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Local Articles in Portland

Water Heater top

When Should I Replace My Water Heater?

Angie Hicks responds to a homeowner who says her water heater is past its expected lifetime.

Water heater tank in unfinished basement

Water Heaters

Standard storage tank water heaters typically need to be replaced after about a decade, but they can last years longer with some homeowner maintenance. When the time comes to buy a new one, there are more options for consumers to consider.

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hand switching off an electrical circuit breaker

Dear Angie: Does it make sense for me to turn off my circuit breakers before I leave for vacation? — Lucia J., Wakefield, Massachusetts

water heater near a wall (Photo by Photo by Katelin Kinney)

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Angie's Answers


You have to put your self in the shoes of a business that is in business to turn a profit of some sort. All businesses have different overhead which in turn decides what their bottom line would be on their services. I personally would not go with an unlicensed professional for this type of install. You are messing with gas, venting issues, electrical wiring{electric water heater} and updated code issues such as a drain pan and tempature and relief drain lines for heaters that currently do not have them. I do agree that there are some companies that are way out of line for their installs but most of these companies are the really big companies that have very high overheads  I would assume. Tank type water heaters have changed over the last several years and with these safety changes come bigger prices. The price of steel thanks to China is skyrocketing and tank type water heaters are made of steel. Most wholesale plumbing supply companies cannot match what the big box stores are selling at retail to consumers. I happen to think from research that heaters such as Rheem, Bradford White and AOSmith who have been in business forever make a better product than what you can buy in the big box outlets. You also have to take in consideration the location of the water heater that is being replaced. Is it in the house, basement, garage or attic. Most 40 and 50 gallon water heaters that are purchased in a plumbing wholesale store in Texas cost between 300-340 for a 6 year warranty heater with 6 year on parts and tank. Speaking of warranty. Most big box companies will take a least 24 hours to a week to get your warranty problem taken care of. Most reputable plumbing companies will give same day service if they installed the heater.

So lets break down a typical install at cost to a licensed plumber in Texas

Heater: $315, water shut off $6.50, water flex lines or unions to code $20, gas flex line and cut off to code $12, misc fittings $15, Total $368.50 Lets add a 35% profit which is some what low  for a business $129, Total 497.50

This doesnt  include permits, pan and drain or any venting issues. The vent must go from the heater to the outside of roof using double wall vent.

Cost of permit on average $60

Most plumbing companies allow for 3 hours of time for a water heater. This includes picking the new one up. Delivering out to house. Draining and removing old water heater. Hauling off old heater. Installing new heater up to code. Going down to city and pulling permit.

Average Labor charges for heater installs $400

That would make this install run without extras on any code issues $957.50

I just had a 50 gallon gas water heater installed in my house for $1200 but I needed a pan installed. I used a licensed plumber.





I've seen and heard mixed reviews.  They aren't really popular here due to our super hard water which clogs and rots everything it sits in.  A company I used to work for tried electric units about 10 years ago in several homes but had to replace many of them within a few years because the build-up from the hard water hindered their productivity to little more than enough supply to run a sink.  I've heard better success with gas units since there are no electric elements to burn out and gas can get hotter, faster to get through the deposits on the tubing walls inside the unit.


Standard electric water heater usually take a 30 amp circuit so they are often wired with 10 guage wire.  Electric on-demand units large enough to service an entire house usually take 50 amps (or more) from what I've researched in the past.  That means they need a 50 amp breaker and will be wired with 6 guage wire.  By the time you factor in the initial cost of buying the much more expensive on-demand unit and rewiring for it I'm not sure you'll save money in the long run. 


A better and cheaper option would be to put a timer on your standard water heater so it only kicks on during typical demand times.  They have override switches so you can turn it to cycle normally when you are off of work or need it during the day/night if not during the preset times.  A cheaper point of use water heater at the kitchen sink will ensure you have hot water there even when the main heater is off.  This is usually the point that requires hot water the most frequently.  Remember that your water heater will hold hot water for over an hour once it has cycled off.  Take advantage of that.


Todd Shell

Todd's Home Services

San Antonio, TX


Depends a lot on your configuration - he may have been including direct outside venting because your existing heater/furnace duct was not large enough to handle the added load, and may have figured running larger piping to the jetted tub and maybe upsizing the valve and flex tubing at the gas line. This all assumes you have adequate access and installation space for the larger tank - they tend to be fatter rather than much taller.

I would talk to several plumbers - if you get quotes from 3 or more, it should become obvious right off if one is high-balling you. Of course, do not tell the others what the other's bids were.

The water heater itself will cost about $1000-2000 for that size - about double a 50 gallon, which usually costs about $800-1500 installed (replacing an existing plumbed-in one). The larger heater may take a bit of beefing up of the support platform for the added weight, but assuming you have adequate headroom, installation cost using existing ductwork and piping would not be any more than for a 50 gallon, so say $2000-3500 range installed. The $4500-6000 definitely sounds high if it assumed using existing hookups.

There could be. Different municipalities have different rules (codes). However, I have never heard of a plumber being the code enforcement guy. I have never heard of a plumber being able to collect a fine from a homeowner. It may cost you $150 to bring it up to code, but that should be included in the repair cost. You would need to check with your city (usually Department of Code Enforcement or Plumbing Commission). If he put it in writing, you need to send them a copy.
Make sure they get a permit if required. Ask if they will haul away the old. Type of new heater installed and tank warrantee. What kind of parts will the price include, you should have an expansion tank installed and make sure they counter balance the pressure to match the static pressure in the home. Should also include new dielectic unions, do not reuse the old ones. See what the rate for extras is in case they need to do additional work. Check references if possible.

Tim Littrell
Littrell Plumbing and Bath Designs

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