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Thread: Gas Water Heater-When To replace

  1. #1

    Default Gas Water Heater-When To replace

    I've posted other questions on this regarding my 18 year old bradford white water heater.Some responses indicate I should go ahead and replace it. I understand replacing it if the tank is leaking but if it's not why replace it. If it's no longer heating water then wouldn't that most likely be the burner and could I just replace the burner? replacing the entire heater seems like overkill unless the heater is leaking

  2. #2
    In the trades Dana's Avatar
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    If you replace the sacrificial anode every 6-7 years (whether it needs it or not), drain the sludge out of the bottom every coupla years, and keep the burner cleaned up, it can go a very long time without failure. If it's never been maintained, odds are you're looking at very short-years (months?) of remaining lifecycle with it.

    Efficiency will drop over time as well (due to heat exchanger corrosion and mineral buildup on the interior). While the economics of that aren't usually sufficient argument for swapping out a natural-gas HW heater for something newer/better/more-efficient, it might be for propane at current prices.

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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    At 18-years, unless you have soft water, it may not be heating because it has a significant mineral buildup - i.e., there may no longer be all that much room for water in the thing at all! Replacing the burner is not a viable option. A gas valve, yes, but the burner, no. The average WH lasts much less than what you got out of yours...if it's no longer doing its job, it's probably time to replace it.
    Jim DeBruycker
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    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    I'm reminded of a winter hunting trip I took one year. I took a friend who was really pretty smart guy, but when I stopped to put chains on in a flat, wide place, he didn't quite understand why I was chaining up now before we need to. I pointed out that in about 1/4 miles, we would leave the nice flat area and start up a steep and very narrow 1 track road and there would no option on chaining up then, but it would be a B@@@h to do it then. When we got to that canyon, he understood. That old heater has served you well, but its time is really over and the time to replace it is at your convenience, not on a holiday weekend. Sure you can probably get a few more weeks just like I could have gotten another 1/4 mile.

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Depending on its location, and whether anything would be damaged if it started to leak, the only time I recommend changing it is when it IS leaking. But if it could cause damage, then replace it when you become concerned, because there is NEVER a "predetermined time" when it MUST, or should, be changed. One minute it is fine, five minutes later it can be leaking, and you NEVER know when that point has been reached until it starts leaking. It is like testing a cable. Until it breaks you do not know the maximum load it could support, and then it is too late.
    Last edited by hj; 08-13-2011 at 02:16 PM.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

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    Software Engineer osx-addict's Avatar
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    I've got an 11 year old gas water heater (50g) that I'm also wondering about -- it was in storage (drained) for 6 months back in ''07 for a remodel but was put back in service afterwards. Eventually when the time comes I'd like to replace it with an AO Smith model but am not sure when approximately I can expect to replace this heater if it's already 11 years old. I am not the original owner so I'm not sure how well it's been maintained prior to my ownership and we've drained it a few times but I've never replaced the sacrificial anode and perhaps it's too late at this point.. Should I guestimate a life span of ~15 years for this unit.. I realize nobody can predict but in generalities, on average, what should I expect -- we also have fairly hard water in our area if that matters. Thanks!

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    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    Generally speaking, there are 2 times to replace a water heater. Obviously, you can get squeeze every day of its life by waiting until it starts to leak. Nothing wrong with that. Or, you can figure you have exceeded the expected lifespan of the heater and feel it would make sense to go ahead an replace it when it is convenient for you to do so. You would sacrifice the unknown additional life span of the heater, but you would not be caught with a leaking heater perhaps in the holidays or other inconvenient time. It's your call. As far as your choice of heaters, for what its worth, AO Smith heaters are not considered very good. Most plumber prefer the Bradford-White or Rheem.

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    Software Engineer osx-addict's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Swart View Post
    As far as your choice of heaters, for what its worth, AO Smith heaters are not considered very good. Most plumber prefer the Bradford-White or Rheem.
    Thanks for the info.. Interesting comment.. The high-end AO Smith Vertex doesn't appear to share the same performance figures with either Rheem or Bradford-White.. Only the Vertex can claim a federal tax credit for efficiency -- neither Rheem or BW appear to have any models that even get close (to qualify they must have a efficiency factor of 0.82 or greater or a thermal efficiency of >= 0.90). Too bad it's hard to find easy comparison data for all of the mfg's out there.. Perhaps there are others out there that are efficient and well regarded..

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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Last time I looked, there were a couple of BW WH that qualified...but, maybe not in the size you need or want. But, other than that, most WH give at least a few days notice when they are about to fail by starting to leak a little. Now, if the thing isn't where you'd notice, that could lead to a flood to announce the problem to you. But, if you are by it at least daily and are aware and look it over quickly to notice any drips/leaks that just started, you'd then have some time, at least a few days, to fix it before catastrophy. Now, it could fail quicker, but that doesn't seem to be the norm.
    Jim DeBruycker
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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    Software Engineer osx-addict's Avatar
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    Thanks.. I don't normally look at it as it's in a closet outside on the exterior of the house but IF it were to let loose and flood, it would end up in the garage as that's on the other side of the wall and would be the easiest place to drain to.. which of course would make a nice mess but not as bad had it happened in the house of course..

    By the way, I did find a few other water heater companies (none I'm familiar with though) that apparently offer 96% efficient models with power-direct vent systems -- but none are cheap by any means -- one that I recall is a brand called American -- I don't recall the others though off the top of my head. The American seems to have specs very similar to the AO Smith Vertex model..

    I do see a few companies offering the stainless steel tanks with no anode rods -- do these really perform that much better time wise to justify the larger bump in cost? Just curious from those of you that service/repair/replace water heaters out there..
    Last edited by osx-addict; 08-16-2011 at 10:08 AM.

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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Glass lined steel where any minor imperfection that can rust, or SS that generally doesn't rust...they're pretty good about coating the inside of the steel tank, but handling, water quality, and age will allow it to rust eventually. A good SS tank should last forever. Now, the burner and controls, that's another thing.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    DIY Junior Member richard8's Avatar
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    Hello,

    Therefore, what is the maximum life of a Bradford White water heater. I have seen some neighbors still have one
    that is 19 years old.

    Only replace water heater when leaking, or when it reaches 18 years old.

    Thanks.

  13. #13
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    There is no guarantee on how long a WH will last...there is some variation unit to unit even on the same production line on the same day. Then, take into accout the water, use, and maintenance, and the variation increases.

    Some home owners associations (say in a condo or rental) replace them on a regular basis to ensure they are unlikely to fail, causing damage to multiple units. This ends up being cost effective, but could be shortchanging people as the units could likely last longer. In your home, it depends. If it was installed with a pan and drain so it wouldn't create damage when it fails, then you may just go until it does, then replace. If it sits in an unfinished basement where the water wouldn't create a problem, you might leave it as well. But, if you don't want damage, or to be without hot water at an inconvenient time, replace it when it gets old. How old, is up to you and would somewhat depend on maintenance and local experience with the brand.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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