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A Plumber's Guide To Hot Water heaters

Updated on June 18, 2012

Hot Water Heaters According to Draingene

I am 60 years young now and I have ether been doing plumbing work or working as a pipe fitter in the ship yards all my life, after of course, the 4 years spent in the US Navy sailing the seven seas during the Vietnam war. So I am well qualified to give you tips on Water Heaters. I currently operate a plumbing business in Concord California.


1835 Robin Ln #1

Concord Ca. 94520

What is the Best Water Heater

With just a little research on the web, you will immediately realize that all brands of Water Heaters have many bad reviews. What's a homeowner to do? Today's marketplace has an unlimited number of choices and at first it can seem a little daunting. In addition if your heater has just broken you might be more susceptible to rush into a purchase that you might regret later on.

Rheem, Bradford White, and AO Smith are the big 3 manufacturers of Water Heaters in the U.S. and make almost all of the store brands. GE water heaters are made by Rheem, AO Smith makes the Sears heaters. Water heaters come from the factory with various names on them but are the same. Therefore I suggest you shop for price since about the only difference is the length of the warranty.

The review sites and plumbing forums overall rate that Bradford White as the best for build quality and ease of repair. Of course most plumbing companies promote this brand, so that may be why the white comes in first in ratings. As a matter of fact, the only way you can get a white is to purchase through a plumbing company or a plumbing supply store. You will never see them in the big box stores. You will also pay about a $100 extra for this brand.

Rheem, which also makes water heaters under the GE, Marathon and Richmond brands, comes in second. The GE water heaters made by Rheem is probably the most purchased water heater in the US as home depot deals in this brand, so you can generally buy it cheaper. This is the water heater I currently recommend the most. There are more of them out there so you will find many bad reviews on them simply for that reason.

One of the largest manufacturers, A.O. Smith, makes water heaters under its own brand name, as well as Kenmore, Whirlpool and a few other water-heater brands. However, A.O. Smith water heaters rank well below average in the review sites and plumbing forums, and owners reviewing Kenmore and Whirlpool water heaters agree. This is the brand that I get most of the problem calls on and I always recommend to stay away from these lemons.

All water heaters carry a one year warranty on everything except the tank, so no matter how long of a warranty you purchase, it will only be the tank that carries the extended warranty. Don't buy the extended warranty, it is useless as the major components will only carry a one year warranty, no matter the length of the extended warranty. Water heater warranties are a scam, so always buy the cheapest and you will be getting the same thing as the longer warranty.

A Water Heater Maintenance Plan

Flush A Water Heater Once A Year

A Water heater tank can withstand the dregs of time if you take certain precautions to protect it from the internal chemical reactions from sediment buildup which causes the liner wall of the tank to corrode. This results in a Leaking hot water tank and requires replacing your water heater.

But don't let this happen to you. You only need to flush your water heater once a year to get it to last years longer. A much more superior method would be to install a water softener. It makes the water friendlier to your water system and the filtering of the debris before it gets to your water heater or anywhere else, and the comfort of using soft water for bathing or showering is far superior to hard water.

To drain a water heater, you will need a regular home and garden water hose. Connect this water hose to the drain faucet located at the bottom of the water heater, slightly right of the control valve. It looks just like a regular hose faucet and is made of plastic or metal. You can run the water hose out to the curb if it is hot or to your lawn if cold. Turn off the supply valve at the top right of the heater.

Next, turn on the hot water faucet at the kitchen sink to allow air to enter the hot water tank while it is draining. Now you are ready to turn on the drain spigot and start draining water. After the water has drained from the water heater, open the supply valve to the water heater and allow a rinse out of the heater. This rinses the debris that was floating on the water in the tank. Yes some of the debris is floating and other debris collects on the bottom.

Turn the hot water heater drain faucet off. OK we are ready to refill the tank. Make sure the hot water kitchen faucet is still in the on position and remove the screen from the faucet. Turn the hot water tank supply valve on and fill tank. When the tank is full, water will come out of the kitchen faucet and the tank is full. Replace the kitchen faucet screen.

Tankless Hot Water Heaters also need to be flushed once a year to prevent debris build-up. The many small water tubes running through the heat exchanger of an on demand water heater will get plugged if not cleaned and will require expensive repairs. It is best to have a water softener in conjunction with the tankless water heater, which will allow your heater to last 20 years. Flushing valves should have been installed when originally installed.

On Demand Tankless Hot Water Heater-All The Hot Water You Want

Our new age technology has brought us a better water heater. They now provide as much hot water as we want, but only use energy when the hot water is turned on. They don't have a tank to hold and continually reheat the water. This, of course, saves you money on gas and water bills because it is not going off and on 24 hours a day.

