...be prepared for sticker shock. After 17 years my old water heater is failing. It still heats the water for awhile, but when it goes off the pilot dies too and I have to relight it. So this morning I started shopping online. The least expensive ones I found started at $298, and some models listed for well over a grand. Looking at offerings from Lowe's, Home Depot, Menard's, and Sears, customer reviews quickly steered me away from several models. Some of the stories of quick and costly failure soon after purchase were remarkable. Believe it or not, the gas heater with the best customer ratings for the price was a $380 Kenmore. I'll keep shopping and keep relighting, but so far Sears is leading the pack.
Knock on wood, the 1 here at home was put in mid 1971 and is still working well.Electric.American Standard. I don't even know if they are still made or not.
A likely cause of the pilot light problem is a bad the thermocouple. Cost less then $10 to get a replacement.
More ideas at:
"A dirty pilot light for gas heaters can also be the culprit for a water heater not remaining on. Similar to how if there is insufficient flow of gas to the pilot it wonít stay lit, a pilot tip that is too dirty for gas also results in the flame going out. Regularly clean the tip with a toothbrush to remove old soot and grime buildup. In addition, check the adjustment knob on your water heaterís pilot light to increase the flame size of the pilot if necessary."
Went thru this two years ago. Thought perfect time to change over to the new tankless. My problem is the tank is in the basement and would cost me 1100-1200 bucks doing it myself. That is because the location in the basement long runs for the piping and stuff already basement the floor joists. If your location is very close to an outside wall It can be done a lot cheaper, the style with the less expensive pipe meant a more expensive tankless unit and the less expensive tankless unit had more expensive piping. You can do it a lot cheaper on new construction or in the basement on an outside wall. Ending up getting a new conventional 50 gal Nat. Gas water tank from the local wholesaler and it cost me about $340. a better price than Home Depot.
Steve, you're lucky! Every sunday, the Sears ad has water heaters on sale for a not-to-bad price, but in very small almost unreadable print, it says "not available in California." That's because here in sunny califunny, our water heaters have to meet strict NoX emissions regulations. Water heaters here are two to three times as much as what you are finding.
There's a new federal mandate on efficiency that will go into effect April 16th that has caused quite a rise in prices. Most manufactures are already building them under the new ratings.
New energy efficiency mandates from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will take effect on April 16, 2015. They require higher energy factor (EF) ratings on virtually all residential water heating products including gas-fired, oil-fired, electric, tabletop, instantaneous gas-fired and instantaneous electric. Tankless systems already exceed these EF requirements, and all other water heating products manufactured before the DOE mandates take effect can still be bought and installed after the changeover date.
I don't know what brand or model your old WH is, but I agree with Jim T. Depending on what yours is, probably a thermocoupler will fix it. Some require a whole assembly that includes more than you probably need for around $40.
The only other thing that could cause your symptoms is the temperature control valve, which can also be replaced.
Good luck with whatever you do!
A tankless WH saves about 10 therms a month at our house with 3 adults. You have to balance that against the $1K price.
Thermocouples do fail, but the more common pilot failure comes from the air screen that lets air in gets clogged with dust/lint/cobwebs/ & the like.
My experience is clean the screen, replace & re-light the pilot.
17 yrs. is a long time for a water heater, 43 yrs. is way too long!
Everything may look alright and you can be getting plenty of hot water until one day you come home from a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant and discover there's no hot water, then you hear a noise in the basement or garage and discover your ancient water heater has burst and you have a nice swimming pool.
I had a heater that started leaking one month after the warranty was up and another went one year after the warranty ended. What may look great on the outside might be a disaster on the inside. Once the anode rod is gone the next to go is the tank.
You can replace the anode rod but after 17 yrs. it may be too late.
My Home Clarion kitchen wood stove has a 30 gal copper range boiler piped in. Plenty of water all winter long and cozy heat as well.
I wouldn't replace a hot water heater unless it was leaking.
Jim Thode has the right idea. Might just be the thermocouple. If not, there are other items that can be fixed or replaced such as the gas control valve (the gray box that houses the thermostat). If you have the instructions for your hot water heater, it might have a trouble shooting chart (the instructions for my hot water heater does).
If you do replace the thermocouple, remove the entire burner (very easy to do) and clean everything and take a shop vac and clean out the cavity at the bottom of the heater.
I've found that youtube is a great place for DIY maintenance and repair:
I have a power vent hot water heater and the electronic gas control valve went haywire. It was easy to replace - I just put a large pipe wrench on the box and screwed it right out.
