The first sign that there was something wrong with our water heater was that the water coming out of the taps had turn a rusty color. Our home at that time was 15 years old and I thought that it was premature for the water heater to stop working, however that is what the technician confirmed when he came to look at it. In fact the tank was rusting and it was only a matte of time before it would begin leaking.
Our water heater was leased from the gas company. That is the way they are all installed in new homes in the area we live in, so when they stop working all we usually need to do is call the company and they will install a new water heater. Unfortunately it was not as simple as that as you will find out later in this post.
I might have never gone ahead with buying my own water heater if the technician had not said t me that they would replace the water heater free of charge, but I would have to pay $400 to bring the exhaust pipes up to code. Now when that happens, I do not know about you, but I immediately start looking for better deals as well as second opinions and I was able to find one.
Exhaust Pipe Code updates for the Water Heater
I can understand that the building code can change. It is often for the better, but to charge $400 to change a couple of pipes! That was ridiculous in my mind. Basically what they need to do in our case is extend the length of the double insulated pipe by a couple of feet which interfered with the pipes from the furnace. So they were going to charge $400 for this change, install a new water heater and take the old one away, and charge me $15 a month for the new one plus sales tax! Not a good deal for a water heater.
Decisions You need to Make
If you are in this situation or even just replacing an existing water heater that you own, there are a number of decisions that you will need to make. I learned these going through the process and felt that readers could benefit from this knowledge that I gained. The list below is the basic set of decisions that I arrived at. I did not include price, however that is an obvious one to every body.
- Buy vs. lease
- Water Heater Size
- Gas, Electric or Tankless
- Disposal of Your Old Water Tank
Buy vs. lease
Leasing a water heater is a good deal for the water company and may appear to be a good deal for the consumer, however when you do the math, you may change your mind. Simply divide the cost of installing a new water heater including installation and taxes by the monthly lease cost including taxes. In our case it would take 6.5 years before the water heater would be paid off in terms of monthly savings if one were to purchase the water heater.
Most water heaters will last much longer than 6.5 years, so for me there was no decision. we decided to buy the water heater. Ten years later it is still running and I am saving $15 a month or even more. They probably have raised the rental price in the past 10 years!
Water Heater Size
Obviously the larger the water heater the more they cost. There is another cost factor as well and that is that if you have a large tank you are keeping more water hot and that takes energy.
If you have a large family, you may want to opt for a larger water tank so that you always have lots of hot water. If there is just two of you living in the home a small water heater may be just fine. Another point to consider is that if you are planning to sell your home any time soon, having a small water heater may be a negative for anyone planning to make an offer on your home, particularly if they have a large family and are worried about enough hot water.
Gas, Electric or Tankless
There are countless solutions for you, however the main categories are gas, electric or tankless. The least expensive will be to replace like for like. No need to make major changes to your plumbing or electrical wiring or in most cases changes to the vents to the chimney.
Tankless systems provide hot water on an as needed basis and do not waste energy heating water waiting for it to be used. A separate post would be needed to discuss the relative merits of each system. Issues to consider are:
- Changes to electrical wiring
- Changes to gas plumbing
- Changes to chimney vent
- Changes to plumbing system
Disposal of Your Old Water Tank
If you already own your own water tank, you will need to negotiate the removal of your old tank. It might be surprising to learn that if you rent your water heater and plan to purchase a replacement, your current provider may not be willing to remove their water heater tank!
In our case we even arranged for the old tank to be placed on the driveway and had to pressure the gas company to come and pick up their water heater. We would suggest that you should not pay for this removal since it is really their water heater.
Every one must do their own evaluation, however in our case we went for the minimum cost solution which for us was to purchase our own water heater, we replaced a gas water heater with another one so plumbing of water pipes and gas pipes was minimal. We negotiated the change to the vent pipes as part of the total price and saved a great deal over the initial $400 cost we discussed earlier.
Our gas water heater is a smaller version so we also saved money on the initial cost and it takes a little less energy to keep the water hot until it is needed.