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Thread: New electric water heater on concrete slab

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member Hopscotch's Avatar
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    Default New electric water heater on concrete slab

    I cannot locate a plumber (metropolitan Philadelphia area) who will install a new electric water heater in my laundry room (on concrete slab with no basement) consistent with the advice that I've found here. After obtaining four proposals ranging in price from $860 to $1500 (Bradford White 50 gal electric), I've been informed that a drain pan and expansion tank are ridiculous and totally unnecessary despite the fact that my family room is on the other side of the laundry room. My township mandates a permit/inspection for water heater installations but all four companies claim they install units in the neighborhood all the time and nobody ever obtains a permit for such work. If I sell my home within the next several years, can I afford to violate my township's permit requirement, especially considering the fact that these (supposedly highly rated) plumbers might not be as good as they're supposed to be? How do I find a plumber who does things by Code? Every one of the quoters told me they are The Best.

  2. #2
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    When a WH starts to go, often, but not always, it starts as a slow leak. A drain pan can handle that; it cannot handle a major leak, but hopefully, you'd notice it before that happens. One thing that does work is to install a WAGS valve in the pan that will shut the water off once the pan starts to fill up. If you use the included switch, and the WH supports it, that can also shut down the WH so it doesn't try to heat what may be an empty WH. www.wagsvalve.com . It also gives you a free insurance policy IF it is installed by a certified installer. If those plumbers have a valid license, a note to the inspector may make them sing a different song.
    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 Senior Member wjcandee's Avatar
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    Did you try Sears? I recommended them to another poster recently, based on my own excellent experience with them. Short version: I looked online then called them for a replacement. They sent an excellent local mechanical contractor (licensed plumbers and electricians). They came right out. They were meticulous and excellent. They put in a drain pan, which I didn't have and which was important in this above-the-garage apartment. They would have put in an expansion tank if I needed it. It was a great experience, at a very reasonable price for the service I received (like $235 installation plus about $100 for the drain pan).

    Unfortunately, it didn't work out for the person I recommended Sears to, but their response was telling. Come Monday morning (they don't work on weekends), she called before noon and they sent on the same day a licensed plumber on contract to them. (They don't send Sears repair techs; they hire a local licensed plumber to do the job.) They add $35 to the cost in her jurisdiction to cover the cost of a permit for the job. She was in a mobile home, and Code required a Sealed-Combustion-Chamber-Direct-Vent mobile-home certified water heater, which Sears doesn't sell (it's kind of a specialized item). Although two Rooter companies had offered to put in a water heater from Home Depot (which also doesn't carry the right kind locally) at an insanely-high price, the Sears plumber just told her, "Sorry, we can't do it because it's not legal." Sucked for her, but it was reassuring to me that they insisted on doing it right.

    Bradford-White is an excellent brand, and recommended by some of the pros who post here. However, other pros here have observed that the Sears product is made by State (an A.O. Smith division), and is a good product that they will stand behind. One of our moderators indicated that water-heater longevity is primarily the result of factors other than the brand name on the heater. We have had our Kenmore electric hot water heater in the garage apartment for a few years now, and it has been totally-reliable so far.

    Here's a 50-gal, 6-year electric: http://www.sears.com/kenmore-50-gal-...3&blockType=G3

    They also sell a 55-gal, 6-year electric at the same price, as well as a 9-year and a 12-year in 55-gal.

    In Philadelphia proper, according to the web site, installation by a Sears-retained licensed plumber is $270, drain pan is $90, $130 for expansion tank, plus $10 for haul-away. So about $800 for the whole job, including the water heater, installation, drain pan, expansion tank and haul-away. Plus tax. If you look at the web site, you can see the other options and get the precise installation cost for your actual city once you add the thing to your cart. If you call the number posted on the web site before noon, they offer same-day service.

    Good luck, and let us know how it goes.

    PS It looks like Sears will also hook you up with a $25 mail-in rebate if you are a PECO customer for installations before 5/31.
    Last edited by wjcandee; 05-15-2013 at 10:39 PM.

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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    There's a much bigger difference in gas WH than there is in electric, so the brand doesn't make a huge difference - it's luck of the draw. The burner design on a gas WH and the components the company chooses makes a big difference on how well and long it works, but there's not much to an electric WH.
    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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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    A drain pan under the heater is completely worthless unless you have somewhere to run its drain pipe. All a permit and inspection does, assuming you have a "good" plumber, is cost you extra for the permit and his time to obtain it and meet with the inspector, which would normally add about $200.00 to $300.00 to the installation price.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

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    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    Since the advent of check valved water meters we are doing more and more expansion tanks on our water heater installs.
    Some parts of Seattle have the old style meters without the checks, and on those the expansion isn't needed. I do like the expansion tanks though. It provides some cushion when somebody else uses water.

    We sometimes install a water heater with a pan, and a moisture alarm. If it's a slow weeping leak, it gives some warning.
    A pan with a 1" drain plumbed somewhere is nice, but I have rarely seen that.

    And yes, all plumbers are the best.
    Every plumber I have ever worked with or seen, is the best.
    Except for the one that said he was average. He wasn't. Not even.
    So I like to hear that they are the best, that means that at least they know how to use tools. I don't know why all plumbers think that way, but they do. It is funny.

    Some condo association require water heater replacement at 10 years just to be safe. You put a date on the heater and replace it "before" it goes bad.
    Just like you change oil in your car before you ruin your engine.

