Gas Water Heater- repair or replace

ombligoDecember 22, 2006

I have a 14 year old 40-gallon A.O. Smith gas water heater. It has never received any maintenance (still has original Anode, thermostat, never been flushed). It seems to be working fine though.

However I'm concerned about a water heater that old that wasn't taken care of. I'm debating whether to preemptively replace it or just leave well enough alone.

So some opinions if you please...

Should I:

A) replace the anode, thermostat and flush it

B) leave everything alone until it fails and then buy new

C) buy new now and start maintaining it properly

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oops - just rechecked and it is a FSG series 30-gallon AO Smith. The FSG had only a 5-year-warrenty, so it is a lower end unit.

My question still applies though

    Bookmark   December 22, 2006 at 8:45AM
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Absolutely replace it. For several reasons:

- after 14 years, you've got your money's worth.

- you don't want to have happen what happened to me. I had a 14-year-old heater which never had a problem. But one day the bottom of it developed a leak from a small hole, which got bigger very quickly. Turns out the bottom was very rusted, which just happens with age. If I had not been lucky to be home and noticed the leak, I would have had a major flood. Also, I had to replace that heater on an emergency basis; I did not have the luxury of shopping for the best deal, and the leak happened on a weekend (Murphy's Law, natch!) so I had to pay extra to have a new one installed.

- the new heaters now are very much more energy efficient than your 14-year-old heater. You will notice it in your gas bill.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2006 at 10:10AM
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Star saving your money for a new one today, then check the old one every day or so for leaks and such, and wait for it to die, then replace it.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2006 at 4:45PM
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I would do as jca1 suggests. I now have my water heaters all installed in overflow drain pans. New construction here requires it.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2006 at 5:11PM
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I have to respectfully disagree with Jcal. If you "wait for it to die", you may end up in a situation like I described in my post above. And worse, it could happen while you are out of town, with your 14-year-old heater springing a leak turning into an endless flood while you're gone. Again, you've gotten your money's worth out of that old heater. Waiting for it to die is really gambling. And for what? You're either going to pay for the new heater now, or pay for it when it dies, which likely is not far off. But either way, you'll be spending the money. If you wait like I did, you could be spending more than necessary if you have to make an emergency call for a heater on a weekend, not to mention the possibility of the cost of damaged floors.

And, do you really want to have to do what Jcal recommends--having to check that heater every day, hoping today's not the day it dies? Who needs that? Be pre-emptive and replace the old heater. As I mentioned above, a new one will be more efficient and save you money on your gas bills.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2006 at 11:02PM
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yea but, everybody that has a water heater will one day have to deal with a leak. Don't misunderstand me, I understand what you are saying and it makes sense, just two different manners of reasoning I guess. Just cause it's 14 years old dosen't mean it's going to leak any time soon. Some spring leaks in less than 6 years, some last well over 20 years. Reguardless I look at my water heater every day anyway as well as many other things, how else will you know if something's wrong? I crawl under my house about once every two weeks and look at the furnace and duct's, wires, and plumbing. I look at the attic unit every week or so as well...everyone should.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2006 at 5:36PM
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everybody that has a water heater will one day have to deal with a leak

Jcal, I am sorry but I have to respectfully disagree with you again. My heater that sprung a leak was 14-years-old, and not particularly good quality. My replacement heater is good quality, and has a 10 year warranty. While there is always a remote chance it could leak before the 10 years are up, the odds are low. I do not agree that everybody will have to deal with a leak if you have a good quality heater and remain aware of its life expectancy.

