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Thread: WH lifetimes

  1. #16
    Homeowner Thatguy's Avatar
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    They're just numbers. Why are you so upset?
    Last edited by Thatguy; 08-23-2009 at 07:00 PM.

  2. #17
    Master Plumber Dunbar Plumbing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thatguy View Post
    They're just numbers. Why are you so upset?

    I'm never upset. I just cannot believe that you are not considering what the inside of a water heater turns into over years, how it lessens in capacity, how it makes it so hard to transfer heat whether by element or burner.


    If you only knew how often I come into homes with thermostats cranked up well beyond the 120 degree setting and they're telling me they keep running out of hot water...and I've checked to make sure it doesn't imply a failing dip tube scenario...it proves the tank has lost its true worth as a working unit.


    But people weigh the fact that it isn't leaking as a primary move to switch out. Rarely do people change out a heater before it leaks. I do them, and if you saw the condition of some, you'll know why they are pleased with the recovery of the new ones.

    I've got some great knowledge of water heaters and a slew of situations like other plumbers have on these sites, but what you're gauging is something that doesn't guarantee efficiency of a unit. Look at tankless heaters for example: you have to keep those compartments delimed/descaled or those numbers are just junk science for those who compare therms or kilowatt usages.

    One thing I will not do in plumbing is build false hope. Even though I instruct my customers to drain their water heater once a year, the reality is that water heater loses the cost per annual year first number rather quickly, depending on water quality.


    If they made a water heater that defied water quality issues, you could definitely produce a list like you have going, knowing the efficiency isn't compromised.
    Read what the end of this sentence means.

  3. #18
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thatguy View Post
    assuming one therm of NG costs the same as one therm of elec.
    In what world does that happen?

    Although it varies by time of year, baseline usage, etc. we have numbers something like $1.16 per therm NG. Elect. will run 16 to 29 cents per kwh. You do the math.

  4. #19
    DIY Senior Member Runs with bison's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dunbar Plumbing View Post
    Do I have a link? NO, I am THE LINK.
    Not very compelling, unfortunately.

    That's the efficiency as stated on the yellow tag, years from now you can erase those numbers because it grows progressively larger.
    I've used some pretty old gas water heaters and their gas use wasn't that much different than what I've seen in new units.

    I don't doubt that efficiency declines as fouling occurs (I expect it) but I've yet to experience anywhere near the magnitude you suggest we all should see in such a short time. In fact, I can correlate my summer natural gas use in various homes with the shower heads/bath habits, clothes and dish washers, as well as with differing supply water temps for different latitudes, but not by age of the water heater.

    Six years is a ridiculously short life expectancy. In fact that would argue against doing anything other than a really cheap install of a short warranty unit. Is that what you really want?

    Since I've seen numbers by plumbers on this site staring around $800 and up for a gas water heater install it seems highly unlikely that replacing a 6 year old gas fired unit would make any economic sense. It would certainly start to make electric water heating more attractive than it would otherwise be.

    So as Thatguy asked, have you got anything hard to back your claim? If the efficiency decline is even a fraction of what you state then I would expect to see some studies showing why water heater replacement should be on a short schedule. Efficiency loss is mentioned regarding old refrigerators for example. However, I've also recovered quite a bit of refrigeration efficiency (measured with a Kill-a-watt meter over a week) via thorough condenser coil cleaning...getting back close to nameplate on a 14 year old unit.

    As for Thatguy's suggestion that electric could make more economic sense than gas, the problem is that the thermal efficiency of the powerplant is in the mid-30's per DOE. A 62% efficient gas water heater will kill a 92% efficient electric water heater once that is factored in. This is reflected in the pricing of natural gas versus electricity. Makes sense as electricity is a higher energy form, converting it back into heat is an unnecessary conversion sequence. Skip the intermediate steps and go thermal direct.

