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Thread: Self installation of electric water heater. PEX, Recirculation Pump, etc. - Questions

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  1. #1
    DIY Member CountryBumkin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Orlando, FL

    Default Self installation of electric water heater. PEX, Recirculation Pump, etc. - Questions

    It's time to repalce my 20 year old water heater. I plan to do this myself - but first I have a couple of questions.
    My current unit is a State 510E Censible. 4500W upper and lower elements. 52 gallon. 240V with 30Amp breakers.
    I do not want to change/upsize wiring but I would like to go to a 65 or 80 gallon tank size (beacuse I have a Spa-tub) and the sizing charts say i should go bigger (actually B-W sizing calculator says i should go to a 120gal (but I don't have the electrical service or room for that big).

    I plan to use PEX (I have the hose/fittings/expander-tool). My house is currently plumbed with PB but I am switching to PEX wherever I can. On this project I will run the WH Hot oulet from 18" Copper to PEX to a 3-port manifold, split off there for recircutiaon pump line (1/2) and run the second line (3/4) to the rest of my house (which, for now, I will just connect PEX back into the 3/4 PB line going under the slab. But if I ever have a PB failure I will be able to replumb with less work. I have PEX to PB fittings from Uponor.

    Here are my questions:

    1) Are there any brands to stay away from (like Kenmore bad, Bradford-White good)? I assume the links Terry provides to manufacturers on this site mean these are good brands. I'm looking at A.O. Smith, Bradford-White, Rheem/Rudd, and State. I belive all these brands are available at my local Plumbing supply house.

    2) I want energy efficency. I'm looking at the "premier lines". I don't want Hybrid or Solar (even though I live in Florida) - it's too much installation work for DIY and the payback time is too long. Are these "upper-end/premuim" lines worth the extra $, or is this a marketing gimick?

    3) Are A.O. Smith and State the same company? Their websites each have a sizing calculator which are the exact same program. I think State is less expensive but I read here that A.O Smith is a good product. I'm not looking for cheapest product.

    4) I want to add a recirculation pump for my hot water. I already bought the Grunfos UP10-16BN5/ATLC pump. Drawings/diagrams show the hot water return tee-ing into the drain fitting at bottom of water heater tank. Does anyone make a water heater with a NTP return port just for the recirculation pump? I don't want to use a tee if can be avoided beacaue I fear it will stick out too far and be a trip hazard (or get broken off). Maybe this is not a real issue - perhaps I can set the tank so the drain is parrallel to the wall.

    5) On the inlet/outlet fittings I have the Uponor 18"long copper to PEX adapter. Do I need to keep the return line PEX away from the tank (xx inches) at the bottom of the tank where my recirulation line will return to tank? I would think the bottom of tank water is cool enough not to harm PEX.

    6) Some WH have a self cleaning feature (like A.O. Smith Promax with DynaClean, or the State Permire line). Good idea or not?

    Any other advise or comments would be appreciated. Soory for the long post. This is a complicated proejct.

  2. #2
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Cave Creek, Arizona


    1. Electric water heaters are almost "generic". They all use the same elements and thermostats, and they can ALL have tank failures within the warranty period.
    2. Energy efficiency ONLY comes with more insulation around the tank so the wider the tank is compared to others the more efficient it will be.
    3.See the answer th #1.
    4. Connect the circulation line to the cold water supply INTO the heater. It will work exactly the same way as if it were connected to the drain outlet. And to answer your question, NO the do not.
    5. Follow the manufacturer's directions.
    6. With the new low flow faucets the self cleaning feature ONLY works when you run hot water in the bathtub, or use hot water in the washing machine, which few people do.
    7. 50 gallon or 120 gallon, the electric demand is the same. They both use 4500 watt elements, although some are available with 5500 watt ones, but it still uses the same wiring.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

  3. #3
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    San Diego


    AO Smith is a conglomerate which has purchased and now owns many water heater brands. State is one. There are still seemingly separate companies and various factories, but there seems to be a lot of uniformity of design across the AO Smith family. With gas, google whirlpool for that horror story. For electric, se hj's comments

  4. #4
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    New England


    Often, larger electric WH have the same heating elements as the smaller ones. This means it takes it longer to reheat or recover when you drain it. There are some that also have larger elements to shorten the recovery process, but you should be able to find one that can run on the available current if you want to go larger.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  5. #5
    General Engineering Contractor ballvalve's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    northfork, california


    FWIW. My latest electric Reliance had a stripped drain valve held in on 1/2 a good thread, and the anode was half the length it could have been. Fix those things and you have a good chance with about any unit.

    And "self cleaning" is a bad joke. IF it works a bit, it just plugs up all your valves. better to leave sediment sit, if its electric.

  6. #6
    DIY Member CountryBumkin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Orlando, FL


    Thanks everyone. Great advice/info.
    Now I'm off to the Plumbing Supply house.

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