Recommendations for a gas water heater
January 16, 2007 7:57 PM   Subscribe

My current water heater is about 14 years old now, and I'm looking to replace it with a traditional 'tanked' water heater (I'm not going to be in this house long to justify a tankless unit). For the most part I'm only looking to heat water for two people, and I'm thinking a 40 gallon tank with a large burner will be sufficient. Does anyone have any suggestions or good resources for comparison?
posted by cfg to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I had to make a similar replacement about six months ago, and came to the realization that there really aren't very large differences between tanks and brands. The main difference is the warranty - tanks with longer warranties tend to have more of an anode in them (to protect against corrosion). Other than that, it's whoever will give you the best price.
posted by gwenzel at 8:07 PM on January 16, 2007

Question is why are you replacing it? Has the old tank failed some how, if so what is wrong with it? Is the old unit "glass" lined? It should say on the heater itself.
posted by bkeene12 at 8:20 PM on January 16, 2007

Response by poster: It's never really provided enough hot water, and it's gotten worse in the past year since I bought the house. It's also part of a batch from Rheem that had a faulty dip tube, although I haven't seen any evidence of it falling apart in the water. Basically it's not meeting my needs (well, wants); I can't fill the tub more than halfway, if I do a load of laundry with my brand new highly efficient front-load washer I can't take more than a 3 min shower, and two people showering at once will run out of water in minutes.
posted by cfg at 8:53 PM on January 16, 2007

I've been told from both plumbers and handymen that the brand to own is "State".
posted by Wild_Eep at 8:57 PM on January 16, 2007

40 gal sounds about right, but more important is the heater's first hour rating -- that is, how much hot water it can supply in an hour starting with a full, heated tank.

You should try to find a heater with an FHR within a couple of gallons of your peak estimated one-hour use. Use this worksheet courtesy of the USDOE as a start. The trick is that FHR is higher than the amount of hot water the heater can supply in the second hour, so if you have extended water use habits you need to take that into account too.

Water heater product literature will tell you a model's FHR, how much hot water it can generate per hour after hour one, its energy rating and its warranty life. Generally higher-warranty units are more efficient, more sturdy, have better anodic protection, take longer to rot out, and are worth the extra money unless you're planning on moving real soon or dollars are a major factor. Installation costs should be the same regardless of the unit you choose.
posted by Opposite George at 10:14 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, and if you're looking for a supplier I just got my (electric) water heater at Lowe's - they beat Home Depot, Sears and the couple of plumbers I called on price, installation cost and response time (they had it in the next day,) and generally seemed more knowledgeable and eager to please. YMMV.
posted by Opposite George at 10:34 PM on January 16, 2007

Hot water heaters typically only last for 5-6 years, so I'm surprised you got 14 years out of yours.

That said, I'm not clear on why you wouldn't want a tankless unit- yes, the monthly cost savings won't pay out immediately, but I am fairly sure that tankless water heaters qualify for a $300 tax credit- not a deduction- for being highly energy efficient. This can defray the cost of a smaller $800-1000 tankless unit considerably. Further, I think it's environmentally sound in the short and long term, and might even be a minor selling point on your home if your concern is moving out in the near future: tankless water heaters are a better thing to have since they save money, energy, and produce steady and immediate hot water with which tanked units simply can't keep pace.
posted by hincandenza at 10:44 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Hot water heaters typically only last for 5-6 years, so I'm surprised you got 14 years out of yours.
It really depends on build quality/design life, usage and the local water. I just replaced a 12-year unit the previous owner installed in 1990, so that's 16 years. OTOH, my condo association just had to replace our pool shower heater at the end of its design life.

I am fairly sure that tankless water heaters qualify for a $300 tax credit
Assuming you're in the USA, this suggests that only certain tankless heaters (those with an EF > 0.8) qualify. A PDF listing of qualifying models is here. Keep in mind you wouldn't receive that credit until you file your 2007 taxes some time in 2008. Also count on higher installation costs as they'll probably have to move some pipes and wiring as well as mount the unit to the wall.

For the record, I'm a fan of tankless heaters too, and I'd have one under different circumstances but they aren't for everybody.
posted by Opposite George at 11:20 PM on January 16, 2007

Long ago, I used to work in the State Stove and Manufacturing (State Industries) plant in Ashland City, TN. They make the State brand water heaters there, and at a plant in Nevada, along with many, many private label and branded lines for other retailers. Water heaters do come in various "grades" but most, if not all, sold in the U.S. these days are glass lined. The steel inner tanks, welded up from sheet steel roll goods on automated seam welder lines, go through a bead blast tunnel, that "sands" their steel surfaces, inside and out, and then they have their "end caps" welded on, which closes the tank on a macro level. Then, glass bearing powder coat material is sprayed into the tank through one of the fitting holes where it is electrostatically adhered to the tank walls, and the tanks proceed through an automated oven, which fuses the glass bearing powder coat to the steel innards of the tank. The glass layer thus formed protects the tank from rust, and keeps the heated water from picking up taste from the tank. Higher grade heaters have thicker insulation blankets around the main tanks, and may have larger burners and better control electronics, which, in commercial models, can be pre-programmed for times of day with greatest hot water demand.

The anode of a gas water heater erodes more slowly than that of an electrical heater, because of the lack of potential differences that usually exist in an electric water heater installation. But it does erode, and can, and should be replaced on schedule. Failure to do so will decrease the life of the tank, substantially. But you, cfg, don't much care about that, if you'll be selling the home in the next few years.

A 40 gallon tank gas heater in a home occupied by 2 adults should be sufficient for most needs. If you have the latest in dishwashers, or expect to wash clothes in "hot" water in your high tech washing machine, and take two showers 10 minutes later, you may be disappointed by a 40 gallon heater in the cheapest grades. You can upgrade to a larger tank, or a bigger burner, but as most people are biased towards low holding costs, your best bet will probably be a 50 gallon unit. Play around with the various choices for sizing, including the kinds of people to whom you might expect to sell your home, and you'll see that more bathrooms and more people lead you quickly to larger tanks.
posted by paulsc at 12:17 AM on January 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

I love the concept of tankless heaters. In practice, not so much. At least, not the gas ones which I've used. I had problems with over heating, or ignition blowing out the pilot. I'd research this choice carefully. (I figure, somebody must make a good one.)

Surprised the washing machine doesn't heat the water itself. Front-loaders in Europe and Africa heat the water internally. It's wonderful. Instead of subjective 'hot', I get 95c when I want to be all hardcore on whites.
posted by Goofyy at 7:23 AM on January 17, 2007

Whow! You use a *lot* of hot water!

I have a 30-gal that was installed in 1983 (that's 24 years). It suits us, 2 adults and three little ones. I can shower right after my wife and not run out.

Nevertheless, you can find good comparison charts and and I didn't like the offerings at
posted by kc0dxh at 8:13 AM on January 17, 2007

Surprised the washing machine doesn't heat the water itself.
In the USA some do, some don't. Foreign and more-expensive American brands have the heater; cheaper and older American ones maybe not.
posted by Opposite George at 4:23 PM on January 17, 2007

« Older Portable speech recognizer for note taking   |   You ain't no picasso Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.