    I'll offer you this with regards to your observation of lost efficiency: in the last few months of a badly-fouled fired water heater's life I would expect it to enter a death spiral on increasing fuel use and rapid increase in corrosion as wall temps rise. (That's not unlike what I've seen in doing process heat exchanger troubleshooting in fouling services.) A plumber is going to see that effect because they get the call when the unit has become untenable.

  5. #20
    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    99 44/100 % of all the replacements I do are because the unit starts to leak...some times during an install I am asked how long the new unit will last and I tell them (with a smile) that crystal ball readings are an additional $75.00...then they laugh...

  6. #21
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default heaters

    There is NO general life span for a heater. Gas heaters can last 20 years, but there are also many which are exchanged during their 6 year warrany period. Electric heaters, generally, have a shorter life span, but many also go bad within the normal 6 year warranty. Water softeners usually PROLONG the life of the heater because it creates a more compatible form of deposits in the heater.

  7. #22
    Homeowner Thatguy's Avatar
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    I pay 16/kwh ($4.69/therm) and $1.10/therm of NG.

    If an elec. WH stays at 90% its whole life, a gas WH that's down to 21% from 60% would consume as much of my money per month as the elec. one.

    Now to find a link that measures or calculates gas WH decrease in efficiency over time.

  8. #23
    Master Plumber Dunbar Plumbing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Runs with bison View Post
    Not very compelling, unfortunately.


    I've used some pretty old gas water heaters and their gas use wasn't that much different than what I've seen in new units.

    Of course not, you're an opinionated homeowner that thinks your personal experience is the rule of thumb for many, which leads down to maybe a couple of water heater experiences which I deal with weekly.

    Should I or anyone trust your opinion at this point given your limited point of view on such matters of information trading? I think not.

    I love people who doubt logic, first hand experiences with product knowledge. I'm no different than any other plumber on this site but I have no problem being the most descriptive to the nonsense that was thrown on this thread.

    Am I expected to discount my firsthand experiences of weekly water heater replacements to listen to a couple homeowners speaking from solo experiences, cherishing the fact you have dinosaurs in the basement still producing hot water without a "known" cost to you because you can't gauge against a new one?


    I replace a lot of water heaters around the 5 to 9 year mark quite often. 99% of them were never touched since the day they were installed.


    What does that mean, intelligent homeowners? That means the heater never was drained, never removed of sediment, never had an anode rod replaced inside the water heater when the rod substantially started to lose its ability to protect the steel tank. Do you all comprehend this well known fact about water heaters?

    Secondly, hard water and high water pressure also has deciding factors about these water heaters. That constant flexing of mild steel in water heater tanks allows for the paper thin glass lining to pop off the inside of the tank walls, exposing bare steel to be in direct contact with water. We know where this leads.

    The constant "flexing" of the tank between pressure variations creates microscopic cracks in the steel tank that start an ongoing process of leaks that can close themselves back up, calcify shut. If you could cleanly strip an older water heater apart and see how many other points of failure has before the big one that leaks rears its ugly head, you'd see that the tank's condition was poor before the final leak arrived.

    I've seen burners that were completely covered with carbon buildup, scaling of the flue walls inside the heater or even further up the exhaust system that contributed to the demise of the tank's efficiency.


    People change their tv's almost every 5 years these days

    Their phones

    Their cars


    IF, people could visually and financially see how inefficient a water heater becomes by viewing the condition inside the tank, they'd replace them more often.

    The penny-pinchers would see the issue and instantly understand that there's no way that unit is producing the efficiency as it once had when initially bought.


    Yahoo just posted a link about now they are going after appliances, cash for fridges. I have a 24 year old freezer that still keeps food frozen, but there's no way in hell it is efficient like the day it was installed.

    The gaskets are wore out on the lid, the coils have probably never been cleaned (like the majority) and after that many years, you cannot expect anything of the nature to be cost efficient product.

    It's the attitude of "it still runs it's fine" attitude that creates a glutton of extra expense not visually seen in the electric or gas bill. It's there, but until you know the costs incurred, for many it just simply does not exist.


