Can replacement of older tank with tiny leak at top (anode) be delayed?

Discussion in 'Water Heater Forum, Tanks' started by JimNY, Jan 21, 2019.

  1. JimNY

    JimNY New Member

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    Jan 21, 2019
    Location:
    NY
    After poking around these great forums, pretty sure I can predict what the universal consensus will be because of the age of the tank - but money's really, really tight so I'll ask away:

    Gas AO Smith PGC75-250. Was a warranty replacement installed in mid-2003. Just noticed a "salty" residue line down the tank trailing from the anode plug, which itself feels like soggy mush to a finger (wet insulation?).

    So, guess the anode is far gone - is there any chance to keep it working and delay tank failure for a while?

    Asking because everything is expensive here (NYC). The full bill for the complete (basement) install by the usual plumbing-heating contractor 15 years ago was $1300 (and that was a warranty replacement tank). Since the usual number of people in the house has decreased, from 6 to 3, can probably get away with a smaller tank (50-60 Gal?), but imagine the total cost will be easily $2K+. (The house has elderly residents, so when it has to be replaced, will want a reliable tank, and not an energy "star" - and expect there are new safety and tech features which will decrease reliability and increase maintenance.)

    Thanks for any advice. (Probably just need a push in the expected direction. And a good credit score...)
     
  2. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    IL
    Replacing an anode now will not cure a leak.
     
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  4. phog

    phog Active Member

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    Jul 29, 2017
    Location:
    Rochester NY
    Hello Jim, when you start seeing leaks you are living on borrowed time. You are more likely to make things worse than better if you try to take the anode rod out or mess with any of the other fittings. The tank has corroded from the inside and is weakened, and torquing on things may cause it to finally let go all the way. I'm sorry for the bad news.

    When you are shopping for your next unit, you will probably be best served to look at a 50 gallon or smaller atmospheric vent gas water heater. There were changes in the federal efficiency standards a few years back, and now basically all gas water heaters in the 51-70 gallon range are power vent or condensing type units. Since your budget is tight you probably won't want to move to that, (even if they are a little cheaper to operate on a month-to-month basis), since the initial installation requires running new exhaust venting & will be much more expensive.

    But, they do still make atmospheric vent gas tank heaters in the 50 gallon & under range that can drop right in to your existing plumbing & flue venting. This is your cheapest way to go. And it will also be just as reliable as your old unit. On the downside you will have slower hot water recovery time & less reserve capacity, but with only 3 people in the house I don't think you'll have any issues. As long as no one takes 25 minute showers or fills the bathtub as part of their everyday routine.

    Good luck.
     
  5. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    Retired Systems engineer for defense industry.
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    New England
    A modern gas WH tends to be taller than the equivalently sized older tank. This is because all new ones require protection from vapor ignition (like from an idiot that stores paint thinner next to the WH). To do that, the burner area is taller and of a different design.

    Energy Star program items and minimum federal codes require all new WH to be more efficient than they were...primarily by using more or better insulation but better burners can help, too. That also can make the WH have a larger footprint, but should save money every month. The burner design is likely a bit more efficient than an old one, too.

    I have no idea about NYC, but many places have rebates that get bigger for installation of more efficient units that can sometimes offset some or all of the cost of going with a more efficient unit. You should talk to your utility or visit their website to check out the possibilities.

    Depending on where the WH is relative to outside and doors/windows that could restrict the locations, and the age and condition of the existing flue, it might be fairly cheap to replace the flue with a side vented intake and exhaust. Drawing in external air versus from inside of the dwelling means you're not sucking air through cracks so the burner can run so, you also save on heating and cooling costs.

    IN many places, installing a new WH may require the addition of a tempering valve if one doesn't already exist (may not be a great idea to reuse an old one even if it's there), and potentially, an expansion tank. If in the basement, you probably won't require a vacuum breaker, but none of those things may be in your existing install and may have to be accounted for on a replacement installation.
     
  6. Master Plumber Mark

    Master Plumber Mark Sensitivity trainer and plumber of mens souls

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    Sensitivity trainer.. and plumber of mens souls
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    Install a 50 gallon Rheem gas water heater... you dont need a 75 any more so
    It will probably run you around 1400

    you can also call the local home depot ans just ask them what a 50 rheem
    gas with installation would cost....

    I dont think you are gonna get hurt too badly
     
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  7. JimNY

    JimNY New Member

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    Jan 21, 2019
    Location:
    NY
    Thanks so much for the detailed information and advice.

    > look at a 50 gallon or smaller atmospheric vent gas water heater

    It's the first replacement experience when there will be any time for looking, asking questions, or even for quotes from more than one supplier/installer.

    Hope the apparently painful shortcomings from the early 2000s changes (FVIR/efficiency/safety) already have been resolved by current models...

    > they do still make atmospheric vent gas tank heaters…that can drop right in to your existing plumbing & flue venting
    > A modern gas WH tends to be taller than the ... older tank… side vented intake and exhaus
    t

    It's a wide area but low ceiling (~77") so height may be an issue. And located exactly opposite the exterior wall past an interior wall (semi-detached) so powered venting would not be easy.

    The previous installer pretty-much reused all connections including the ductwork, but the taller warranty replacement meant a slight negative slope (the chimney, shared with the steam boiler, has a very strong draft according to a sweep).

    The current tank alone is ~58" (including feet which elevate off the ground ~ 2") + an additional 5" more to the vent (so ~63" floor to vent). Connections at top. No expansion tank. One backflow preventer in cold-water path to steam-boiler input.

    AO Smith seems most common around here, but would imagine other national brands like Rheem are too.

