Replacing a Working Water Heater


The subject of this posting is basically a question of risk aversion. I am sure that gamblers and people with low risk aversion are more willing to say that I should wait to replace my water heater while others who worry like I do, would be quick to say replace.
Basically, about 6 months ago I purchased a 23 yr. old home with a 13 yr. old electric hot water heater (no natural gas in my area). I was told by the home inspector to budget for a replacement. For some odd reason, while returning home after a Sunday trip this past weekend, I started to think about the hot water heater and how much life it had left.
I don't smell any odd smells or hear any odd noises and the hot water appears to be heated and recovered quickly. No complaints at all. However, my hot water heater is installed in a 2nd story utility closet with a 1.5 inch high drip pan and nothing but sub-floor to spill onto once overflowing the drip pan. I have read and been told that water heaters sometimes just stop working, sometimes develop a small leak, and sometimes decide to burst and drop all their load at once. Although I have homeowner's insurance to cover any water damage caused, it is a hassle I don't necessarily want to deal with AND there is always the deductible anyway. I have purchased an automatic water shut-off to stop additional flooding if a leak should ever occur but that doesn't account for the 50 gallons of water already in the tank.
In my research, I have found a decent $278 Whirlpool with a 9 yr. warranty and pretty good energy efficiency. Lowe's charges $194 for installation.
Does anybody have any opinion regarding whether or not I should go ahead with the replacement or should I wait to see a leak or lapse in operation of the heater?
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Your local utility may offer a HWH at a discount in return for being able to shut it off during peak local usage time. It's genearrly a good deal.
Mine cost $150 about 8 years ago...
HankC
snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

13 years is a reasonable life expectation for an electric heater. I'd plan on replacement fairly soon; very soon if there are any signs of leaks or corrosion. But I'd also shop around for a good deal -- even wait for a promotion. I would also:
1. Check to see if you need a permit -- it's required in some cities around here.
2. Check to see if the advertised installation service from Lowes is actually available. Again, around here, they often can't deliver on the installation service -- the local plumbers are not willing to do the job for the price Lowes is willing to pay them.
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Risk aversion is similar to paranoia. Sit tight and wait for it to fail, while thinking about far more important things.
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Like planning those drywall repairs he'll need in a year or few...
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The heaters I've had fail just started to drip a little water. Put a water sensing alarm in the drip pan and quit worrying. If you live in an area with really corrosive water, it might be another matter.
You could pull out the anode. If it's completely gone, then your heater would be more suspect. If it's significantly gone, replace the anode, which helps keep the heater from corrodeing.
Bob
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I repolace mine BEFORE they fail!!!
Less mess and hassle this way. Plus the cost is minimal when divided by number of years in service.
I would replace the tank but more importandly add a drain line from the drip pan so a leak at any time doesnt cause a disaster.
today a claim on homeowners may bring you higher rates and the deductible hurts.
think of it add a drain, and ignore the tank till it fails. a drain line should be pretty cheap/ take watewr to washtub or basement floor if the space is unfinished
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Well, I would suggest starting by talking with your neighbors. Ask them how long water heaters are lasting for them. In some areas a 13 year old water heater would be a record in other areas it would still be a youngster.
While catastrophic failure is possible, remember that it is possible with a brand new one as well. Most of the time they start leaking slowly for a while so if you take a look around every week or so, you should catch any likely problems.
Of course if you have the money and it makes your feel good, it is not a bad idea and in reality you likely don't have a lot of lie left in it.
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Joseph Meehan

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Well - I appreciate everyone's comments. I talked it over with the wife and we decided to go ahead and get a energy efficient 9 yr. warranty 50 gallon heater. I am also going to look into putting a drain in but we will see about that. THe way I look at it, if the heater breaks and does cause a problem, I am going to have to pay for the heater and more through the deductable on damage repairs. If it is just a trickle in the near future, I will have to replace anyway. And finally, we are only planning on staying in this house for another 3-4 years so by the time I sell, at least a selling point will be that the water heater is newer and more efficient and we will be less likely to have to give a credit or buy a home warranty for the next buyer.
I tend to be that guy that takes out good coverage amounts in insurance in lieu of saving the few extra bucks in premium or does a lot of preventative maintanence on my car. I think it serves my personality and piece of mind to just buy now before potential problems can occur.
Then again, if the builder who built this house thought of putting the water heater in the crawlspace or putting in an additional utility room on the back of the house, I probably wouldn't care until it broke.
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I always thought that 13 years would be considered old for a gas water heater, but not necessarily hot so old for a electric one?
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

I agree that electric ones generally have a significantly longer life. In my experience, 13 years is typical for gas, more like 20 for electric. Asking neighbors what their experience has been is a good idea, as a lot depends on local water. Since he has an automatic shutoff and only intends to stay there another 3 years, I'm not so sure I'd do anything. While it's true they can fail with a sudden significant leak, I think once the automatic shutoff turns off the incoming water relieving the pressure, the chances that the leak is going to be so bad that enough water comes out to overflow the pan and cause major damage is quite small.
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snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

Average life expectancy for electric water heater is 13/14 years: http://www.demesne.info/Home-Maintenance/Appliance-Life-Expectancy.htm
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