    I wonder why every water heater I pull out weighs 20 to 70 pounds more than what it weighed when it was first installed.


    Oh I don't know, maybe I'm a plumber and have the back pains and hemmorhoids to prove it?



    Continue with the circling of the wagons, it's not getting anywhere but debunked.

    The majority put-it-in-and-forget-it with water heaters. Job security for me because the homeowner isn't educated enough to understand that the water heater is always the lowest point of the potable water system inside the structure. It's a given that it's going to be the collector of everything brought in from the public or private water supply. Every single water heater made today is a water heater with a boiler drain attached to the sidewall, not the bottom of the tank which indirectly seals the fate of that water heater given the fact that sediment, once entering that unit will never leave it.

    It's a fact that my rhetoric on these subject matters will be used as resource links for understanding plumbing systems and situations across the globe. The information I put out there coincides with manufacture's recommendations and product knowledge reality.
    Last edited by Dunbar Plumbing; 08-24-2009 at 10:11 AM.
    Read what the end of this sentence means.

  9. #24
    Homeowner Thatguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dunbar Plumbing View Post
    you're an opinionated homeowner
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem


    Nobody doubts what you see.

    How we should interpret
    what you see
    so we can use this info
    to our benefit
    is
    what's at issue.

    BTW, if the homeowner knew how inefficient his WH was becoming, would he keep it anyway because he paid for it and it still sort-of works?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunk_costs
    The same with an old car that gets lousy mileage (a hidden cost) but it still runs and the cost of a new one is considerable and is not a hidden cost.


    The manufacturers usually "have a dog in this fight" so I discount what they say except on issues where they are afraid of lawsuits.

    Getting new TVs, phones & cars when the old ones still substantially work could be considered "vanity purchases" but nobody competes with the neighbors about who has a better, faster, stronger water heater; purchasing one is a necessary evil if you want hot water.
    Last edited by Thatguy; 08-24-2009 at 11:20 AM.

  10. #25
    Master Plumber Dunbar Plumbing's Avatar
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    And that's why I'm here, because I know homeowners benefit from what I type. That's why I try to be as concise, accurate as possible in my statements and analogies of how I represent the plumbing industry in my state and abroad.

    As fast as I can state that I follow mfg's recommendations, I can point out the flaws in such representations just as quickly and if you stick around here long enough, I have a reputation of speaking my mind about which ones make life hell for you and me and which ones are providing a great product and reputation.



    I mentioned to you about my freezer. I'm just like you about not spending money unless it is absolutely necessary. I will not replace it until it quits working or someone tells me of the huge costs involved to fix it. I'm tired of de-icing the damn thing once a year but I've never had much success replacing rubber strips around doors on appliances because the damn things always come off easy, but never go back on easy.


    Now,

    My water heater hasn't been drained since the day it was installed. I'm 54' from it as I type, right now. I even put a damn date on it so I'd remember to drain it once year...but guess what?


    I'm a homeowner, I keep putting it off, It's producing hot water and I keep saying "I'll do it this weekend" and everything else becomes a priority.

    That's about the clearest honesty anyone can give that I'm preaching it but not doing it, and I don't expect the majority of homeowners to drain their water heater.

    It's a 40 minute task, it involves numerous steps and for all my customers and non-customers there's a page that people can print off my website that they can take with them to the front of their water heater or tape it to the tank so they know how to do it.

    It's my give back contribution to society and this wonderful profession of plumbing I've come to love. But one thing I never hold still for is misleading or misinterpreted information about plumbing. I'll stand up in ritual and describe what I see to a tee if what is being told doesn't match reality.

    That's why you have me in discussion in this topic, as it doesn't represent the 100's of water heaters that have been installed by me personally.

