Should I replace my rental water heater and how?

Discussion in 'Water Heater Forum, Tanks' started by jfm, Jan 12, 2014.

  1. jfm

    jfm New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Newburyport, MA
    We have an ancient 100 or 120 gallon cement-lined electric water heater which we rent from the electric company. I am trying to decide if it is worth replacing it (I don't think it will ever die…must be 35 years old by now), and if so, how to get the sucker out of the basement (up stairs through a bulkhead, over a deck, etc).

    The tank is probably overkill for 4 people including 2 teens who will be leaving home in the next few years. It represents half of our electric bill (so costs about $75/month to run plus $13 rental fee). Would a new, smaller electric tank be considerably more efficient or is an electric tank always going to be costly? (We have oil heat; solar is not an option and I don't believe the cost of bringing natural gas in for the water heater would be worth it).

    If it is worth biting the bullet & replacing it, any suggestions for getting rid of the old one? The electric company will not remove it. I'm getting an estimate from a junk hauler but he sounded dubious over the phone. Our basement is small so I'd rather not leave the old one in place.

    Thanks!
  2. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,843
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    Good luck with that. A 35 year old 120 gallon heater probably has so much limescale buildup that you'd never be able to move it without cutting it up.

    Decades ago in a rental, they had abandoned an old water heater that was heavy from limescale buildup. I asked the landlord to remove it. It took four strong men to get it up the stairs and I was surprised the stairs didn't collapse.
  3. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,315
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    The electricity heats the water you use, regardless of the tank's size, so the bill will probably not change significantly regardless of the heater's size. Have whoever installs the new one remove it, regardless of what it costs.
  4. jfm

    jfm New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Newburyport, MA
    Ouch, that is not encouraging...but not surprising either. Maybe I should just sell the house before the water heater breaks!
  5. Reach4

    Reach4 Active Member

    Messages:
    1,944
    Location:
    IL
    I wonder how you come up with your estimate of the power consumption. The power consumed beyond the water you use is what comes through the top, sides, and bottom of the heater. Have you considered insulating the sides and top?
  6. Soapm

    Soapm New Member

    Messages:
    50
    Location:
    Aurora, CO
    $13 times 35 years, I'd replace it just to save rental fee ROFL...
  7. Reach4

    Reach4 Active Member

    Messages:
    1,944
    Location:
    IL
    What happens if you "stop" the rental? They say it is your problem to get rid of. Then just continue using it until it breaks or your neighbor brings over a jackhammer.

    If you have natural gas available, that would argue strongly toward replacing it with gas.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2014
  8. jfm

    jfm New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Newburyport, MA
    Very good questions, Reach4. When I bought the house, Mass Electric handled the water heater rental. The previous owners had set up a control agreement w/ Mass Electric to only operate the water heater during specified hours, resulting in a monthly credit. So I *thought* the electricity used on the water heater was a separate line item on the old bill, and that was how I figured that the electricity to heat the water was half of my bill. However, now I can't find that on the old bills (yes, I still have bills from 1994 when I bought the house...is it any wonder I haven't replaced the still-functional monster yet?), so maybe I've been saying that in error all these years.

    The current rental agreement says that I have to provide proof of purchase of a new water heater in order to stop the rental program. Not sure what would happen if I just stopped paying it...also not sure it's worth the risk to my credit rating.

    I do have an insulating jacket on the water heater, by the way.
  9. jfm

    jfm New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Newburyport, MA
    Soapm-- When I bought the house 19 years ago, the rental fee ($7/month) was offset by a $7.50 credit for allowing the electric company to control the hours of operation of the water heater. Over the years, the rental fee has crept up and at some point, the credit disappeared. So it's not quite that bad...but I try not to think about that ~$150/year too often...
  10. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,843
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    35 years is a long time for a heater to last and 35 years of paying rent = ouch. There is not that much to go wrong with an electric, short of the tank rusting out, so repairs are reasonable.

    My first gas water heater rusted out after 10 years. I chose to rent the replacement as rent is cheaper than replacing every 10 years. There was no installation cost with a rental.

    Also, limescale buildup affects a gas heater more than electric so would not want to keep it for 35 years. Servicing a gas unit is much more expensive as well. Since installing the rental, I've had the repair guy out twice for ECO issues and the rental company paid for both repairs. If it were out of my pocket, the two repairs would have been as much as the purchase price.

    So to sum it up... purchase price + installation + two repairs = way more than 10 years of rent. Also, future repairs and/or replacement are free.
  11. Bobelectric

    Bobelectric Electrical Contractor

    Messages:
    38
    Location:
    Eighty Four,Pa. 15330
    I would call them and say I'm done renting and get your water heater out of my house.
  12. Belmondo

    Belmondo New Member

    Messages:
    30
    Location:
    New Jersey
    If your oil heat is a hydronic boiler, you could easily replace the WH with an indirect tank on your boiler. Oil has got to be significantly cheaper per BTU than electric in MA. And if you convert your boiler to NG, you're even in better shape.
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2014
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