    From their website, looks like AO Smith residential is now called ProLine (6yr), and ProLine Master (8yr) - but suppose installers might have more options. (May not be reading all those AO Smith product-preserver "news" releases correctly, but doubt they switched all models to powered anodes - it's probably some sort of option or add-on.)

    > rebates
    Looks like rebates are probably not available here for standard tanks. (The least restrictive/smallest $ reads "Energy Star Rated Stand Alone Water Heater 40 gallon or greater and > 0.64 Uniform Energy Factor" - and it doesn't appear as if any traditional models get an Energy Star rating whatever the UEF.)

    > call the local home depot
    Didn't realize they installed what they sold. Hadn't really considered Home Depot/Lowes since they've only in recent years managed to get a few stores into the city - but they are here now.

    Thanks again to all.
     
  8. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    The big box installers are not generally employees, they are contractors that have an agreement with the store to provide services. You may find them deciding that what they need to do exceeds the 'normal' install, and after viewing, they may require an upcharge. Sometimes, they are a good deal, sometimes, they're not. That's usually in the fine print most people don't read. A plumber may end up doing the same thing, but many of them will have a fixed charge and stick to it. Sometimes, that's a good deal if they run into issues, sometimes, it's not. Some of the bigger companies rely on a master plumber's license, and the people actually doing the job don't have one. My guess is that NYC probably calls for a plumbing permit and an inspection, but you'll probably find most of the installers do the work without one. That can be a check against a bad install, but some inspectors are just paper pushers, not inspectors but revenue collectors that don't do much of anything.
     
  9. phog

    phog Active Member

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    Location:
    Rochester NY
    Hi Jim, I think you'll not have any problem finding a replacement that fits in that space. 58-60" to the flue connection seems to be roughly the height of most "tall" 50 gallon atmospheric gas water heaters these days. If you opt for the standard/short height it's usually 6-10" shorter than that.

    The problems from the 2000's with FVIR etc have been largely resolved.

    Also, the advertised tank life is usually just a warranty period -- aka the 6-yr or 9-yr Rheem will be physically identical, just one has a longer warranty. I have heard that some 12-yr tanks do come with 2 anodes installed instead of one, but I can't verify this. Maybe someone else can speak on it. Anyway if you're looking for the best value & wondering whether spending a few extra bucks will give you a more heavy duty tank, it won't, you're just buying a longer warranty.
     
  10. JimNY

    JimNY New Member

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    Jan 21, 2019
    Location:
    NY
    Really appreciate your spending time to educate new forum participants.

    > contractors that have an agreement with the store to provide services…inspection
    Interesting. They hook you up with an installer for things they sell, but don't directly employ. Don't recall any being done last time, but 1 and 2 family homes here are exempt from all sorts of permits and inspections - so far…

    > tall...[vs.]...short height…usually 6-10" shorter
    I see each brand does have a couple of short models. Water connections come down from the ceiling. Will consult the (eventual) supplier/installer on height selection.

    > problems from the 2000's with FVIR etc have been largely resolved.

    Now that is good news. I remember some disturbing stories.

    > warranty period … physically identical
    The reality of the warranty is certainly something to consider. Also have to factor that removal of the old, transport, and installation of the new, likely totals more than the cost of the tank itself here.

    Manufacturers don't seem to be very explicit, but did see a few warranty reviews online. For example one comparison says a certain Rheem 10 yr consists of a 2nd anode (to install at the hot water outlet nipple)+a sticker, whereas a certain Bradford White 10 yr is simply a sticker. Others sometimes describe a difference in sacrificial anodes between model-lines like "A. O. Smith ProLine Master Series has increased anode protection with either larger or multiple anodes depending on model".
     
  11. Master Plumber Mark

    Master Plumber Mark Sensitivity trainer and plumber of mens souls

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    For gods sakes .... its only a frigging water heater....
    you are making it sound like its going on the next space
    shuttle to mars....or going in a kidney dialysis facility

    call around and get some prices.... you are going to be fine.....
    take some deep breaths
     
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  12. JimNY

    JimNY New Member

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    Jan 21, 2019
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    NY
    You kill me :D That Dutch-uncle life-coach perspective is going to make me quit procrastinating. I'll try to post back here after it's all done in case the particulars are of interest to others.

    Thanks to all.
     
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  13. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    Retired Systems engineer for defense industry.
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    New England
    You'll find that there are very few actual WH manufacturers out there, and that they build and brand for (usually) a lot more than themselves, so differences in brands, depending on which ones you choose, may actually be identical under the hood.

    You'll find people that will disagree, but it seems that Rheem and Bradford White tend to get some better reps than most others. It's still sort of the luck of the draw, though.
     
  14. JimNY

    JimNY New Member

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    NY
    Reporting cost/install detail (2019), in case anyone is comparing local pricing/services. The best complete total from a known local plumbing/HVAC contractor was ~$2100. Quotes ran as high as $2800. An AO Smith Professional XCG-50 400 was installed, again with welded (not flexible) hot/cold input/output. Was informed that in this install, inspection by gas-company before firing-up was not required as no gas piping (all rigid) was modified - that is the same terminating pipe was disconnected from the old, then directly re-connected to the new unit. The smaller capacity replacement tank physically appears a bit taller, and thinner, but as expected the supply of hot water has been fine for the number of people in the household.
     
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  15. Master Plumber Mark

    Master Plumber Mark Sensitivity trainer and plumber of mens souls

    Joined:
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    Sensitivity trainer.. and plumber of mens souls
    Location:
    indianapolis indiana - land of the free, home of
    You did ok on the price for NYC.....
    I just installed a Rheem 50 power vent today for 2400 with a 10 year warranty
    on the second floor of a home.... your unit is in the ballpark for price

    good luck
     
  16. dj2

    dj2 In the Trades

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    That was an ordeal.
     
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