Our water heater was 23 years old when we replaced it and it was not the water heater's fault!
Ok maybe some of the fault could be attributed to the water heater because it was part of the heating system. (tankless)
It failed in the winter while I was in China and it only cost $6,000 to replace!
We had a choice of a std efficiency furnace for $5,000 or the high efficiency one.
We chose the high efficiency one and are hoping we live long enough to have it pay for the difference
When I got home I was amazed at it's size.
The original furnace was about the size of two 5 drawer tall files cabinets side by side
The new one hung on the basement wall and was smaller than a two drawer file cabinet.
Mine is only 10 years old and leaking..now on its way out. It is all junk nowadays.
Steve, My hot water heater crapped out 10 years ago. I replaced it with a tankless unit. It cost a little more but that was the best investment I ever made. My gas consumption was cut in half and I can fill my jacuzzi tub any time I wish without the fear of running out of hot water. And its a quarter of the size of a normal heater. Installs the same as a normal heater. Just something to consider.
The water heater in our place is 11 years old. It's the "on demand" type, so it doesn't heat water stored in it, rather when you open the tap an electric spark ignites the gas as it starts flowing and it superheats the water as it flows through the burner. It also serves to heat and pump the water through the radiators when the heat is on.
I just changed the thermocouple a year ago, but it was beginning to take 3 or 4 tries before it would stay lit. A little wire brushing on the thermocouple has it running just fine again. These heaters run about 2000 Dollars installed so a new thermocouple is really a relief when it fixes the problem.
Try a thermocouple Steve. I'll bet they're even less expensive in the States than here.
OK, I see they're called "tankless" there.
Be careful! In a house where we rented many years ago there was a gas water heater. Apparently the pilot was too far from the burner, because although the pilot was lit, the gas would turn on and then a big "bang" occurred.
After we moved out of that house, I worked for the telephone company and was dispatched to splice in a new piece of cable along the line in front of where that house had been. The house had burnt down. It actually got so hot it burnt the cable along the street.
I asked the neighbors what caused the house to burn, and they said, "the water heater exploded"
You used to be able to get great deals at Sears on "scratch & dent" water heaters. Maybe they still do that, try asking.
However, as others have said, your trouble sounds very fixable. If it don't leak, it ain't too broke to fix.
The thermocouple thought had occurred to me. I'm going to start with cleaning the pilot and if that doesn't fix it I'll move on to the thermocouple.
About fifteen years ago when I had the sign shop one of the drying ovens was malfunctioning. The local "professional" who came out to work on it only knew how to turn up the thermostat. After he left I figured it out and fixed it myself. And I'm pleased to say I never paid for the "service" call.
"You used to be able to get great deals at Sears on "scratch & dent" water heaters."
I wouldn't buy one of them unless it had a lifetime guarantee.
All modern water heater tanks are glass lined. If that glass gets one little chip or crack, then the tank is going to rust out in that spot. What are the chances of a "scratch and dent sale" water heater not having a chip or crack in the glass lining?
What makes anyone think that a 17 or 40 yr. old water is safe.
Why would someone try and save $500 and risk water damage in the thousands?
Possibly even worse the loss of life and home.
I had a water heater with the same problem, could not keep the pilot light. It turned out that dirt was preventing the flame from reaching the thermocouple and it would not stay lite.
I fixed it and it works great, but it was only 5 yrs. old not 17 yrs. old.
I don't know what kind of heater it is and it may have a lot of life in it but is it worth it
Pretty good chance they are fine Ken. The aren't hit by a Mack truck. The outer shells have minor dents. I've been using one for the last 30 years. And yes, they still had the original guarantee.
Does the guarantee cover the damage caused when it started to leak and filled your basement with water while you were away on vacation?
No more than any other guarantee on any other water heater, that can do the same thing. Maybe you should just turn your water off at the meter whenever you go out.
I amazes me that the same people that would tell a guy not to take a chance with old worn wood spokes would tell someone to keep using an old worn water heater
I pride myself in being amazing.
Jerry, Thats what I do when I'm going to be gone for an extended amount of time, I shut off the well pump, bleed off the pressure, unplug my water heater and my water softener. Then I pull the main breaker to house on the pole and turn off the propane tank. When I get back it take two minutes to turn everything back on. An ounce of prevention = a pound of cure. When I was a fireman I responded to too many calls where the resident was away and something went south with the appliances or electrical system.
