Quick basic advice on a dripping gas 40-gal hot-water heater

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Donna Ohl, Grady Volunteer Coordinator wrote:

I assume it's leaking from the body of the tank, not from a connection or the pressure relief valve.
Chances are the heater is done. 5 year warranty?
If I's just a slow drip, and is controllable you could last a week, but it could let go anytime.
Is it down the basement on a concrete floor with no possibility of water damage? If not the damage bill may exceed the cost of replacing 10 heaters.
The safe bet is to call a plumber and replace the tank as soon as possible. The labor to replace the tank with a similar unit will likely be less than that of a tankless. Less modifications to the water and gas lines.
Bite the bullet and take your lumps, the joys of being a home owner.
I built a new house and installed a conventional electric heater a few years ago. At the time I couldn't justify the additional expense of a tankless heater.
LdB
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On Sun, 10 Feb 2008 15:58:35 -0600, L D'Bonnie wrote:

It's in a concrete-floored garage on a wooden pedestal so there's not much by way of water damage that can occur if the leak were to exascerbate in the next few days.

I've since given up on tankless for the retrofit costs. The labor at Home Depot seems to be $309 to hook up the new hot water heater and haul away the old one; plus $55 for earthquake straps; plus $50 for permits; plus taxes of roughly 9% on the parts and service.

Here are the comparisons I can generate so far, based on what Home Depot says at their Bronx New York Water Heater Servicing Center.
The prices below are installed but sans earthquake straps, permits, & taxes. Note that the Home Depot water heater servicing center had no figures for the BTUs (they said they weren't important). They mostly pushed warranty but I did my comparison by cost per First Hour Rating.
Home Depot Water Heater Servicing Center (877-467-0542) by price (installed), SKU, FHR, EF, BTU, volume, and warranty: $608 SG40T12AVH/182-755 72galFHR 0.59EF ??KBTU 40gal 6-yr(drain 2x/year) $658 SG50T12AVH/183-717 80galFHR 0.58EF ??KBTU 50gal 6-yr(drain 2x/year) $677 SG40T12AVH/182-786 72galFHR 0.59EF ??KBTU 40gal 9-yr(self cleaning) $718 SG50T12AVH/184-076 80galFHR 0.58EF ??KBTU 50gal 9-yr(self cleaning) $728 SG40T12AVH/182-953 68galFHR 0.59EF ??KBTU 40gal 12-yr(self cleaning) $783 SG50T12AVH/185-191 83galFHR 0.58EF ??KBTU 50gal 12-yr(self cleaning)
Here are the best numbers I could find by going to the local Home Depot. Notice the only way to get the all-important First Hour Rating was to open each and every box which the floorperson balked at so I don't know that or the Energy Factor.
Here is what was at the store by price, UPC, FHR, ER, BTU, volume, & warranty: $280, 514017, ??gal FHR, .??EF, 34K, 40gal, 3yr $290, 509501, ??gal FHR, .??EF, 36K, 40gal, 6yr $350, 519005, ??gal FHR, .??EF, 38K, 40gal, 9yr $350, 431048, ??gal FHR, .??EF, 38K, 50gal, 6yr $360, 494272, ??gal FHR, .??EF, 40K, 40gal, 6yr $370, 551821, ??gal FHR, .??EF, 40K, 40gal, 9yr $380, 569840, ??gal FHR, .??EF, 34K, 40gal, 6yr $410, 431055, ??gal FHR, .??EF, 38K, 50gal, 9yr $420, 518411, ??gal FHR, .59EF, 40K, 40gal, 12yr $420, 494302, 68gal FHR, .??EF, 40K, 50gal, 6yr $440, 518435, ??gal FHR, .??EF, 40K, 50gal, 12yr
Do any of these choices seem most reasonable to replace my existing 65 gallon First Hour Rating, ??EF, 40 gallon, 35,000 BTU 50" tall by 18" diameter gas-fired shelf-mounted earthquake-strapped hot water heater?
Donna
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It would be nice if there were freeware to do all these calculations for us! (I'll ask the wonderful folks on the freeware newsgroup if they have any "special" cost-per-FHR calculators other than standard calculators).
Here is what the choices seem to be by cost per FHR (which seems like the only reasonable comparison).
Home Depot Water Heater Servicing Center (877-467-0542) by cost per FHR given the price (installed), price for the heater, SKU, FHR, EF, BTU, volume, and warranty:
$4.15 $608 $299 182-755 72galFHR 0.59EF ??KBTU 40gal 6-yr(drain 2x/year) $4.36 $658 $349 183-717 80galFHR 0.58EF ??KBTU 50gal 6-yr(drain 2x/year) $5.11 $677 $368 182-786 72galFHR 0.59EF ??KBTU 40gal 9-yr(self cleaning) $5.11 $718 $409 184-076 80galFHR 0.58EF ??KBTU 50gal 9-yr(self cleaning) $6.16 $728 $419 182-953 68galFHR 0.59EF ??KBTU 40gal 12-yr(self cleaning) $4.51 $783 $374 185-191 83galFHR 0.58EF ??KBTU 50gal 12-yr(self cleaning)
Given the cost per FHR for the Home Depot hot water heaters above, it seems like the best bet, economically and maintenance wise, is the $5.11 per first hour rating 72-gallon FHR 40-gallon $368 dollar ($677 + $55 earthquake straps + $50 permit fee + ~$50 local taxes) GE SG40T12AVH/182-786 hot water heater.
Do you agree? That is, does this cost per FHR comparison seem logical to you?
It would be nice if there were freeware to do these calculations for us so I'm including the freeware team on this (they helped me years ago with a freeware garage-door torsion-spring calculator which was utterly fantastic - maybe they have similar freeware calculators for home water heater replacement comparisons!).
Donna
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It's a useful tool but not the whole story, especially in what I gather will be a low usage situation. That would steer me to a small capacity heater and one with the very best insulation I could find. A longer warranty is good provided you're not paying an unreasonable premium for it.
In a low usage situation I would try and establish the R-values of the insulation in each product before making a final decision.
Also take into account the "quality" of your local water. If harsh, and you want a long life, consider a heater with a stainless steel tank (although there's a significant price premium).
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Donna Ohl, Grady Volunteer Coordinator wrote:

