new water heater time...

Figures. I was in the middle of doing annual "plumbing maintenance" (flushing all the water heaters and preparing to inspect/ probably replace the anodes) which was prompted by the failure of the T&P valve on the main (gas) water heater - I figured that since the basement floor needed a good mopping I'd start doing all the dirty work I needed to do anyway prior to clean up. Well anyway I hadn't touched the gas heater yet except to replace the T&P valve as the drain valve was messed up, last night's project was supposed to be to replace the drain valve. Got home, no hot water, pilot light was out. Had to run to store to get matches - couldn't find any in the house, I guess there's not much need for matches anymore as all appliances except the water heater use spark ignitors or resistive ignitors (furnace) so I never stocked up. Anyway, I got it lit again and it cycled OK and then went out. a few seconds later I heard the gas valve snap shut which is good, at least the thermocouple is working OK. Lit it again and it was still on this AM. I'm hoping there was just a slug of something in the gas line but if this starts happening regularly it'll be new water heater time unless simply cleaning the pilot assembly fixes it; it's so old it's not worth the money to buy any parts for it unless they can be scavenged when it is eventually replaced.
So the question... what's the group's current opinion on gas vs. electric for a water heater? I keep hearing that gas is no longer much cheaper than electric, although my own back of envelope calculations don't seem to support that. I also like the much quicker recovery time of the gas heater. Is replacing a gas heater with another gas heater still worth the extra money? not only would it be more expensive to purchase, but I think that while I could install an electric heater myself I might feel more comfortable having a professional install a gas heater due to gas piping and flue issues... I really don't want to blow my house up or kill myself in my sleep due to trying to save a few bucks.
thanks for any opinions...
nate
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Pricing varies greatly from one area to another. However there are still few places where electric will be cheaper, especially is you have a modern high efficiency gas heater. Where I am, I will replace mine with another gas when it needs it.
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Joseph Meehan

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Well it may be premature. Still lit since about 9 PM last night. I'll keep an eye on it but I really hope I can limp it along at least until the new A/C is paid off. I did stop and buy a set of welding tip cleaners on the way home, that might have scared it into functioning :)
nate
Joseph Meehan wrote:

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Follow up:
still lit as of this AM (took a nice scalding hot shower) managed to replace drain valve last night using a Ridgid brand basin wrench to remove the old one. Cost me $35 but is a handy problem solver for limited access situations like this. I guess it probably wasn't meant to be used with two pipe wrenches turning it, but hey, it worked.
However, it looks like there's a lot of carbony (I assume) junk in the combustion area - is there a good (read not messy) way to clean this? Is it really a problem or can it be safely left in there? I'd prefer not to have to pull the burner if I don't have to. I noticed it because after the first time it cycled I opened the little inspection hole to see if the pilot was still lit and could see glowing red bits of carbon in there, looked kind of like the inside of the combustion chamber of an old car.
yes I know I should just get a new water heater. There's a lot of stuff I ought to replace but can't afford to at the moment...
nate

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The burner assembly should come out very easily. At least mine did, when I replaced my thermocouple. Only takes maybe 10 mins.
I noticed it

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