water heater size for replacment soon

mike_73November 30, 2012

I have a 40 gal. AO Smith Natural Gas in my home that was manufactured in 1994 in my home. It is still running fine no leaks and I been checking it every time I go in the basement to do laundry a few times per week. I have flushed the tanks out every other year since I bought the house in 2006 but never changed the anode rod. I am thinking I should replace it soon with a new unit before it fails but it is 5 feet from a floor drain. I am looking at a 50 gal Whirlpool energy star rated tank with electronic ignition. Are these any good?

The other thing is I am not sure that is enough of a tank. the house has 2 apartments. one with a 1 bedroom 1 bath and the other a 3 bed 1 bath unit. both have a dishwasher and washer/dryer. I have a front load washer and with the current water heater there has always been enough for everyone except one time when we had a tenant with an old deep fill top load washer that was doing a huge boat load of laundry before being evicted.

so given that its been enough most of the time with a 40 would a 50 gallon be fine or should I be looking for a larger one or maybe 2 heaters like a 30 & 40 or two 40's

I am looking at saving up for a new one after the holidays are over and I have time to deal with it. 18 years seems a good life and while its showing no sign of problems now I don't want a failure when I'm on vacation and have to pay out for emergency services just to keep tenants happy. I learned not long after buying the house that stupid things I could fix or get help to fix will go wrong, months after I bought the house I had a drain back up while I was visiting family in California had I been back home in Pennsylvania I could have cleared it and saved $100 SERVICE CALL.

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I usually don't fix what isn't broken. There is no evidence that your water heater is going to fail. I moved into my house in 1993 and still have the same water heater - I don't even know how old it is, but still, hot water is available every day.

If you really want to replace it, and since your existing sized heater has always been ok except for one occasion with a bad tenant, then another 40 should be fine.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 1:31AM
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I have to agree with tjdabomb...If it ain't broke, don't fix it and when I do fix it I prefer to use the KISS method. (KISS= Keep It Simple Stupid).

As a plumber it is much better on my bottom line if you upgrade to the bells & whistles, but in my personal opinin the modern standing pilot water heater is without question a "modern Marvel of simplicity".

The energy guru's will argue that the standing pilot flame wastes energy, which is true, but when we consider the difference in price between an electric ignition system and the standing pilot, the unit will not live long enough to save even a fraction of the initial cost difference, and keep in mind that the more bells and whistles we attach to a piece of equipment the more points of failure we introduce into the system.

Changing out a water heater is a simple DIY job and you can actually do it to full code compliance without even soldering on a copper system.

I would advise you though. When you go in search of a new water heater, check your local hardware stores too. In my community we can buy a new 50gal "State" water heater for about $80 less than the price for the same unit at Lowes, and the hardware store will deliver it. Also, compare the prices of both the 40 & 50gal heaters. In many regions the 50gal water heaters are actually a bit cheaper than the 40gal units. I asked my hardware dealer why that is so and he says its because they have a much higher demand for 50's so they order more and get a better price from the factory and a much better freight rate.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 8:32AM
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I disagree with the previous comments.

An old water heater is a ticking bomb. Normal life for modern ones can't be much more than 15 years. Yours is 18 years old, it's a question of WHEN it fails, not if.

What costs you more - changing it before you have a problem, or dealing with a flood? How much money are you saving by doing it 6 months from now instead of now? Is that worth the risk of having a big problem to deal with, maybe when you're away on a trip? I'd say no way, but that's your decision.

I'm surprised that a 40 gal tank can serve two households. 50 isn't really much bigger than 40, if that works for you, go for it. When buying a new one, pay attention to each model's 1 hour recovery rates. Water heaters with a higher BTU rating can provide more hot water quicker, which gives you a larger effective amount of hot water to use.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 11:35AM
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I'm with Snidely...your heater is on borrowed time, and when old water heater go, it's usually at 9AM on the day of a big family gathering. And when they go, often it ain't pretty.

Whirlpool is a known name, but the warranty service on the mechanical stuff for the first year or two is important so check on their responsiveness. I'm shopping for a new heater too, and am probably going to buy a 40 gal/9 year rated GE heater from Home Depot because they have two year in-home service warranty.

As for the piezo ignition; that's only for lighting the pilot light...the pilot and thermocouple operation are no different; just no hassle with long matches when it is necessary to relight. It's not a big deal unless you turn off the pilot light often (eg, for long trips).

Two households on one 40 gal. heater is unusual; you're lucky this hasn't been an issue with tenants. I suggest a 50 gal. tank so you have some margin if a new tenant likes long showers. Or perhaps a 40 gal with 12 or 9 yr rating; these have more BTUs (larger burners) and faster recovery. Best would be a separate heater on its own gas meter for the apartment, but that may take a long time to break even. Ask your gas co. about it.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2012 at 11:38AM
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