Fix or Replace Old Water Heater?

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    LESLIE: Fred in Louisiana is on the line with a question about an old water heater. What’s going on?

    FRED: This past year, we noticed our hot-water heater – which is a 70-gallon; it’s up in the attic – gas water heater started like it was bouncing around in the attic, OK? I called a plumber and they said, “Well, you need to get – change your anode.” Then I called another one and they said, “Well, don’t worry about it. It’s no big deal.”

    So, I listen to you guys all the time and love your show. And kind of would like you all’s opinion.

    TOM: How old is this water heater?

    FRED: About probably 10 years old.

    TOM: OK. So, you’re moving towards the end of the life of the water heater. And therefore, I wouldn’t tell you to replace the anode. That noise as the tank expands and contracts and was what you’re hearing – kind of gurgling, creepy kind of sound – is common to …

    FRED: Well, it’s more than a creep; it’s loud. It bumps and – like it’s bouncing up there.

    TOM: Yeah.

    FRED: Really heavy, yeah.

    TOM: Well, OK. I think the reason that that’s happening is because of it’s an old water heater and because the anode rod is probably shot. But I don’t think it’s worth fixing it because it’s 10 years old.

    I think that this is a really good time for you to think about doing this and that is to replace that tank water heater with a tankless water heater. The technology is so great right now with tankless water heaters.

    I was talking to a manufacturer today about a new Rheem unit, for example, that is really cool. Because what it does is it not only gives you instant hot water in an unbelievable, unending amount but it has this recirculating loop in it now so that – you know when you get in the shower in the morning and you’re waiting for it to go from cold to hot?

    FRED: Right.

    TOM: That goes away. It basically has a crossover valve built into it so it just provides water – hot water – to every fixture and faucet, for as much as you want it to be. So, that’s kind of cool with no wait for it.

    FRED: So, what kind of cost are we talking about on the tankless?

    TOM: Well, those water heaters are probably in the $1,000 to $1,500 range, plus installation. So, it’s going to be more expensive than a basic tank water heater. But it’s a lot more efficient and a lot more convenient to use. So, I mean when my old water heater goes now, the next time it goes I’m definitely going tankless.

    FRED: OK. Here’s the thing. It’s up in the attic. Why do they ever put a 70-gallon water heater up in that? We can’t – you couldn’t get it out. You can’t take it out of there.

    TOM: Yeah. Oh, you mean because they probably framed it in? Yeah, that’s a point.

    FRED: Oh, yeah, it’s way up in the – there’s no way to get it down.

    TOM: You can’t get it down through the attic access, the hole?

    FRED: No. No way. No way. Too big.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, listen, maybe you just …

    LESLIE: Hmm. They got it up there.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, yeah, but they may have put it up there before they put the floor down and probably framed it into the wall or something like that.

    LESLIE: Right. They built it around it.

    TOM: But the other thing you could do is you could cut it apart. A plumber can cut the old water heater apart for you, take it out in pieces. So, that’s also possible.

    FRED: OK. Should I – we would install the tankless water heater up in the attic?

    TOM: I would only because all the valves or the gas lines are there.

    FRED: Right.

    TOM: And venting these tankless units are really easy because they’re so efficient, Fred. They basically have very, very slightly warm gases going out of them. The gases are so – they’re such a low temperature that you don’t need a metal vent pipe. You could take it out of PVC pipe.

    FRED: Wow. You guys are great. I really appreciate it and you answered my question. That’s what I’m going to do: go tankless.

    TOM: Terrific. Good luck with replacing that old water heater, Fred. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    FRED: Thanks, guys.

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