe.
    4- install a new AO Smith GCVX-50 (65,000 BTU) gas-fired water heater

    Price is $2490 + tax or signed capital improvement form.

    I think the prices are outrageous, but then I'm a lay person who knows nothing about blue collar work and what's being charged these days. I need this done ASAP so that I can move back into my house by the end of September. My contractor's plumbers are hard to track down/find (basically, they do whatever work they want to, on their own schedule, and aren't held accountable by the contractor), so I can't and won't use them to do the work. I've had 2 other plumbers refuse to give me an estimate, siting "ethical and/or legal reasons" why they won't even consider the job. They say that the contractor's plumbers should do it since they are on record for the plumbing permit with my Town.

    So... what else can I do besides go with one of those estimates? Are those estimates reasonable, or am I being taken advantage of because I need this done ASAP?

    Thanks for all opinions...


    - Chris S.
  2. Dana

    Dana In the trades

    Messages:
    2,930
    Location:
    01609
    Estimate #2 is a $600-700 unit, but has another ~$200-$500 or more of parts-cost for stainless liner. The liner is necessary to avoid "orphaned water heater" degradation of the chimney, and under no circumstances would you be able to use the chimney without a stainless liner- the water heater doesn't put enough heat into the wider flue to avoid corrosive condensation, and the chimney WOULD begin to fall apart within a decade or so. It's not a cheap tank, not a cheap liner, call it about a grand in component cost, give or take. But going with an atmospheric drafted appliance of any type in new, tight construction comes with a backdrafting risk if the house is as tight as you'd WANT it to be for space-heating energy efficiency. But figure they're charging ~$1500 to install it.

    Estimate #1 is for a much higher efficiency condensing water heater that costs about a grand more than the other, and delivers more first-hour gallons to boot. It's power drafted, with no risk of backdrafting and isn't sucking in outdoor air 24/365 just sitting there. There may be state/local efficiency rebate type money available to help offset the cost too. The quote seems a bit on the high side, but not necessarily an outrageous gouge for a heater that runs ~$1600-1700 f.o.b. the distributor's warehouse. PVC venting is dirt-cheap compared to stainless steel, but it too takes time to install. The total parts costs here would be running a bit shy of 2 grand when you add it all up, with a bit more than $1500 of installation cost.

    In either case the contractor is risking some money up front unless you're paying for it up front. I'm not sure what plumbers charge per hour on L.I., but neither of those quotes are ridiculously "over the top", if a bit more expensive than what it would be in central MA. It's going to tie up 1-2 guys and a truck for the better part of a day, but it's probably not more than 10 man-hours of labor, maybe not even 8, depending.

    By "cap off" I'd presume to mean they're sealing up the port to the chimney the previous water heater had used so that it isn't sucking air 24/365 and providing a flyway for birds, bats, squirrels etc. into your house.
  3. cgs878

    cgs878 New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Bellmore NY
    OK, Dana... thanks for the analysis. I hate being a "bad consumer" and going with whatever quote I'm given without doing research (which I have done) and getting opinions.

    Should I insist on stainless steel venting instead of PVC? Would it be more efficient or sturdier to have stainless instead of PVC?
  4. Dana

    Dana In the trades

    Messages:
    2,930
    Location:
    01609
    PVC venting is appropriate for with a condensing hot water heater, since the exhaust temp is comparatively quite low (well below the melting point of the polymer), and PVC is quite tolerant of the acidity of any condensation that occurs in the venting (as opposed to the heat exchanger, where it would have added even more to the efficiency.) While stainless venting would be OK, it's 10x the cost (or more).

    Stainless flue liners are called for on atmospheric-drafted units because the exhaust gases are hotter than PVC would tolerate, yet the stainless is still tolerant of gas-exhaust condensation. If there wasn't a long chimney to line you could get away with much cheaper galvanized B-vent, but that would corrode quickly in an chimney. You can't just vent a hot water tank into a chimney designed for much bigger burners without a narrowing, and condensation-tolerant liner or it will compromise the structural integrity of the chimney.
  5. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,873
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    IT appears to be a "power vent" heater, not a "sealed combustion" one, so it will still take combustion air from the building. WIthout seeing your situation, we are just guessing, but on the surface, it looks like either one will be very profitable for the installer. In most cases, it is not a good idea to mix contractors. Wait until the first one is done, then contact other plumbers.
  6. Dana

    Dana In the trades

    Messages:
    2,930
    Location:
    01609
    I wouldn't hazard a guess as to the actual profit margin. Suburban Long Island is a high labor cost & high overhead-cost market even compared to Boston or central MA. Yes it's on the rich side, but not 2x what it would cost in central MA. I'm sure there are markets where the installation part of the quote would run under $500, but that wouldn't be very likely on L.I. (except maybe with undocumented non-citizen labor.) They're not moving to the Hamptons on their margins anytime soon, but I'm sure not going broke at those rates either.

    Power vented appliances only suck air from the building during a burn, and don't convect 24/365 the way atmospheric drafted units do. Whether that's an important enough factor to make a practical difference depends on how tight the new construction is.
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