Experts show the right price for a new water heater

Dan Cox, owner, AHS Plumbing & Sewer Repair, Wheeling, Ill., plumberdan.com.

Ricardo Matias, creative director of marketing, Four Seasons Heating & Air Conditioning, Chicago, fourseasons-chicago.com.

Keith Durso, co-owner, R & S Plumbing Inc., Rolling Meadows, Ill.

What can I do to keep my water heater running smoothly and efficiently?

Cox: You should do a visual check with a flashlight every couple of months, looking closely for leaks. Those can cause serious damage to the heater.

Matias: If you don't drain or flush it regularly, preferably every two months, you'll have sediment buildup, which can shorten the life of the heater.

Durso: My opinion is that you shouldn't touch them if you're connected to city water. If you use well water, you should flush it frequently, perhaps four times a year.

What are the most common types of water heaters in Chicago?

Cox: Gas water heaters are the most common. Also finding a place are hybrids — tankless water heaters with a small two-gallon tank to heat up the water in the "sandwich" between uses.

Matias: Gas is the most common here, with all the dense apartment buildings and older homes.

Durso: Gas heaters are prominent because of the cost difference between gas and electricity.

What are the pros and cons of tankless heaters?

Cox: They only make hot water as fast as they can produce it at the desired temperature. During cold times of year, you might get a slower flow rate.

Matias: You'll save room and have hot water on demand. You also save around 40 percent on energy. However, it'll take about 15 years to recoup the investment.

Durso: They're more efficient, but you could run short of hot water if you have several fixtures running at once. They last longer, but are more expensive.

How much should I expect to pay for a new water heater?

Cox: A standard 50-gallon tank installation should cost between $1,000 and $1,200. For a tankless unit, you're looking at between $3,000 and $4,500.

Matias: A standard water heater ranges between $970 and $1,300. A tankless heater ranges between $3,700 and $4,500.

Durso: Installation should cost between $800 and $850 for a 40-gallon tank and $900 to $950 for a 50-gallon tank. Tankless heaters cost about three times as much.

Any other advice you'd like to share?

Cox: When hiring a contractor, don't go only by price. You get what you pay for. If your installer uses lousy, cheap connections, you'll pay for it in the long run.

Matias: If your heater is in an unheated basement, you can reduce energy costs by wrapping it in an insulation blanket. They're available at home supply stores for less than $20.

Durso: Chicagoland area code calls for solid piping when installing water heaters. If a company is using flexible piping, be extremely cautious.


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