    I hope for everyone to have long lasting water heaters but the manufactures don't want that, they build them to break. A favorable situation is a long lasting water heater, meaning "normal" water quality, "normal" water pressure and the owner taking preventative steps, including actual purchase of a well built unit from the get go.

    In the late 80's I replaced a water heater for $200, that was with me supplying a $125 water heater, the parts to switch out and $70 labor. Cheap.

    Every water heater today, especially PowerVent water heaters suck! to replace along with every water heater today has different dimensions from the one coming out.

    Rarely do I ever get a straight changeout, and I'd have a heart attack or erection, possibly both if I ever graced that luxury again given the way these water heaters are built to purposely be different in size all the time.


    A regular gas water heater is $400-$500 these days with FVIR technology that is mandatory by the government. I'll gladly take a water heater that's aging and "spend a little more" each month than follow a ritual of replacing a water heater every 6 years.


    But that doesn't negate/nullify the statements I made about how much efficiency they lose.

    In essence the guy driving a high efficiency car in the driveway getting 48/38 mpg has no clue what sits in his basement that literally zaps electricity and natural gas as it gets progressively older.

    If you remember in high school when they had us do the science experiment with the charcoal briquettes in the fish bowl and those formations were created with chemical interaction...

    that is what it looks like inside a water heater as it ages. Buildup. Insta-hot water dispensers made from Insinkerator? Every one of those I've taken out are solid full of corrosion/buildup from the end product of heating water.

    I think I've stated enough for the masses that my knowledge on this subject matter is pretty evident. It's time for tea and two 3 packs of chocolate zingers.



    Dunbar "Livin' for the sugar high" Plumbing
    Read what the end of this sentence means.

  11. #26
    DIY Senior Member Runs with bison's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dunbar Plumbing View Post
    Of course not, you're an opinionated homeowner that thinks your personal experience is the rule of thumb for many, which leads down to maybe a couple of water heater experiences which I deal with weekly.

    Should I or anyone trust your opinion at this point given your limited point of view on such matters of information trading? I think not.
    My personal experience spans enough geographies and homes that it is unlikely to be mere coincidence. It sure isn't "solo." Plus I've not seen your guideline anywhere else, making it highly suspicious. And you have a serious conflict of interest in recommending such rapid replacement. One wonders if this is really about the homeowner's econ, or about your wallet?

    Should anyone trust an opinionated plumber that can't/won't prove what he says? No! They are a dime a dozen. Ask half a dozen tradesmen a question an you get half a dozen answers...often mutually exclusive. That's precisely why many of us end up doing the work ourselves once we do some research. I've had enough of plumbers that price gouge, don't come prepared, and that I have to scrounge my own tools and parts for because their massive truck/van doesn't seem to carry anything of value to actually complete a job.

    I love people who doubt logic, first hand experiences with product knowledge.
    That describes the problem with your response perfectly. You have problems with logic and get all beligerent. As it is my experiences are first hand as well, but you can't explain them.

    I'm no different than any other plumber on this site but I have no problem being the most descriptive to the nonsense that was thrown on this thread.
    The primary nonsense in the thread is coming from you. You've been challenged and refuse to provide any support for your claim.

    The average life I've seen listed for gas water heaters is 11-13 years, based on reality and a wide array of users. Consider now your claim of efficiency falling by half in only 6 years... It doesn't add up.

    My father-in-law's water heater is about 20-30 years old IIRC--I was shocked when I checked its tag. That thing still heats like a champ, didn't have any problems with running out of water. Now tell me about this 6 year theory again? Losing 50% of its efficiency in 6 years...I suppose dropping by half again every 6 years. Gee, if it started at 58% efficiency it should be somewhere between 2 and 7% efficiency by now and the flue would have a constant glow.

    Am I expected to discount my firsthand experiences of weekly water heater replacements to listen to a couple homeowners speaking from solo experiences, cherishing the fact you have dinosaurs in the basement still producing hot water without a "known" cost to you because you can't gauge against a new one?
    Unlike you I'm handy with numbers and can gauge the cost to me, which is why I'm calling you out on this one. I however doubt you can accurately do the economics of a change out.