Tankless hot water heaters do the their job only when you turn on the hot water faucet. When you turn it on, cold water travels into the heater and is instantly heated and then transferred to your fixture. They run on either gas or electricity and is the latest hot water heater technology at the present time.

As with anything so new as on demand hot water is, there are some limitations. Tankless heaters can only handle so much volume of water. If to many fixtures at used at the same time, you may have problems depending on the system, most of these heaters will heat between two and five gallons a minute.

Tankless hot water heaters cost more to buy and and cost much more to install than typical hot water heaters. The cost is more than offset, however, when you consider that you will save 30 to 50 percent on your water heating costs. Since these systems last for 20 years, you should more than break even on the purchase and installation costs.

Another added cost of on demand hot water systems is the water softener that you should have installed inline to the heater because of the many small water tubes traveling through the heat exchanger that creates the heat of the water. These small tubes can get clogged due to the hard water elements in your water supply.

Instant Hot Water At Every Shower Head And Faucet By Recirculating

Although a tankless on demand water heater will give you unlimited hot water continually, you will still have to run the water for some time, while waiting for the hot water to get to your location. While you are waiting, 2-3 gallons will run down the drain. This water is all wasted and can easily add up to thousands of gallons per year. How about the rest of your community? Millions of gallons of water are lost.

In a typical home, water travels from the water heater through the pipes to the faucet or shower head. But once it is shut off, the water in the pipes start to cool. The next time you start up the hot water, you have to wait again. One way to offset this is by insulating the pipes under your house, but it only makes the heat storage more efficient but not eliminating it.

The solution to the problem is a recirculation system that takes the water from the further away point on the hot water system directing it into the cold water line by use of a timer or a heat sensing mechanism to allow the water to stay hot at the point of use fixture, thereby allowing you to have hot water instantly without the usual wait time.

Hot water recirculation is difficult in some old existing homes, especially homes built on concrete slabs and homes with basements which have finished walls and ceiling. But now, there is a solution. There are now automatic recirculation valves on the market that will mount under your lavatory sink that allow you to enjoy instant hot water at every fixture without any loss of water down the drain.

Buying a New Hot Water Heater

All of a sudden, your hot water heaters goes kaput. The first thing you will probably do is call your plumber and schedule a visit. The plumber comes out and says yes, your water heater needs replacing and yes he has one in stock and can install it the first thing in the morning and estimates it will cost $1400. He comes out the next morning and installs the water heater in about 2 hours and the final bill is 1600 dollars.

You should have checked around for prices, but you had no hot water and was stressed to get it going again and didn't think about checking for prices. after all everyone probably charges pretty much the same, you thought. so you checked around and found that you can get a new 30 gallon water heater anywhere from $300 to $500 dollars. Shit!!!! what was the rest of the money for?

Of course, some of the money was for labor, but 1,000 dollars for two hours, that sure isn't fair. Most municipalities require an inspection when a new hot water heater is installed, yet most plumbing companies bypass this step and just don't do it. If they do get a permit, it is usually around two hundred dollars. It will also require a second visit by the plumber to meet a building code inspector at your residence.

Choose the Right Hot Tub With The Proper Water Heater

The very first thing to consider when buying a hot tub is hot water heater . You will need at least a 50 gallon unit and larger for a house full of people. I recommend a 75 gal water heater for the best results for a very enjoyable experience in your new hot tub.

You can bring a little luxury into your home when you own a hot tub and it is also a brilliant way to relax. A hot tub can also help and prevent muscle cramps and injuries, which is just one of its many health benefits. How do you make the right decision in terms of which hot tub to buy? Since you will be making a relatively large purchase, you need to make sure that you are fully informed before you decide. The tips in this article will help you identify the best hot tub for your own home.

A major consideration with an investment of this caliber is how good the warranty is. You should be clear about what kind of service the dealer offers before you buy a unit. The pump, the finish, and the cabinet all need to be covered. Some retail merchants also provide their customers with after the sale service too. It can be a struggle to find someone to work on your hot tub if you didn't buy it from them.

You should be sure you are dealing with someone who's going to be around for a while. It's important to remember that your new hot tub will require some maintenance over time.

The filter on your hot tub is an important component. When you own a hot tub it's extremely important to keep it clean which can be a struggle. Without a good filter you may find leaves, insects, algae, other debris and even toxic gunk in your hot tub.

A lot of people will purchase a second filter for efficiency of use which allow them to use their unit while one filter is being cleaned. Cartridge type filters are the most popular but some still use earth and sand filters in their units. After you make the investment it is then necessary to work hard to keep it clean.

