hot water heater - with blower fan?

homeboundAugust 27, 2007

I'm helping someone manage/rent their house while on a military tour. Northern VA area. Anyway, got a call that there's no hot water.

It's a heater with some sort of induction fan, looks like a blower fan sitting on top. I paid for a mechanical service call, and they say we need a new fan assembly (parts are not available, so entire unit has to be replaced), and total cost for parts and labor will be $940. Apparently this fan delivers air to pilot or something.

Any thoughts on

1) these types of water heaters

2) this quote.

Unit is about 8 years old.


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This is a powervent water heater. This type of system is use in a couple of situations: They can be used for better efficiency or (usually the case) to side vent out the wall instead of building a flue through the roof.

Typical price of the entire water heater is $800-1000.

I have no idea what the price is for the part or what is reasonable labor in your area.

Naturally, since the whole heater costs $900, I think the price is high. It should be a reasonably fast swap out. However, you may be stuck. Just make sure they aren't guessing about the cause of the problem.

Also, since you are talking about an 8 year old heater, you might want to consider replacement. Typical life on a heater is 12-15 years.

I would call someone else and have them give you a price on fixing the existing (you think it's the blower fan, but not sure) and replacing the entire unit.

Here is a link that might be useful: Power Vent water heaters

    Bookmark   August 28, 2007 at 9:06AM
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You are correct. It's an A.O. Smith 50 gal. w/ power vent out the side wall.

First quote to swap out the fan assembly was $900+, while a total replacement was $1500+.

Second quote was part + labor....if they or I could get the part. Turns out the big plumbing supplier didn't have it on the shelf, no one has, and neither did AO Smith on their shelves, so add 4 days for them to get it so they can send it. Nice. Part cost was $404 alone. And 2nd firm's quote for a total replacement, different manufacturer - approx. $2000.

Anyway, it will be swapped out at the - gulp - $1500 range.

So my first experience with these things tells me they really have you over a barrel when they fail.

(This is in Arlington, VA.)

    Bookmark   August 28, 2007 at 9:58PM
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You will do what you have to do. When you don't have hot water, you have to move quickly.

It's crazy that the combustion blower costs $400 and takes 4 days to get. This represents several people along the distribution chain making a 100% markup -- when they aren't even stocking the part. Any part should be able to move from any location in the world overnight.

You would think that AO Smith would have a parts network that could get any part to any dealer by the next day. You would also think that a plumbing shop could swap out a blower in a short amount of time and still make plenty of money for overhead, truck expenses, etc.

Why is it that plumbing service is so bad and expensive?

If the customer wants hand holding and color brochures and several trips to the house to make up their mind, that's one thing. But a normal water heater replacement should be fast and reasonably priced.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2007 at 10:27AM
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Well said, Jake.

Perhaps I need to prepare for the next eventual failure on the newly installed unit (which took 2 1/2 hrs total to install).

What parts fail most often on power vent heaters? Now that I learned fans are hard to get, but what about other parts?


    Bookmark   August 30, 2007 at 7:15AM
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