Just cause it's 14 years old dosen't mean it's going to leak any time soon....some last well over 20 years

But the odds are strongly against you with a 14-year-old heater, especially like the OP's which had only a 5-year warranty on it. The ones you know of that last for over 20 years, what quality of heater were they to begin with? Likely better than what the OP has described as his/her existing heater. He/she has gotten a fine bargain out of a heater with a 5-year warranty, lasting for 14 years. I just don't understand Jcal what is your objective, your goal, by waiting for the heater to die rather than replacing it pre-emptively. If your objective is to save money, you're not really going to do that. You'll have to outlay money either now or maybe it'll last till next year, when you'll have to outlay the money, and perhaps spend more if the heater has died under bad circumstances. So what is there to gain by waiting? I don't see what advantage is achieved by waiting for an old heater to be dead and out of service before replacing it.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2006 at 6:46PM
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I have seen heaters last 30 years. Certainly that is longer than the norm, but I am an eyewitness. Others leaked within one year. Suppose that happens to be your replacement heater? Read the fine print in the warranty- it would not help much in such cases. I keep my water heaters until they fail. To each his own.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2006 at 7:15AM
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Again akchicago, I'm not disagreeing with you or saying I'm right your wrong...just different opinions. I'd keep the water heater until it died thats all, the Op asked for advice and he got it from both sides now he can decide whats best for him, either way whats best for him is whats right for him. My point is: what if the current water heater lasts another 7 years, then the OP has wasted money.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2006 at 9:49AM
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I'd get it replaced PRONTO! You're living on borrowed time.

Aside from the possibility of water damage from a leaking water heater -- it's much easier to get a plumber in when it's not an emergency, and when it's convenient for you.

Beyond the likelyhood of failure happening when you're not home to catch it....the more likely scenario is that it will fail at 7:00 PM on a Friday night before a holiday weekend when you have a house full of guests! THEN WHAT WILL YOU DO? Ever try getting a plumber to come in over a holiday weekend? Even if you succeed, you can just plan on being gouged on the price.

Save yourself the frustration of dealing with a water heater replacement in a panic. Get it replaced now.

Just my two cents.


    Bookmark   December 24, 2006 at 2:02PM
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I would replace it. 30 gal. is too small unless you are living in a apartment. It won't take too many repairs before you wasted the money and effort to put in a new one. Lots of luck.

"If all else fails, read the directions"

    Bookmark   December 26, 2006 at 11:55AM
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I agree with Bussdriver on this one,,"if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

According to a statistical study performed by consumer reports magazine the national average lifespan of a water heater is 12yrs.

The longest lifespan I have personally seen was a Rheem AUI-40 (40 gal gas) water heater in my Mothers house. In June of 2005 she asked me to change the water heater because it was not heating water sufficiently. During the change out I found an installation date written on the side of the water heater. It was the same water heater that I had helped my Dad install on May,10,1965. One month under 40 years and still working although the efficiency had dwindled a bit, nonetheless, there was no leaks. (Anyone care to guess what brand name Mother insisted I install?).

    Bookmark   December 26, 2006 at 12:30PM
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Read the post at the link below. I rest my case.

Here is a link that might be useful: Real Bad Hot Water Tank Leak!!!!!!!!!

    Bookmark   December 29, 2006 at 1:07AM
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I'd replace it. Seems like a no-brainer.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2006 at 2:18AM
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Those who advocate replacement based on age alone are faced with deciding exactly what age dictates replacement. Sure, leaks do occur. From the recent referenced post, sounds like it could just as well be the supply piping leaking as the heater. But no matter how short the time indicated for mandatory replacement, there will always be cases of failed heaters in shorter time periods. I have had two new ones out of the box that leaked as soon as they were filled. Just as soon as a plumber starts recommending replacement of heaters that have no obvious problems, charges of opportunism and needless expenditure will be leveled at him. I can hear it now, two neighbors are talking: " Boy, I will never call that plumber again and do not understand why you are considering doing so! He told me my heater should be replaced, but I waited and it lasted 4 more years. I'm glad I did not let him waste my money".

