Replace water heater early?

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Mi Fago

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Hi everyone,

I have a Bradford White heater that is just a few months short of being 12 years old. I'm going to change my furnace soon, and it requires disconnecting and moving the water heater to get enough room to change the furnace, and then the water heater will be put back where it was.

The contractor is telling me that I should be changing the water heater since it's old and moving it will result in leaks with high certainty. The thing is the heater has no signs of damage, there is no rust, no heating issues, no weird sounds, no leaks, all normal. Googling longevity of Bradford White heaters I see they last around 15 years on average.

Does it make sense to change the water heater now, even though it has no signs of damage? Is it true that disconnecting it and reinstalling it will likely damage it?
 
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In one sense, labor costs mean a new heater is cheap, but installing it is expensive.

On the other hand, change the anode rod (and dip tube) in the heater, and you can extend the life perhaps by 50%.
 

jadnashua

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Most WH have a factory warranty of around 6-years. If it's an electric WH, it could last a lot longer, but not likely. If it's a gas one, you're on borrowed time. Personally, I'd put in a new one since the labor is likely to actually be cheaper than reinstalling what you have, then paying to replace it when it does fail, especially if you have to move some things, which would be likely...potentially a new plumbing permit and costs, too, that would likely be covered.

Most tanks are coated with a thin layer of glass. As they age, the glass coating is not perfect, and the anode helps to slow the corrosion, but most people don't change the anode rods when they decay...if you've never replaced yours, definitely, I'd replace the WH now. Unless you have really soft water, there will be some mineral deposits inside that decrease the volume, slow the heat transfer, and new WH, at least in the USA (and Canada tends to follow fairly closely) will be more efficient.
 

Mi Fago

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Thanks for the replies. It's a gas one, then I'm guessing because of low usage and good water around here it hasn't broken yet. Water around here is very soft, 0.15-0.67 hardness grains per gallon.

The contractor isn't offering a discount to do both, even though he has to take the heater out anyway for installing the furnace. Regardless, I'll look into replacing it since it's more trouble later.
 
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The contractor isn't offering a discount to do both, even though he has to take the heater out anyway for installing the furnace. Regardless, I'll look into replacing it since it's more trouble later.

As a middle ground you could have the contractor take the old anode rod out, after removing the old tank. It just requires an impact tool and socket. Then you'd know how soft your water was, and how close the old tank was to death...
 

Master Plumber Mark

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You should just man up and change the heater while the work is being done....

Either way it will probably not like being moved and re-installed again... it probably will hurt
the heater as it is at the end of its life anyway... You are wise just to change it now or you will
most likely be changeing it out by Easter of next year... that is how it will probably work out
 

dj2

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Changing it now means you are changing it on your own terms, and not when it fails on you when you don't have the time to replace it, or worse...when you're out of town.
 

DIYorBust

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If the water heater needs to be disconnected from the gas and water, you may as well just install a new one. The labor should be about the same, and you got a good life out of the old heater. I'd do it.
 

Tuttles Revenge

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I look at the need to change a water heater by the amount of risk a leak from that tank poses. If the tank is inside of a condo the risk is high. If the tank is in a garage with a pan, then the risk is low. Most tanks don't explode when they fail, they usually seep a bit of water for a long time.

If your tank is low risk of harm and it has a pan, install an alarm and or a flood stop device. That way if and when it fails (all water heaters fail at some point) you will get an annoying warning and the water will shut off.
 

Terry

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It was never mentioned whether this was a gas or an electric tank. The condo associations I work with require replacement of electric water heaters at 10 years.
Gas water heaters tend to have a shorter lifespan that electrics. There is the tube in the center, weld joints top and bottom and the water pressure that flexes the tube as the pressure goes up and down. It's why we have expansion tanks to lesson the effects of that.
I have seen gas water heater fail at 7 years and some last as long as 22 years. I see most lasting about 15 years in a perfect world.
Most of the expense to replace a gas water heater is the labor. Does it make sense to keep the old one if he's already handling the labor. If his old tank fails in three years, he pays for the labor again, and he's buying a new tank. I see new installations going for between $2000 and $3000
How lucky does he feel?