Nope.
Susan
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The two above should equal or exceed the FHR of your existing heater. That's mainly a function of BTUs, so the second of the two above will be slightly better; of course, it'll burn a bit more gas. If that's a concern, go with the first.
Gary
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On Mon, 11 Feb 2008 02:26:24 -0000, Gary Heston wrote:

I'm still looking up ways to make a smart decision. One thing I've noticed is that the efficiency factors I've been quoted from Home Depot stink (basically 58 to 59 percent).
I called PG&E and they pointed me to a $30 rebate but only for residential gas water heaters of an EF of 62% or greater. http://www.pge.com/res/rebates/gas_electric_storage /
Does anyone know where to find a 40gallon or 50gallon hot water heater with that efficiency rating at a major chain (sears or home depot or ???). http://www.pge.com/res/rebates /
Donna
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Call around and ask, there's only a few different companies that make these things, others just stick their name on them. As far as I know, the efficiency of gas water heaters doesn't vary much from one to the next unless you go tankless.
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Donna Ohl, Grady Volunteer Coordinator wrote:

Rheem should have a few models that qualify, and they're a pretty common brand. Also see if any State or Craftmaster models meet your needs; AFAICT those three make up the vast majority of the water heater market; many other brands are just relabels of those three. There's another one that you can't buy direct (only sold to pros) but I can't recall the name now.
BTW, you're getting all obsessive compulsive about this. I like you :)
nate
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On Sun, 10 Feb 2008 22:32:43 -0500, Nate Nagel wrote: Hi Nate and others, I appreciate the help. One thing that confuses me to no end is this EFFICIENCY thing.
If both a 50 gallon and 40 gallon water heater has the same 59 percent efficiency factor ... do they cost the SAME to heat?
Or does the 50 gallon water heater actually cost more even if it's the same efficiency?
The reason I ask is I assumed they cost the same to operate but someone said the smaller water heater will cost less to operate even if the efficiency factor is the same.
Can someone who understands this clarify if a larger heater truly costs more to operate than a smaller volume heater even if the efficiency factor is the same?
Donna
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no larger heater costs no more to heat the same amount of water.
if you call a real plumbing store AO SMITH sells a 96% efficent condensing hot water tank but i dont know the cost.........
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Heating less water costs less, even with equally efficient heaters.
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On Sun, 10 Feb 2008 23:10:47 -0500, mc wrote:

