I had just finished hosting a dinner for friends. Our guests were on their way home and I had just begun to wash the dishes. But the hot water tap was delivering nothing but cold.
Going down to the utility room to investigate, I discovered a disaster: the water heater tank had failed and water was leaking out all over the floor and into the adjoining carpeted play room.
Ms. Bungalow and I were so busy running around with the shop vac, mop and towels that I didn’t take any pictures of the mess. When the initial puddle was under control and I had calmed down a bit, I realized I could connect a garden house to the water heater and drain it to the sink or floor drain in the laundry room.
Fast forward to the following afternoon. The plumbing contractor sent by my natural gas utility was putting the finishing touches on the installation of a new 12-year tank water heater. There goes the tax refund!
It looks good sitting next to my 87-year-old boiler, don’t you think?
During the installation, the contractor also determined that a couple code compliance upgrades were necessary. Specifically, I needed to replace the gas shutoff valve for the water heater, and close the current chimney vent instead connecting the exhaust ductwork to the chimney liner serving the boiler. These are definitely items I wouldn’t have caught if I had attempted to install a water heater myself.
Water Heater Tips
- Drain the tank. To extend the equipment lifespan, drain a couple gallons from the water heater tank twice a year to flush out sediments.
- Inspect the sacrificial anode rod periodically. My plumbing contractor confided that the anode rods in modern water heaters are designed to only make the tank last through its warranty period, so replacing a worn-down rod could help the water heater last longer.
- Check for equipment rebates with your utility company and government programs when making an upgrade.
- Consider the warranty. Because I bought the water heater through my utility, they will warrant the equipment and labor for 12 years. If this water heater dies 11 years from now, the utility company will pay for a replacement and the labor to install it.
- Run the numbers on tankless water heaters. Tankless water heaters are much more efficient than tank models and also more expensive, so the break even cost point will depend on the price of fuel, water use, maintenance expenses, and length of time in service.