Well, he took our advice and did decide to replace the water heater at this time. It was a good decision.

I did have a 15 year water heater fail at one of my homes. It had been leaking two months prier. I had pulled the water heater, put a pan down with a 1" drain into the crawl space. Two months later it was a catastrophic fail. Water was gushing down the drain into the crawl space. Good thing too, there was carpet on that floor.

Now add 15 more years, I don't live there anymore. The water heater isn't keeping up with the people in the home taking showers. As I'm out of my van and walking toward the house, I can hear the roar of water. Going inside, it was another failed tank. Thank God there was the pan with the drain into the crawl. It would have flooded the first floor of the home. I can't even imagine the water bill they had that billing period.

And yes, it was a Bradford White.

A little math. If the water heater can be replaced for $2,000 and it's good for 15 years, then replacing the water heater three years early, assuming 15 years is a real target, and the savings would be $400
But not really, because in three years, he's paying for the labor again, and now we're losing at least $1000 in labor costs. That's a best case scenario.
 
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Master Plumber Mark

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It was never mentioned whether this was a gas or an electric tank. The condo associations I work with require replacement of electric water heaters at 10 years.
Gas water heaters tend to have a shorter lifespan that electrics. There is the tube in the center, weld joints top and bottom and the water pressure that flexes the tube as the pressure goes up and down. It's why we have expansion tanks to lesson the effects of that.
I have seen gas water heater fail at 7 years and some last as long as 22 years. I see most lasting about 15 years in a perfect world.
Most of the expense to replace a gas water heater is the labor. Does it make sense to keep the old one if he's already handling the labor. If his old tank fails in three years, he pays for the labor again, and he's buying a new tank. I see new installations going for between $2000 and $3000
How lucky does he feel?

Well, he took our advice and did decide to replace the water heater at this time. It was a good decision.

I did have a 15 year water heater fail at one of my homes. It had been leaking two months prier. I had pulled the water heater, put a pan down with a 1" drain into the crawl space. Two months later it was a catastrophic fail. Water was gushing down the drain into the crawl space. Good thing too, there was carpet on that floor.

Now add 15 more years, I don't live there anymore. The water heater isn't keeping up with the people in the home taking showers. As I'm out of my van and walking toward the house, I can hear the roar of water. Going inside, it was another failed tank. Thank God there was the pan with the drain into the crawl. It would have flooded the first floor of the home. I can't even imagine the water bill they had that billing period.

And yes, it was a Bradford White.

A little math. If the water heater can be replaced for $2,000 and it's good for 15 years, then replacing the water heater three years early, assuming 15 years is a real target, and the savings would be $400
But not really, because in three years, he's paying for the labor again, and now we're losing at least $1000 in labor costs. That's a best case scenario.


Terry, you forgot to mention the pain and suffering that goes along with not changing out a heater
and not installing a heater in a pan to protect the home.......

The water damages that can happen are un-real....

We had a customer long ago that refused to have a water heater pan installed under her electric water heater....
the cost was only 25 dollars at that time..... the heater was sitting on the edje of the floor drain so she
fought me tooth and nail about the pan.... So she saved herself 25 bucks and thought she got the better deal
She was on a slab home,,,,

Anyway about 8 years passed and I get a call from her....... The first thing she said to me on the phone was I was
the lady who did not want the pan under the water heater....o_O
Then she told me how she came home from work
and water was running out her front door an out under the garage door too......The heater had a catastrophic failure and
blew out the back side of the unit 2 fooot away from the drain.... The water went through every room of the house
before it came out the front door and garage... Turns out the floor drain was the highest point in the home....LOL
So she had probably a 25k mess on her hands with every room flooded with about 1/4 inch of water....

She told me she regretted not listening to me at that time and wished I would have been more assertive
and insisted on installing that pan...... I am probably lucky that she did not try to stick me with the bill but
I wrote it BOLDLY on her invoice that she did not want the pan......

Now days.....I ALWAYS INSTALL A PAN under every water heater and it is included in the price.......



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