When you buy a hot tub you need to make sure that you consider safety matters as well. The same matters as when buying a pool need to be considered. Hot tubs are usually quite safe but there are still some precautions you need to take when dealing with water. In the situation that you have children or pets this is even more important. Make sure that you talk to the supplier about hot tub covers that are lockable when the unit isn't being used. These not only prevent anyone from falling in, they protect the unit from getting dirty. Your hot tub should also have a thermostat so you can easily control the temperature. In addition to this, the switch to turn the hot tub on and off should be easy to access. All these features will make sure that you are safe when you are relaxing in your hot tub.

Hot tubs are major purchases, from a financial viewpoint as well as logistics and installation. Returning a hot tub is complicated and you can't simply move it whenever the thought strikes you. This is why you need to think carefully about the kind of tub you want to purchase beforehand. So you can enjoy the benefits of owning your own tub, follow the aforementioned suggestions which will help you in making the correct choice.

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    • profile image

      IrvinJ From North Chesterfield VA 14 months ago

      Fabulous information/knowledge; now I am able to make a better decision on replacing my old Water Heater while renovating the kitchen. I did not know that less than a hand full of MFGR'S make all Water Heaters. Thanks.

    • profile image

      Preston C 19 months ago

      I found this very informative and exactly what I needed. I was trying to get the overall manufacturers who supply for the product Brand. I was leaning towards A.O. Smith but will look more towards the Rheem/GE version of the hybrid electrical water heaters. I also prefer the display of GE above all others and even saw the GE Hybrid being used by the guys from "Ask this old house". Thank you for the info.

    • profile image

      CRB 19 months ago

      Generally good information, except who needs a "hot water heater" anyway - if it's hot, why heat it? I imagine that the comments are for "water heaters."

    • profile image

      steve jones 21 months ago

      I would go with AO Smith or Rheem. Bradford White has went to the shitters the last couple years. I don't have a problem with them personally. But I have had a few fail in the first year. A common problem for them lately, as I have heard from other plumbers.

    • profile image

      Sukwah 21 months ago

      My traditional water tank is 25 years old but is still running well. Should I replace it or should I wait till it dies?

    • profile image

      Eric 2 years ago

      Never trust a "plumber" who says hot water heater. Tell me, is there a cold water heater?? The proper term is "water heater." If you can't even use the correct terminology, you probably shouldn't be doling out advice. Mike is right.

    • profile image

      Sylvie 2 years ago

      Thank you , you helped me decide to go with Rheem

    • profile image

      Rev58 2 years ago

      Even being a plumbing contractor , AO Smith treats us like what sits in the bottom of the toilet. A.O. Smith representative for this area , Ron Carter , refuses to pay us when their garbage fails within the 1 year time frame and we have to go out and fix them at all hours. Their cover answer to all questions is , the plumber did something wrong . Why yes we did do something wrong , we bought one of your poorly designed units . They make us look bad to our clients , who we always strive to supply the best equipment and service . Never EVER buy a A.O. Smith . Period . Many of us have abandoned what was a good company years ago for Rheem or Bradford - White . Good tech lines , answers and help .

    • profile image

      james 2 years ago

      The supply valve is the water supply, Kathleen. Mike said electric power.

    • profile image

      Kathleen 3 years ago

      Hey Mike, he said "Turn off the supply valve at the top right of the heater." Not quite sure what a REAL plumber is, but your not it.

    • profile image

      Mike 3 years ago

      You forgot to tell people that you MUST turn off power supply BEFORE draining water heater. If you don't, the heater elements will break and you end up having to replace them. If you don't know what you are doing, don't advise others....from a plumber, 17 years of REAL plumbing.

    • profile image

      VInodBansal 4 years ago

      Great info here regarding hot water repair systems.

      Plumber Ipswich

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      I had a hot tub but it made it so I needed my heater repaired in Salt Lake City to often. If it works for you though, great! Have fun!

      Phillius |

    • profile image

      johnadams7557 4 years ago

      This post has many helpful things. Thanks for sharing this interesting information.

      Backflow Prevention

    • profile image

      merrilou-flake 5 years ago

      AWESOME - AWESOME information! Thank You!

    • profile image

      jenny-cheunglever 5 years ago

      hi Gene, Thank you so much for sharing this valuable information. You're the best! I lately just noticed that my AO Smith 40G water heater started acting funny. When the pilots went out 2 time within 2 weeks. At first, I thought it was the ThermoCouple needs to be replace since it won't lit. When I removed the burner out of the tank, I noticed a lot of rust/dirt fell into the burner. After I cleaned out the dirt off the burner and then I put it back in. It stayed lit afterward. When the pilot went out the 2nd time, I simply repeated what I did before. It is 6 yr warranty tank and I have it installed about 7 yrs ago. Would you recommend to replace it now before it starts leaking? If yes, Should I consider replacing it with the same brand(AO Smith)? although I heard so much bad things about it. so that I won't need to change the piping(supply piping, venting, etc). Please advise!