Are you sure?
Look at what this energy page says about the Efficiency Factor: http://www.friendlyplumber.com/plumbing101/washer_heater_energy.html
The "energy factor [is the] number of cycles that can be completed w/ one kilowatt-hour of electricity".
If that's true, then it's independent of the VOLUME of the water heater.
So, if I read that correctly, a 40-gallon water heater with an EF of .58 takes roughly about 2 KWH of power to heat once while a 50-gallon water heater with the same EF would take EXACTLY the same amount of power to heat all 50 gallons.
Can someone check my math on that web page and report back if I understand incorrectly? If we turn off our brains, of course 40 gallons would cost less to heat than 50 gallons; but if we think, it might not be so.
Can you help me think about this properly? What does the Efficiency Factor say about costs for two different sized tanks with the same efficiency factor?
Donna
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Strange. Then it isn't a measure of efficiency.
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On Sun, 10 Feb 2008 23:42:31 -0500, mc wrote:

I think it was MY MISTAKE to call it an efficiency factor. It's actually an ENERGY FACTOR. And, it seems to be independent of the capacity of the tank. It's dependent on the "cycles".
So, it seems if a 50-gallon water heater has an EF of 0.50, then it takes two kilowatt hours of power to "cycle" that water heater. Likewise, if a 100-gallon water heater has the same EF, then it takes the same amount of power to "cycle" that water heater.
Now we have to figure out what a "cycle" is. I can presume it is to heat up a stated amount of hot water, presumably the capacity but I don't know that for sure.
If a "cycle" is the capacity, then it would actually cost LESS per gallon for a 100 gallon water heater than a 50 gallon water heater assuming the same Energy Factor.
Realistically, all the Home Depot water heaters have a 0.58 or 0.59 EF so that would indicate, if my assumptions are correct, they the larger ones (e.g., 50 or 60 gallons capacity) actually costs LESS to operate than the smaller ones (e.g., 40 gallons capacity) for any given number of gallons USEAGE.
Can my math possibly hold water?
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EF allows you to compare different heaters. It takes into account insulation and other factors. Details here: http://www.eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home/water_heating/index.cfm/mytopic000
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Sigh. Absolutely true and totally meaningless within the context of this discussion. Oh wait! This is usenet...
Hint: Direct energy cost is based on _use_ and efficiency, not _capacity_ and efficiency.
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On Sun, 10 Feb 2008 21:20:35 -0700, Rick Blaine wrote:

Good point ... dead capacity vs active usage!
Darn. I wish I understood this EF thing better, especially given two identical situations where the *only* difference is the CAPACITY.
Based on what you implied, if I inferred correctly, if the USAGE was exactly the same for two water heaters with the same EF, then the costs to operate a 50-gallon water heater would be EXACTLY the same as the costs to operate a 100-gallon water heater (if the Efficiency Factor were the same for both).
Did I understand the math (and your point) correctly?
Donna
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Not exactly. There are two types of heat use/loss in a water heater: One is the heat used to heat the water you are actively using. The other is to reheat the water that's sitting in the tank all day when you aren't using it.
Both tanks will use the same amount of energy to heat the water you are using directly. If both tanks have the same efficiency and the same insulation, the smaller tank will lose less energy to the outside air and thus be slightly less expensive to operate over the course of a year.
The actual difference in cost is probably not that much. Look at the estimated annual cost of the two heaters on the yellow energy tag. They normalize for all that. If one say $180 and the other says $200, that's a rough idea of the difference in operating costs.
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Rick Blaine wrote:

True, but there's one minor complication: the larger tank will probably have a smaller ratio of surface area to volume[1]. Since surface area is basically what determines the rate of heat loss[2], a tank that's double the size will not lose heat at double the rate.
So while the larger tank will lose more heat, the increase in lost heat is smaller than linear.
On the other hand, having a water heater with a large capacity can encourage people to take excessively-long showers if they are already inclined in that direction, and having a water heater with a small capacity can definitely discourage long showers. :-)
- Logan
[1] As a starting point for visualizing this, imagine a 100-gallon water heater as simply two 50-gallons stacked on top of each other. When you stack them, the bottom of the upper one and the top of the lower one will be up against each other and thus not losing heat from that surface. So you've eliminated some surface area. Real water heaters will have different proportions, but the same basic idea applies. If you model them as spheres, volume is proportional to the cube of the radius but surface area is proportional to the square.
[2] ... along with temperature difference, but that's a constant here, so we can eliminate it from this comparison.
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