Two issues: what is the PH level of your local water. Secondly: do you use LP or natural gas? Up here in northern WI our water is slightly acidic and will eat right through a ceramic lined tank in 10 years or so. If your water is acidic and your water heater is 17 years old. you're living on borrowed time with it anyways. If not, it may go a while longer.
If you use LP as a fuel the stuff is horribly corrosive. Clean both: the pilot and burner orifices and check to make sure they are not corroded and eroded out to a larger size than spec. If so, replace. Still, after 17 years of service it doesn't owe you anything. Time to start budgeting for a new one. As a general rule of thumb: water heaters will always find a way to go out during the coldest stretch of the year when you really want hot water. You'll seldom have to replace one in July.
Drain the mud out monthly (itll heat in half the time)and exercise the pressure relief valve too
The gas heater in my house quit working a couple of years ago during a very cold spell. The pilot would light, flicker for a few seconds, and then go out. I took it apart and found that a small spider had climbed into the pilot tube and died.
My son is a plumber when not at work as a firefighter. My water heater went out two or three years ago (tank leaking). He told me to buy the cheap one as all the new ones are only good for about 8 years.
One reason folks change heaters is the hot water runs out too soon and someone has convinced them that they need a new one. He changes out the dip tube in most units after about 5 years.
As far as the cost, most water heater jobs are $900 to $1200 depending on size. Many will complain of $900 for an installed 40 gallon gas heater but how much would you charge the guy to go get one, hire a helper to get it into the attic or basement, change it, carry the old one out and haul it off? You can't hire a high school kid anymore to be your helper so you pay a buddy $100 cash to help. All of a sudden that $500 labor to change it knowing the licensed guy only made $400 doesn't look so bad. I know there are many who would have a fit over the $500 and I say they should learn to solder.
An 17 year old water heater that doesn't leak is no more likely to fail than a modern new one. My first water heater lasted 11 years, the second 28 years, the third 8 years and now my "new" one is about 4 years old, so its about half done. At the farm the electric water heater is 25 or more years old and still going strong. I suspect if you changed the zinc anode on a new one every 6 years, it might last more than 8.
Steve, fix that old water heater!
Can a Model T motor be used as a water heater?
If so would it need a water pump?
"An 17 year old water heater that doesn't leak is no more likely to fail than a modern new one"
That makes no sense!
Steve, do you like to gamble?
Think about it. Your Model T already works as a water heater. You are just in the habit of shutting it off and letting it cool down without using the hot water when it's available.
You don't need a water heater to take a hot shower!
Remember, if the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy!
Older water heaters were made to last, new ones were made to be replaced in about 8 years.
Flushing the crud out of your water heater every six or eight months will extend the life by years.
I would not call a 17 yr. old water heater that was made in 1997 as an "older water heater that was made to last"
I had 1997 water heater that started to leak at the top at the welded pipe connections one year after the warranty was up.
Let's add one to the "List"
2. Water pumps
3. Marvel Mystery Oil
4. What oil to use
6. Turbo 400 clutches
7. HOT WATER HEATERS
I'll stick with my solar powered water heater the only time I have to plug it in is if we have 3 or more cloudy days in a row....not likely here!
A little drift but a related warranty story:
We purchased a brand new 1992 Ford E-150 van conversion from our local dealer. It was probably the most costly car on their lot at the time. 25 months later my wife called me to say the battery went dead. No problem. I went to where she was, jump started it and drove it to the dealership for a warranty replacement. I was informed that the battery had a 24 month warranty. Which of their batteries would I like to purchase?
I went bug. Are you telling me that you put a 24 month battery in one of your most expensive products? I left and purchased a replacement elsewhere. They have not seen me since, nor will they. What really ticks me off is that I didn't notice the battery warranty at the time of purchase. That will never happen to me again.
I do, however, admire the engineering involved. A 24 month battery that poops out in 25 months sure is well designed to maximize consumer spending. I suspect the same engineering objectives are present in modern water heaters.
Steve Jelf is our own Red Green.
The warranty for a water heater is based on how long the magnesium or aluminum/zinc alloy anode rods last. If it is replaced the heater can last longer.
Battery manufactures know how long a battery will last by there quality, the more you spend the longer they last.
They do research and they know all the tricks on how to get around a warranty.
