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Thread: Water Heater About to Blow - Need advice!

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  1. #1

    Unhappy Water Heater About to Blow - Need advice!

    I am in a pickle! I was so happy because I was getting ready to convert to gas. I was planning to buy a gas tankless water heater. Unfortunately my happiness is fading fast. It will take about a month to get the permit for gas. In the meantime, my old 22-year old Rheem has decided to start leaking. The drip pan is currently half full and I know it's on its last leg (no, let's face it, it's beyond it's last leg).

    So I cancelled the gas hookup because I am going to have to buy a new water heater in the next few days. I now don't have time to wait for the permit and trenching the gas lines to my house.

    Problem is my water heater is up in the attic. The current water heater was apparently put up there before the ceiling was installed. The old tank will not fit through the attic access (which is 22 x 36 approximately) to get it out of the attic. The old tank is 24" diameter x 32" high and it is 40 gallons. I would have to find a unit that is less than 22" diameter obviously. I think 40 gallons is good for a 2 person household because we never run out of water.

    The attic has trusses so finding another space for a taller, thinner unit is not as easy as it might sound. I honestly would prefer not to have to expand the attic access because the would involve major carpentry.

    My DH is pushing for electric tankless. The house is 1700 SF and there are two bathrooms with showers/tubs. I use my dishwasher daily at night. I do 4-5 loads of laundry on the weekend. Of course, daily showers for the two of us. Will the electric tankless be a good choice?

    I could possibly find a space in a closet on the main floor for a tank water heater but I don't know if there could be an overflow hose which I understand would be necessary (where would it go?)

    I am really starting to worry about 40 gallons of water dropping out of my attic in my guest bedroom. I really need guidance on how to handle this and hope one of you can help me with some good advice.

    (Also, advice on whether there's a way to get the old unit out of the attic without destroying the ceiling - Can the old tank be cut in half?)

    Thanks, in advance, for any advice you might have.

  2. #2
    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Yakima WA


    The best thing about you problem is that you came here before blowing a fortune on the tankless heater. The vast majority of the pros that frequent this board advise against them for a variety of reasons. They also look at water heaters in an attic as a very poor idea. I would opt for the heater on the ground floor or basement if you have one. Your are correct there would need to be an outlet for the drain pan, and just how to do that would have to be determined by someone on site. You are going to have to do some plumbing revisions when you change the location of the heater, but since you were going to invest a small fortune on the tankless installation, you should still be money ahead with the conventional heater in a new space. The old heater can be cut into pieces with a reciprocating saw with a metal blade.

    You will need to have a licensed plumber on site to evaluate exactly what has to be done.

  3. #3

    Default Water Heater

    Thanks for replying! Regarding the electric tankless, I am in Tampa FL. Does that make a difference?

  4. #4
    Master Plumber master plumber mark's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    indianapolis indiana - land of the free, home of the brave....
    Blog Entries

    Talking electric tankless is trouble

    just stay away from them...they are nothign but trouble..

    you would probably have to run in a bigger
    power line from the street and upgrade your
    meter box too....

    keep your life simple and just get a plumber to
    install you another water heater in the attic...

    find a skinney water heater to go back up
    into the attic...or find someone that knows what
    they are doing and make the modifications to
    the attic doorway......

    put it in a new pan and drain it to
    the outside.....and in 15 years you will have to do it again...
    no big deal...

    Drain the old heater dry and leave it up in the attic ....
    unless you are fond of it and want it for a lawn ornament....who cares......
    it will be someone elses
    problem some day...

    keeping things simple is usually the best path to take....

    so sayeth the plumber....

  5. #5
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    New England


    For gas, a common size of tankless is around 190K BTU, this equates to around 55Kw, or 250A. To put one in, you'd need to upgrade your power panel and the line from the street. This is just from converting gas to electric, the electric might be more efficient, and likely wouldn't use as much, but it is a significant amount. Your 100A service is woefully too small for an electric tankless.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  6. #6
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    San Diego


    As for the old tank, I would consider draining it well and leaving it in the attic. You might want to roll it or slide it to a different area if you do put a new one up there, so as to not concentrate the load in one area/

    As you have already heard on this forum, plumbers hate water heaters in the attic for the obvious reasons.

    Even though you now have an all-electric home, it is quite possible you would have to upgrade the service to support an electric tankless. A modest unit capable of around 5 to 7 GPM, would typically require a 240 volt 120 amp circuit....maybe almost as much as your entire present service!

    Electric water heaters are less expensive than gas, so you could put a new one in and then have a few years to budget and plan for either a gas tankless, or a gas tank in a different location.


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