Hot Water Heater Replacement and Necessary Parts

Discussion in 'Water Heater Forum, Tanks' started by SuperAcer99, Jun 1, 2010.

  1. SuperAcer99

    SuperAcer99 New Member

    Jun 1, 2010
    I spent a few hours researching 40 gallon electric hot water heaters and I have read a lot of complaints about the popular brands, and it seems like their quality has declined over the years. The water heater in question that I am thinking about replacing is a Rheem 40 gallon electric hot water heater from 1993 that is located in a closet/pantry type room on the second floor of a condo/apartment. Even though it is 17 years old, it has only had about 3 years of actual use and when the condo is vacant, the electricity to the hot water heater is turned off and so is the water it (I turn the handle so it is perpendicular to the pipe). The condo association's newsletters periodically encourage people to replace hot water heaters that are over 10 years old because some have burst or leaked when the owner was absent causing flooding and damage to adjacent units. Can a hot water heater "burst" or leak massively even when there is not power or water to it? I'm assuming the people who had problems did not turn the water or electricity off when they were absent and/or had a unit that was very old. Does age impact a hot water heater's usable life as equally as use? I know my unit was manufactured 17 years ago, but since it's only had about 3 years of actual use, I was wondering if I should use it for a few more years or replace it?

    The stories about owners' hot water heaters breaking and causing lots of $ damage to their units and those of their neighbors kind of has me worried about buying a mainstream brand and makes me lean toward buying a Rheem Marathon 40 gallon electric unit. I know they are expensive but it would be worry free since that unit has a no leak tank that is supposed to be impervious to rust and corrosion which is a great feature since the condo is in a high humidity/salt air area. That unit would truly be worry free and would probably last many decades. However, if turning off the water supply and electricity to the unit would prevent a burst or massive leak in my absence, then there probably isn't any real need for such a fancy water heater, which is why I wanted to ask the question in this forum.

    If the Marathon is overkill, then I would most likely buy a Bradford White electric unit and the associated connection parts necessary and then have a plumber or handyman install it. I hear electric hot water heaters are pretty simple to install compared to gas. What connection/installation parts do I need to purchase besides a pan, earthquake strap and a stainless steel flexible connection hose? The pipe/hose section of home improvement stores is overwhelming for a novice. I would like to buy quality materials that will not rust/corrode. I appreciate any suggestions. Thanks.
  2. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Aug 31, 2004
    San Diego, CA
    With the water supply to the house turned off, then any potential leak would be limited at maximum to the 40 gallons....not pretty, but probably not a disaster if it did happen. I do recommend turning off the main water any time a unit is vacant more than a day or so. I do that at home.

    With an electric, of course turn off the juice...and very important: before turning on the juice again, run a hot tap for few minutes to ensure the tank is full and any air is out.

    I would let your installer provide the necessary install materials.
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  4. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Aug 31, 2004
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    The Marathon type heaters have a "lifetime" guarantee, but that means they will supply a new heater when it starts to leak, NOT that it will NEVER leak. The tank may be rustfree, but the weak points are the connections into the tank. Most are gasketed and CAN fail. I had a customer who bought his house because it had one of those heaters in it. Two months later one of the connections started to leak. When he tried to collect on the "lifetime" warranty, he found out it only applied to the original purchaser. Having "stagnant" water in the tank is not ideal, but having NO WATER in it would be worse. It cannot flood if the water is turned off, AND you do not have one of the tub/shower valves which can backfeed cold water into the tank. As far as the "popular brands" are concerned, there are only a few manufacturers and EVERY heater comes from them regardless of the name on the label. If you were to do an investigation, you would discover that the "best" water heater company has the same number of failed heaters as the "worst" one. And the definition of best and worse will change depending on who you are talking to.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2010
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