Hi. My hot water heater is 12 years old now. I know what can happen when a heater fails and plan to replace it before it goes. That also gives me time to think about what best suits my needs and shop.

I'd like opinions on what I am thinking. First of all, although I am not expert plumber, I have done plenty of handy homeowner work. I've repiped about 75% of my first home, relocated gas water heater, etc. Yet every place I call seems to insist that I shouldn't do this myself. Any idea why? The home is pretty new, has 4" gravity venting, fresh air source, etc.

Secondly - I currently have a 50 gallon AO Smith 40K BTU unit. It has provided good service - with now problems other than the proverbial TP valve leak (I already replaced the valve). I have liked the AO Smith unit and have liked it better than (much) older Rheem units I've owned. I think I'd like to buy another AO Smith, but can't seem to find a local source other than contractors that want to install it too. As soon as I tell them I want to install it, the "unit alone" price is then almost the same as the installed price (clearly over priced). One of the local plumbing supply places will sell me direct, but carrys Bradford White. I've never owned a BW.

Any opinions on AO Smith vs. Bradford (or other brands). I think I've figured out that there are now only 4 mfgs in the US, right?

Next question... What type to buy. It's installed in an unfinished basement. Natural gas. 4" gravity vent already there although it would be easy to run horizontal PVC venting. We have 4 people normally here and pretty often have 1 or 2 house guests. We do run out of hot water pretty often. Not all the time... but, with 2 teenage girls that seem to shower forever... well, you know. All it takes is a shower or two while doing laundry or running the dishwasher and Dad (me) is left with a cold water shower. I am thinking about a 65 or 75 gallon NG unit. I would rather put the money into an efficient, long lasting unit. I also have a whirlpool tub that we use a few times/month that takes the whole 50 gallons.

I'm thinking about the AO Smith ProMax plus High Recovery 50 or 65 gallon (60K/65K BTU) or maybe even going to a commercial model - the Cyclone XHE 120 gallon (smallest size for that model)



Any opinions on which unit would be best? Are the commercial units typically longer lasting in residential applications?

Thanks for your help.