    I replace a lot of water heaters around the 5 to 9 year mark quite often.
    And did you interview the homeowner and look at their bills to record gas use over the life of the tank?

    Did you also go out and identify how many water heaters did not require replacement during that time and get their gas records as well so that you could determine their efficiency decline? Seeing only the ones that are failing gives you a really skewed perspective. Apparently you never considered that.

    What does that mean, intelligent homeowners? That means the heater never was drained, never removed of sediment, never had an anode rod replaced inside the water heater when the rod substantially started to lose its ability to protect the steel tank. Do you all comprehend this well known fact about water heaters?
    Actually, I do. I've done quite a bit of heat exchange equipment design and troubleshooting. I've also solved problems with high pressure boiler chemistry control to prevent tube ruptures.

    I'm well aware of the retrograde solubility of hard water minerals. And have cleaned more water heater tanks than I care to recall.

    People change their tv's almost every 5 years these days

    Their phones

    Their cars
    Nope, I tend to hang onto things for 10-20 years. My TV is 19 years old. I maintain stuff. It's cheaper than replacing it every 6 years... Plus my TV is much more energy efficient than the new LCD's/plasmas.

    You might have bought into the disposable society mindset, but many of us have not.

    IF, people could visually and financially see how inefficient a water heater becomes by viewing the condition inside the tank, they'd replace them more often.

    The penny-pinchers would see the issue and instantly understand that there's no way that unit is producing the efficiency as it once had when initially bought.
    Actually, being a penny-pincher is exactly why I keep track of utility use and find your assertion dubious. I'm accustomed to doing the economic analysis of both my home and process gear.

    . I have a 24 year old freezer that still keeps food frozen, but there's no way in hell it is efficient like the day it was installed.
    It's easy enough to compare things like this with a Kill-a-watt. I did that very thing for a 14 year old fridge that I cleaned up (before and after). It was surprisingly close to the original energy guide after I cleaned the coil thoroughly. Didn't stop me from selling it to buy a bigger, more efficient fridge that I wanted, but I'm not fooling myself about the economics. There are some actual published figures for expected degradation of refrigerator performance, mine was in much better shape than they suggested.

    A 24 year old freezer would have been inefficient from day one compared to current gear or even early/mid 90's. But that's because performance standards have improved. There is some loss of efficiency over time depending on both wear and maintenance. If you haven't measured it, then you don't know.

    It's the attitude of "it still runs it's fine" attitude that creates a glutton of extra expense not visually seen in the electric or gas bill. It's there, but until you know the costs incurred, for many it just simply does not exist.
    It's not there if you can't see it in increasing kwh, ccf, etc. It's pretty easy to isolate the nat. gas usage each year for the water heater. That's what I've done in looking through the past decade of bills.

    It's a fact that my rhetoric on these subject matters will be used as resource links for understanding plumbing systems and situations across the globe.
    Ego has clearly gotten the best of you.

    Your real argument is that folks don't maintain them and therefore they should treat them as disposable so that you can change them every 6 years Hey, I've got a thought...why not suggest that people maintain their gear and save a bundle both on operation and change out? Seems that might be more useful to your global audience.

  12. #27
    Master Plumber Dunbar Plumbing's Avatar
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    Wow, I'm sitting here staring at my computer screen watching the glow from your post like I should be impressed.


    Can I have your autograph, the permission to post your writings on my wall?


    I enjoy your "personal experiences" as there's not a name, a company, or a face to back up anything you just said.


    Just someone that didn't like being instructed the facts about products that consistently break down and lose their efficiency as they age.


    Tell me, "Runs with Mike Tyson"

    In your travels in geographies and tell tale histories of homes, water heaters and freezers...

    tell us if you've ever seen a water heater cut open after a few short years of use,

    and are you willing to do this to your water heater when it fails, not "if".