Ralph - Just as long as nobody thinks I'm his nephew,......harold,....... ; > )
I am out in the woods on a well, and the water is harder than the proverbial Lady of the Night's heart. On top of that, I have a total electric home, not my idea, it came that way. 20 or so years ago, our Light bill was way under $100, now it runs well over $300 with the same two people living here. We had a water softener for awhile, but on the advice of my Doctor (heart problems) and surprisingly the water softener company, took it out. Another reason is that we are now and have been in a severe drought, and softeners waste a lot of water when they cycle. Anyhow, I have to replace my water heater annually, reason being that they fill up, top to bottom, with lime. This shorts out the heating elements (two) and there you are. If you try to remove the elements and replace them, they have been so encapsulated in lime that they twist into all manners of configurations, plus they are so embedded in the lime that they can't be removed. I had one heater that I got second hand that had clean out doors for that very reason, but someone figured that out and now they are not made anymore, worked real well though. You can't clean them out through the 3/4" holes for the piping, I have quit trying. I tried the tank less ones out in my Barn-Shop, they lasted less than a year, rotted out in a heart beat. I like Butane-Propane, but my Wife doesn't, so I will stick with the electric ones I suppose. I know of one heater (Butane) that is still in my Mother's old house that is probably close to 40 years old, and it still works and doesn't leak, but, her water is as soft as rain water. We used to drain and clean and flush it out annually, but never got anything out of it, so quit. Once in a while someone will think about it and flush it out, but that only happens every few years. I need to buy a new one before this new regulation goes into effect, probably waited too long, I get the feeling that someone up there doesn't like us.
Grady - Seems like there would be a filter that could help,....no?
Grady, When we lived where we had to deal with excessive minerals in our water, upon replacement of a heating element I found that the element was inside a metal sleeve welded into the tank. The element was kept from touching the metal by ceramic insulators. It may not have been the most efficient heater but the element didn't touch the water and the element was 22 years old when I changed it out. I don't remember the manufacture but I was able to find a replacement at the local hardware store in 1974.
I used to work for a plumber who would howl when someone said "hot water heater" If it's already hot water, why heat it?
Water heater or hot water tank is what he would always say. I still laugh when I hear someone say "HOT water heater".
Messrs Schwendeman and Voie - Believe me, I have tried them all, there is no "filter" as such, the lime is just one of many minerals dissolved in the water. There are exotic contraptions that do that, think Offshore Oilfield Drilling Rigs, we had plenty of good soft water, but I shudder to think of what it would cost if I had to pay for it. I even tried the Magnets (Snake Oil) and a home built one using an induced electrical current but nothing seems to work, as far as the element being in a tube, never saw one of those, looks like it would negate the whole idea of having the element in contact with the water, but it might work. The Wife likes hard water, says it does something to her hair that she likes, and it does taste good, but ruins the coffee pot in abut a month. Off to the Hardware Store or Lowes and spend some money.
How are you coming on your book, Grady?
Mr. Walker, as they say "The Road to H___ is paved with good intentions. I work on it in fits and starts as my health and etc. allow. A Cousin bought me a Dictaphone type recorder that supposedly will allow you to speak into it and it will type it out, unfortunately, it does not understand my Texas whang and dialect, and try as we may, it just don't get it. When I was still a working man, I had a fellow out in California that would call me just to hear me talk. When I was still flying airplanes, there were times when I had trouble with some of the ATC folks that just couldn't listen slow enough to understand me, I think they train them nowadays to talk a hundred miles an hour, such is life.
The water heater went out Sunday---perfect, all 3 kids home, 2 are daughters with grandchildren and the son-in-laws were here so there are 9 of us in the house. On top of that we got socked with snow bad and had no road so everyone was stranded here.
The previous water heater was original to the house (1979) but I had it changed out 3-4 years ago for a more efficient unit. This new "high efficient" unit loaded up in the bottom with minerals and instead of heating water it was heating a brick of lime (yes we do have a softner and whole house filter) instead of water so it super heated and burned out the module. Of course the component was not available so it was 3 days...and my plumber is my cousin. $135 to fix it but it will happen again.
I heat mostly with wood and have always done that. The first house I put a stainless loop through the fire box with a pump and turned off the water heater during the winter, might do that again or probably go to an "on demand" system.
We have a well with ground water that I think is around 55 degrees--I can take a FAST shower @ 55 degrees. No need to run the bath fan as there is no steam!
Yer yankin' yer crank Steve but this time you're in the basement not the garage. It may hurt but spring for the 4 bills for a new one and have some peace of mind. You've got enough to do. At least I think so.
Well, today I made sure the pilot was clear then went to town and blew twelve bucks on a new thermocouple. No go. Pilot wouldn't stay lit. So tomorrow I'm off to Sears to spend some $$$.
Surely a master T mechanic like you wouldn't replace a non leaking HWH without giving repair a try!
"Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without !"
Wise move Steve. You can only beat a dead horse so much.
The pilot light on my hot water has a few million years to burn yet... and it's free.
I have no affiliation but if you don't install one like this, then you're mad.
a hundred black Model T radiators on the roof, and of course, a water pump
So from my armchair observations here I gather I should rush to Sears and grab a water heater and yank out 1 that is working just fine because it is 43 years old and never had a wrench near it?.Only to be back in there putting in another in 5 years?
The thing I remember my dad told me in 1964 he bought a used G E fridge and stove for the house he moved Mom into when they married.
when we moved here in 72 the house had a drop in stove so the old 1 is in the basement not hooked up. Just stored.The fridge was put in the kitchen. Mom insisted on having a side by side fridge so the old 1 went to the basement and a new 1 was bought.
We are now on the 3rd fridge since 1980 and the old is STILL working just fine in the basement with apples and ginger ale and such in it cold as can be.The 1 we are using upstairs,makes way to much racket in my opinion.you can hear it over the tv.
And yes while it was under warrentee the man was out twice and said all was well and we listened to 1 at the shop and it was the same.
After reading about the new regulations I may see about going to the plumbing supply and pricing water heaters and get 1 that is the old design and store it till needed. New regulations and requirements,just means cheaper construction and less function and shorter life span.
Think about it. Once the government put emissions requirements on small engines they now have ratings on them. And trust me, once they reach 50 or 125 hours, they give up the ghost shortly after. Years ago you ran something for years before it gave out. Not a couple seasons.
I bought a GE from Home Depot and installed it on 1/29/12. At Thanksgiving it failed. Rather than pay for a plumber on OT, we stuck it out. Turns out, they had a free factory repair kit that GE sent to me. Basically, it replaced the burner/pilot light assembly. I've come to expect that sort of product quality from GE.
If you are thinking about Sears, have you checked with the Sears Outlet store north of Wally World at Rock Rd & 96 Highway in Wichita for a tank type water heater? They may not have it but it might be worth a shot.
Any self-respecting Model T owner would have their kitchen wood stove hooked up
to an inline water tank. What's all this blasphemous talk of modern water heaters ?
I am appalled !
You learn quick!!!!
Isn't it amazing how that works?
For reasons I'll never understand, my house only gets that 6-8 years out of a gas-fired water heater...doesn't matter who the maker is, they start to leak! I joke that the reason is the installer doesn't like the basement steps with their built in right turn and bounces them down the steps from there.
About 3 water heaters ago I put in the upside down trash can lid catch pans and a French drain through the floor because I do run them until they pop...let the missus have her way and preventive maintenance throw it out would happen every 5 years...
Ut-oh, I just went and looked at the inspection tag...2008! Just made a command decision...lol...this time I am going stainless steel and going tankless! Watch, this existing one then won't blow out in the next year
At my mothers house on the other hand...which was only 5 miles away but on town artisan well water supplied water, where I am on town supplied processed river water...she had, like you, a gas fired water heater that my best recollection was 1973 She passed a few years back, and my family wanted to replace it for the estate sale. My answer was that so what if it went tick-tick-tick somewhat loudly as it heated up and contracted...that the zinc apparently was still in place as was also the infill tube...it went on when it was told...etc. To be nice, I did go and replace the relief valve and drop tube (it would have been too short for present code for certificate of occupancy)
So a lady bought the house, her house inspector picked up the fact that it was theoretically well past useful life, and my reply was "what else do you want to talk about...it works!" She bought the house with it in place I sometimes want to stop by just to ask the magic question...not to relive my youth, but 'hey...about that water heater?"
Have any of you looked at the COO, Country Of Origin of your new water heaters?
Not sure how far away the sell them, but Bradford-White makes water heaters in Middleville, MI.
I hope your water heater woes are over. I asked an old hardware salesman friend of mine about the type of hot water heater I was trying to describe earlier in this thread and he said it is called a "dry well element" and they still make the replacement elements and maybe the tanks, too.
One obvious advantage of this type is you don't have to drain the water from the tank to change the element!
I'm not advocating this product just thought it was an interesting design.
Based on my experience Bradford White water heaters will last about 8 years. Made in USA may not be better than made in Mexico in this case.
A number of years ago I had a gas fired hot water tank that the control failed, I ordered and replaced the control and everything worked fine. Problem was that for not much more than the control cost I could have bought a complete new tank.
I had ordered the new control w/out asking what it was going to cost.
As it's said: Live and learn.