    • draingene lm profile image

      draingene lm 5 years ago

      @junkithauling: Yeah Brian, I remember you. You have those two big dump trucks and do the hauling and junk removal .

    • profile image

      junkithauling 5 years ago

      Hey Gene, you installed a water heater for me a couple years ago, I was just looking for info about flushing it and I found Your lens. Nice lens

    • draingene lm profile image

      draingene lm 5 years ago

      @gundali: If it were my water heater, I would drain it, but because it is 5 years old and has never been drained you may have problems with the drain valve and the emergency pressure relief valve. the drain valve could be clogged but it is usually fairly easy to unclog them with a piece of wire. Most of the time when i have to replace a water heater, even if 20 years old will still drain alright. Maybe I encounter one water heater a year that I have to pump out through the top.

    • profile image

      gundali 5 years ago

      Hi Draingene! Thanks for the information. Very informative. I have a couple of questions though and need your professional advices.

      I have an AO Smith Promax 50 gallon, natural gas, hot water heater with a blower/power vent on top. I have had it since mid of 2007 and knock on wood, have not had any problems with it so far. However, being first time home owner, I did not know that I was supposed to flush the water heater annually and have not ever done that before. My question is if you would advise me to start draining it once a year going forward or if I should not do it at all at this point. I have been getting inconsistent information and I am confused and torn on what I need to do.

      Some technicians are advising me to start flushing it annually going forward, but some technicians are advising me otherwise, i.e. not to start doing that at this point since I have not been flushing it for the past few years. This is because they said that the sediment build up or rust can potentially clog the drain valve and cause more potential problems and leak, and then I may have to end up changing the valve or replacing the water heater. So I am confused and torn whether I should or should not flush the water heater at this point. What are your advice/thoughts? And also, at this point, should I get a certified serviceman to flush the water heater since it has not been done for years and this will be the first time?

      Also, does the anode rod need to be checked every few years and replaced?

      Any advices you have will be much appreciated. Thanks!!

    • JonoAdams profile image

      JonoAdams 5 years ago

      Wow, very helpful info! Thanks for putting up this lens.

    • draingene lm profile image

      draingene lm 5 years ago

      @csatarl: Yes, all the time, If you're good with tools you will probably do alright but many times it requires knowing how to solder.

    • draingene lm profile image

      draingene lm 5 years ago

      @Rfiskaali: You need to brace that up somehow, but you probably need to find someone handy. It is an expansion tank for a closed water heater systems. If that keeps leaning. there is a chance for a break.

    • Rfiskaali profile image

      Rebecca Fiskaali 5 years ago from Florida

      Hello fellow Lensmaster.... I have a question for you.... If you can follow my water heaterless knowledge..

      My water heater has a pipe on top attached to a small "tank"....the pipe is leaning to the right and I need to somehow make it not lean. Advice? Tips? Tricks? I've tried to hire a handyman but apperently they all suck around here. I'm gonna take on the project myself....any suggestions? BTW thanks for the water heater knowlede as a new home home owner I need all the help I can get.

    • profile image

      csatarl 5 years ago

      Gene, you still recommending the GE hot water heaters at Home Depot versus the Whirlpool ones at Lowes? I was all set to buy a Whirlpool but reading your candid advice on here has me doubtful on going that route. Anyway I will prob be doing this tomorrow so I'll have my purchase and be trying to install it myself before you reply.

    • profile image

      csatarl 5 years ago

      Gene, you still recommending the GE hot water heaters at Home Depot versus the Whirlpool ones at Lowes? I was all set to buy a Whirlpool but reading your candid advice on here has me doubtful on going that route. Anyway I will prob be doing this tomorrow so I'll have my purchase and be trying to install it myself before you reply.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thanks for this information. I'm sure that many plumbers really appreciate it! My husband is one of the many plumbers salt lake city utah has and I know that he loves this and learned a lot from just reading this lens. Thanks for sharing this.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great lens. In response to "BritFun" I think underfloor heating is a great option and makes the house feel so nice. Also, shout out to our preferred Hamilton plumbing company. They're the best.

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 5 years ago from California

      Excellent info on Hot Water Heaters. I just replaced mine, and I did read reviews and shopped around for prices :)

    • profile image

      BritFun 6 years ago

      Great info on water heaters. We heat our water with an electric immersion heater which costs a fortune to run. We need to get a gas boiler to heat our water (or a direct fired hot water cylinder) which would save us a fortune. Thinking about installing underfloor heating in part of the house. It's becoming quite popular here in the UK - do you see it much in the US?

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      That was really a very nice content on water heaters. You have discussed all sort of issues which can relate while installing it at one' s home. I don't think after reading this lens thoroughly there is any need of discussing this issue with any .