    ???

    Also,

    Tell me great one, when I have to replace a water heater that's 6 years old, why is it very apparent that something evidently didn't hold up to the 20 years you're preaching? Was it built on a monday, friday?


    Let's see your scribed words and comical mathmatical equations you've surmised on your legal sized notebook, and I'll start believing you're just not here for the entertainment and the kind patting of my ego.

    Seems that you feel entwined to discredit what I've made a profession out of, thinking you're geographies trump the resident professional.

    Continue, I have cheese puffs and french onion dip. I'm prepared for this revelation of water heater knowledge unfound that I never knew was placed in my very hands every time I replaced one, installed one, discussed why I was there.


    Let us know who you are "runs with bison" as your quite the intimidating scholar you be...
    Read what the end of this sentence means.

  13. #28
    DIY Senior Member Runs with bison's Avatar
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    In other words, Dunbar, you've got nothing. You refuse to back your claims with anything concrete and those of us with different experiences should believe reality is only what you say it is in your area.

    I'll do you one better. I'll continue to track this water heater's gas use until it fails (or I replace it) to see if/when it tumbles. So far water heater gas use is down about 33% in the past year (from 18 therms/month to 12), but I've been reducing wall/pipe losses and hot water consumption by various devices/appliances. I'm approaching half of the Energy Guide rating.

    In essence the guy driving a high efficiency car in the driveway getting 48/38 mpg has no clue what sits in his basement that literally zaps electricity and natural gas as it gets progressively older.
    I'm still scratching my head over your electric water heater claim... How again is the electrical efficiency lost? Sure the elements will burn out and quit working, but nearly all of it from beginning to end is going into the tank because it is a resistance heater. The tank can be full of sediment but the heat is still going into the water. The only other place it has to go is surface losses...which are not changing much. Ask an engineer buddy how to draw a box around a system, it's one of the first things you learn.

    Now if one really wanted to prove a point about efficiency losses in the gas fired heater, the solution might be in measuring flue gas temps. If the efficiency falls dramatically that heat has to go somewhere during burner operation. And that somewhere is up the flue in a traditional non-power vented model.

    Efficiency loss is not necessarily the same as poor recovery or lost working volume.

    I'm not "preaching 20 years." Unlike you I don't pretend to know when the water heater walls will begin to leak nor how rapidly efficiency will decline. I'm not trying your "one size fits all" approach.

    If efficiency fell off as rapidly as you believe, energy conservation sites and greenies would be all over it.

  14. #29
    Master Plumber master plumber mark's Avatar
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    Talking Heres a water heater cut open for you

    Most of the lime probably blew out when it exploded but you can still see the scale build up


    give him hell Dunbar...



    here is an electric with the gunk that the bottom
    element was buried in... That is not efficient...

    Honestly, Runs with Bulls,

    they really do lose their efficieny rateings
    over time and really do cost more money the older they get..


    Listen to Dunbar....him very wise.....

  15. #30
    Homeowner Thatguy's Avatar
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    Replacement time

    Here's a method that works for gas water heaters that become less efficient [very rapidly for the purposes of this example].

    This method can be modified to use on cars, with a resale value, that gradually become less fuel efficient and cost more for repairs each year.

    Cost new for gas water heater = $600

    Cost for fuel, 1st yr., $400
    2nd yr, $600
    3rd yr, $800 (it's already at half of its original efficiency)
    4th yr, $1000

    Figure the cumulative cost for each year:
    1st, $400
    2nd, $400 + $600 = $1000
    3rd, $1800
    4th, $2800

    Add the price when new to the above column
    1st, $1000
    2nd, $1600
    3rd, $2400
    4th, $3400

    Now divide each column entry above by the year number
    1st, $1000
    2nd, $800
    3rd, $800
    4th, $850

    The cost/year drops at first, and then starts rising. In this example you should replace it at about 2.5 years.

    This is best done on a spreadsheet.

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