Surprise, It’s a New Water Heater

by Josh on March 11, 2010 · 7 comments

in Basement,Journal

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 tankless water heater.  There goes the tax refund!

New Water Heater Old Boiler

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.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Indoor Dryer Vent March 11, 2010 at 9:13 am

The same thing happened to my parents not long ago. In their case it flooded the laundry room too. They also got their new one through the gas company and got the 12 year warranty. Really a smart idea!

Your boiler is really 87 years old? How’s it working these days?


1916home March 11, 2010 at 11:51 am

We’re considering a tankless right now. I havent crunched the numbers but there are two kinds… electric and gas versions. Both are pretty much the same in price, but require different expenses to install.

My electric panel is updated so thats not a prob with a tankless electric, but Im trying to cut my electric use to the point I can do a DIY solar panel hookup. I have to consider all of this stuff.

For a gas line, Ive heard it is recommended to run a SEPARATE gas line to the tankless heater, having then to dig up a good 100 ft in the backyard to sink new pipes. Its a DIY project, but do I want to DIY??? :p



1916home March 11, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Ohh… forgot one of the MAIN reasons for tankless in our case…. SPACE. We have a narrow but long lot and if I could remove our water heater we have now, and put in a tankless, I could save room and even pop out the side of the house where the tank now sits, giving us some much needed closet space.


reuben Collins March 11, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Did you consider any direct vent or power vent options?


Allison March 11, 2010 at 9:56 pm

One comment on the draining concept. A plumber we used told me that it’s a good idea if you do it from the beginning, but if you’d had the water heater for years, like we have, and have never done it…don’t because it could let loose lots of sediment and create a bigger problem.


Josh March 12, 2010 at 11:31 am

Indoor Dryer Vent- The boiler is built like a tank and running great. I wish it were more efficient (I have no idea how it rates) and I wish the boiler and the supply pipes weren’t coated in asbestos, but it is absolutely reliable. I’m sure the cost of removing and replacing Old Reliable with a modern high-efficiency boiler would more than offset fuel savings at current prices– and no new boiler will last 87+ years.

1916home- There’s no denying the impressive space savings of tankless water heaters, though it doesn’t matter much in my large basement. If you are considering an electric tankless water heater, remember that they don’t qualify for the federal tax credit– only natural gas- or propane-fueled units meet the criteria.

Reuben- I didn’t consider direct-vent or power-vent tank water heaters because I didn’t want to incur any additional costs for cutting vent holes in the foundation on top of this already unanticipated expense.

Allison- Thanks for the tip!


Sean @ BungalowAGoGo March 22, 2010 at 4:04 pm

That is my worst nightmare, or at least one of the worst. If my water heater ever fails it will ruin my kitchen and laundry room floor. Next time, I am going tankless.


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