    I like to think that most water heaters in the Seattle area go ten years, though the last few months I've been replacing GE water heaters from home centers that are much younger than that.
    Last edited by Terry; 05-16-2013 at 05:31 PM.

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    DIY Junior Member Hopscotch's Avatar
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    Thank you for the excellent advice. I made the shocking discovery that there are no plumbing license requirements in Pennsylvania so literally anybody can call himself a plumber. It's very likely that many plumbing "experts" are plumbing wannabes or plumbing guessers. If I had a basement with no fear of damage to finished living areas and if I weren't so close to selling my home, I'd be casual about replacing the water heater but home buyers are nit picky about everything, especially such things as a 50 gallon water tank on the other side of the family room. I'll call Sears for yet another estimate -- that'll make my 7th quotation. Meanwhile I've ordered a custom 2" deep heavy gauge galvanized steel drain pan (for fifty bucks) based on the non-traditional size of my space and will use a water sensor/alarm as a safeguard against slow leak. This seems like an improvement over placing the unit on bricks and paying the intaller $91 for a pan from Lowe's. ....by the way, Terry Love, this is The Greatest Website!

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    TROJAN WORLDWIDE SALES RP MACPLUMB 777's Avatar
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    http://www.getfloodstop.com/Water_He..._p/fs34npt.htm

    This is the best to prevent flooding, it turns off water at the same time sounding a high decibel alarm, think smoke detector

    MACPLUMB 777

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    35 YEAR MASTER PLUMBER, HEATING, ELECTRIC, DRAINS, FIRE SPRINKLERS, WATER HEATER
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  9. #9
    DIY Junior Member Hopscotch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MACPLUMB 777 View Post
    http://www.getfloodstop.com/Water_He..._p/fs34npt.htm

    This is the best to prevent flooding, it turns off water at the same time sounding a high decibel alarm, think smoke detector
    Macplumb, can you believe that I recommended something similar to the FloodStop system to one of the quoting plumbers and he said, "Forget it. I couldn't install it for less than $800!" Yes, eight hundred dollars for a 15-minute installation. Plumbers in my area are aspiring mega-millionaires. Meanwhile, I do lots of DIY projects but tend to avoid plumbing based on a high error ratio.

  10. #10
    Test, Don't Guess! cacher_chick's Avatar
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    Around here, Sears just pays local plumbers to act as a subcontractor, so the same guy might show up whether ones goes through Sears or picks an ad from the phone book.

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    DIY Senior Member wjcandee's Avatar
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    I'll call Sears for yet another estimate -- that'll make my 7th quotation.
    And apparently the first sane one. Let us know how it goes.

  12. #12
    DIY Senior Member wjcandee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hopscotch View Post
    I made the shocking discovery that there are no plumbing license requirements in Pennsylvania so literally anybody can call himself a plumber.
    Plumbers in PA seem to be licensed by the local jurisdiction. Philadelphia, for example, requires a license for which one must pass a test. That may not be as stringent a requirement as elsewhere, but it's something.

  13. #13
    DIY Junior Member Hopscotch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wjcandee View Post
    Plumbers in PA seem to be licensed by the local jurisdiction. Philadelphia, for example, requires a license for which one must pass a test. That may not be as stringent a requirement as elsewhere, but it's something.
    It's true. Towns and cities in Pennsylvania administer their own plumbing test. It's an interesting system where plumbers then obtain a license for $50-$100 per year which permits them to perform services within that jurisdiction. In a single county, a plumber might have to take dozens of tests and obtain dozens of licenses in order to perform services throughout a single county. All of the plumbers that I interviewed for water heater installation work frequently in my township yet none had a local license. The licensing system seems to be meaningless except that it provides government with the illusion of control while adding somewhat to the coffers.

    It's too bad that Sears is now using subcontractors. I've gone that route before and prefer fewer layers of people to deal with.

  14. #14
    DIY Senior Member wjcandee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hopscotch View Post
    It's too bad that Sears is now using subcontractors. I've gone that route before and prefer fewer layers of people to deal with.
    I disagree. You call them. You order the thing. They send a local plumber to put it in. Presumably, they have long-term relationships with people who do a good job and for whom they are an important source of business, and to whom they pay a fixed price. When the plumber they sent to our house came, I dealt directly with the plumber from then on, except that he had already been paid. They sent excellent people, who did a meticulous job, which included making a careful penetration of the stucco outdoor wall to install the drain line for the drain pan. They did everything to Code, likely a requirement of their contract with Sears. Sears followed up to make sure we were happy with the job. No "layers".

    Of course, YMMV, but the system worked perfectly in our case. Seems to me this is a route that should ensure an installation to code, with the extras that you want, at a price that is the same as someone else wanted just for the water heater.

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    DIY Junior Member Hopscotch's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=wjcandee;380195]I disagree. Sears followed up to make sure we were happy with the job. No "layers".


    I appreciate the nudge in the direction of Sears. I will indeed schedule an appointment. They offer a discount if a photo of the current unit is sent to them. The independent contractors that I've dealt with thus far haven't been encouraging: one refused to give a quote in writing, one was a no-show, several were outrageously priced ($1000+), they all chuckled at the mention of "permit" and "code", one upped his price from the time of inspection to the time of written quote, none of them wants to add a drain pan unless I insist on it....I could go on and on. When I replaced water heaters in the unfinished basements of former properties the decision of fast and easy.

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