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Thread: Water Heater About to Blow - Need advice!

  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
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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.

  7. #7
    Master Plumber master plumber mark's Avatar
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    Talking dont forget to add a water conditioner

    dont forget to find space for a water conditioner
    if you were to actually go with a tankless electric or gas unit....

    some day

  8. #8

    Unhappy This is getting ugly.....

    In the middle of this water heater problem, another problem developed. We thought it was unrelated. We had a strange leak in the corner of our dining room. We had a plumber come over and he couldn't figure it out. Then we had a handyman come over and he put a hole in the wall near the leak but couldn't see anything. Yet, he kept saying it's from a pipe. But what pipe could possibly be there!!!

    As my husband and I were discussing, suddenly we both had the same idea at the same time! The leak is very likely coming from the drain pipe from the water heater. Everytime the drain pan would fill up, the leak would get worse. Somehow this tube must be plugged up somewhere and instead of the overflow coming out the side of the house where it should, it's backing up onto my parquet floor. Yikes!!!! My hardwood floor is definitely damaged.

    So, we tried draining the water heater tonight, because now I'm really scared. So we follow the instructions by shutting off the cold intake, releasing the pressure valve and hooking a garden hose up to the tank and opening the valve to drain, and some water came out but certainly not 40 gallons. Is there so much sediment that it's actually blocking the drain valve? Why didn't 40 gallons of hot water come out? Did we do something wrong?

  9. #9
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    First, make sure you've turned the power off!

    The tank is sort of like a soda straw with your thumb over the top of it. It needs a path to let air in. If you open up the T&P valve at the top, it should drain unless it really is all clogged up on the bottom with sediment. If it is, try a coat hanger through the valve.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  10. #10

    Default About price

    I was quoted $1,400 for a 40 gallon Rheem, which included a $200 extra attachment (don't remember what it's called, but it's necessary for code purposes - if I refuse to get it I have to sign a waiver). He said it was more expensive because he needed an extra helper (because of the water heater being in the attic.) Does that sound about right?

    I saw a Bradford White heater that would definitely fit better. Can any plumbing contractor get a Bradford White or do I have to go through the installers listed on their web site?

  11. #11
    DIY Senior Member Livin4Real's Avatar
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    Rheem's run about $300-$400 depending on model, average install around here $200 but this also isn't your average install. Labor around here is $75-$100 an hr for pro plumbers. I can't believe it would take 8 hrs to install a water heater even in a tight spot.($400 for the heater, $200 for extra part=$600 so there is $800 in labor=8 hrs.)

    Is there no other place on ground level you could put it and just have new lines ran to it?
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  12. #12
    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    $1400 to install a $300 water heater even in an attic is insane. The actual installation is very simple and non technical. True, there would be added labor to get it into the attic, but not $1000 worth. I'd get someone else to give an estimate. Again, I would explore every possible way to avoid the attic. Your experiencing the problem that that can create. An electric heater doesn't have the same air requirements that a gas heater has nor does it need to be vented. That could open some possible places to install it. Others have discussed the need for a larger electric service to handle even a small tankless, but there are many more problems than that to deal with. You might try a search of this forum to find some of the discussions on the subject, but let me just warn you that the cost of the new electric service will only be the beginning of the expense of a tankless heater.

  13. #13
    Master Plumber master plumber mark's Avatar
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    Default $1400 ?

    that sounds a little steep,

    but I dont know if he is palnning on
    takeing th old one out for you ,

    if he has to cut up some walls, ect to get the new one in,

    if he is going to run you a new drain line to the pan, and a new pan??

    is he gong to re-locate that drain line ?? out the eave of the house instead of down onto your kitchen floor??

    Why dont you jsut call around and get some other prices....


    I honestly dont thiink I would touch it for under $900
    being up in the atic and all...



    just remember that a tankless electric will cost you well over 2900...


    have fun


  14. #14
    Plumbing Designer FloridaOrange's Avatar
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    Since this tank is in the attic you could explore water leak sensors after you're all set. Most I've seen run off a 120 line so no major wiring would be needed and if you have a receptacle up there maybe no wiring would be required. Do a google search to find what's appropriate for you. Peice of mind is priceless.
    Matt
    Semi-professional plumbing designer
    Enjoying life in SW Florida

  15. #15

    Default Decision has been made

    We got another plumber over this morning and his quote was around $900 to install a Rheem (he would decommission the old tank but not remove it from the attic). So we told him to go ahead. We will install this water heater for now as a stopgap and then continue to explore the possibility of getting the gas tankless heater in the near future. The new water heater will be skinny so there will be no problem getting it out of the attic when the time comes to convert to gas.

    Oh and regarding the mystery leak. It is definitely the drain line from the water heater. It is most likely embedded in the slab and it blocked by dirt pushed up against the house. So all we need to do is dig a hole to find where the drain line exits and make sure it's exposed. Who knew! We are still getting used to the unusual customs of Florida plumbing.

    Thank you all for your invaluable help. I truly appreciate it.

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