    Bookmark   December 29, 2006 at 9:09AM
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I am in the camp of waiting for it to fail. Who knows if a new water heater would be any better than the old one? If you are going away on a long trip you should shut your water off anyway. The only reason I could see for replacing it now is if the new one was much more energy efficient than the old one, or if the old one if so full of lime deposits that it makes annoying noises. Some of the new ones are also self cleaning which might be more ammo for changing it prematurely. But if you are just going to replace it with the same kind you already have I would say wait for it to fail. BTW, in some cases the water heater with the longer warranty might be essentially the same one as the one with the shorter warranty, maybe just a bigger anode or slightly thicker insulation, they are just charging you more for the increased risk they are taking. And has anyone ever had a company make good on the warranty? In my water heaters case I would have to ship the failed water heater from California to Tennessee at my own expense, and then pay to have the replacement shipped back, which would cost as much as just buying a new water heater, so I would not put much faith in ever collecting on the warranty.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2006 at 9:15PM
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Natural gas or propane? I was in a similar situation with my 22-year old 30-gallon propane water heater, and decided to go ahead and replace it. I wanted to increase the capacity and purchased a 40-gallon unit, but the primary reason to replace it now is the fact that home centers and hardware stores don't stock much in the way of propane water heaters. If it came down to an emergency replacement, I wouldn't have had many choices. The local Lowe's has about 10 electric models and 10 natural gas models in stock, but only two propane models, both 30-gallon units. I decided to order what I wanted and replace it on my terms, rather than wait for failure and be stuck with a less desireable unit. However, if you are on natural gas, you don't face the same dilema.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2007 at 11:04AM
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I'm on propane and that is an issue I've just become aware of. I am definitely leaning towards replacing it. There have been strong and valid arguments for both primary options. But living in a small town means it is prudent to plan ahead - hence it makes sense to replace it in the near future.

I had hoped to get a Bradford White, but there are no dealers within 50 miles. My gas company sells A.O. Smith, but they jack up the profit and installation plus will only warranty for five years. I have also read some bad reports on Smith since they moved assembly to Mexico.

Lowes has Westinghouse and those are rebranded American Water Heater units. The warranty for those are six years.

I'm leaning towards the Westinghouse but am toying with two other options. First I could get a Bradford White and install it myself (doesn't seem too hard). The other option is a Rheem tankless - although I'm not sold on tankless yet.

Cold groundwater isn't an issue with tankless as I'm in Florida. My concerns are failure rates. Several builders locally have dropped them because the units were failing after just a year or two.

Any thoughts?

    Bookmark   January 8, 2007 at 11:42AM
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I installed a Richmond 40-gallon gas water heater tank (5-year warranty) in Jan 1998 by myself. The tank cost $142.00 and I spent maybe another $20 on other parts including copper pipe, gas line connections, etc. Now nine years later it has developed a very slow leak around the anode rod. I'm thinking of replacing the anode rod myself to see if that stops the leak. My other option is to install a completely new unit or hire a plumber to do it. Can anyone give me an ballpark idea of how much a plumber charges to install a standard gas water heater, not including the cost of the tank itself?

    Bookmark   January 9, 2007 at 5:37PM
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It seems to vary be region but in my area (west central Florida), a basic installation of a gas unit with lines already in place is $150-$200.

Which is why I plan to do it myself.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2007 at 10:40PM
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wold you use vinegar or CLR to dissolve lime in a hot water heater?

    Bookmark   September 23, 2007 at 10:27AM
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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 am thinking I should replace it soon with a new unit and 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 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.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 10:34AM
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"wold you use vinegar or CLR to dissolve lime in a hot water heater?"

Vinegar maybe, but not CLR in potable water 9 Even though you are not supposed to cook with water from a heater).

It is hardly worth the large effort it would take, and will do nothing for the electrolytic action that usually eats through the tank.

I replace water heaters based on the possible cost of them leaking and the drain pan not containing the leak.

In a basement on a concrete floor with the drain nearby, wait till they fail.

In a place they could do real damage (like the unit below) withing a year or two of the warranty expiring.

So far I have not had one in my house or a rental let loose and cause damage in over 30 years.

I did have one in a rental that had a large crack in the bottom edge of the tank let loose.
Many gallons down the floor drain a foot away, but not enough to raise the water bill so less than 1,000 gallons.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 3:01PM
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If you've gone this long without getting any maintenance done, I would suggest that you just start doing it now. If you get it looked at to see if there are any repairs that need to be done, it should help keep your water heater working better. However, if your repairman says that it needs to be replaced, then I definitely think that you should get it repaired. I would just start out by getting it surveyed to see what you can do to improve it!

    Bookmark   February 6, 2015 at 7:20PM
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