There is almost no worse feeling than taking a shower with no hot water! I recently had this happen to me on a Saturday. I went to check on the water heater and noticed water coming out of the top access panel (not good!). That is not supposed to happen! I had previously changed out the bottom heating element for the unit, but this was obviously a bigger issue. After 16 years of use, it was due to be replaced.
I did some research to on the size of the unit and possible costs. Here are some of the findings:
- Cost range for a 50 gallon electric water heater: $400 – $600
- Average install cost (from thumbtack.com): $475 national; approx $300 local
- Total expected cost (with 10% cushion for parts/overages) : $770 – $900
After doing this initial research, I explored the options available:
Option 1: Hire a plumbing company to perform the work.
I received a quote from a local plumbing company that had done work fore me before, and they came back with a quote of $1200. That was above what I was expecting, but it would also be the “easiest” as they recommended a specific unit so I wouldn’t have to think/worry about the unit to choose.
Option 2: Buy the unit and installation from a big box store.
When I had the issue with the heating element before, I considered replacing the unit. The initial install price seemed reasonable, but it quickly increased when “options” were included such as installing on a stand (which my current unit is on. I attempted to call the toll-free number to get a new quote, but as I called on a Saturday, I was routed to a call center and they told me that installation was not available in my area. I know this was wrong as I had a previous call and quote and there were signs in the local store saying installation was available.
Option 3: Buy the unit and install it myself.
I don’t mind performing work myself to get experience and also saving money. When I work on something I haven’t done before, I worry that I might get in over my head. To better understand what it takes to perform an install, I watched some youtube videos and studied my existing unit.
Decision: Buy unit and do it myself.
I ultimately decided to do it myself as I didn’t want to wait until a weekday to have my hot shower and also didn’t want to pay the extra for a plumbing company or a contractor from the big box store to do the work. I decided to get a unit with a 12 year warranty and picked it up at the store.
First Step: Disconnect water, drain tank, and remove the old unit
Here is a picture of the old unit, being drained with a hose connected to the unit. I drained the unit outside in the grass.
Next: Unhook the plumbing and electrical from the old unit.
Next, remove old unit and put new unit in place:
Finally, Hook-up the plumbing and electrical, and power-up!
Yes, I was able to have a hot shower again! Monday morning was a good start to the week as I realized while taking a hot shower that if I wouldn’t have done the install, I would have started my week with a cold shower!
Let’s take a look at the Energy Guide annual electricity amounts for both the old and new unit:
From the sticker, you see the new unit should cost $420/yr @ 12 cents/kWh vs. $419 @ 8 cents/kwh for the old unit.
Looking at the yearly energy usage on the energy guide sticker:
- New unit: 3493 kWh per year
- Old unit: 4992 kWh per year
This is a delta of 1,499 kWh/yr of electricity usage. On average, the current electrical rate here is 10 cents/kWh. The result is a savings of around $150/yr in electricity costs with the new unit vs. the old!
Based on the cost savings, I should have replaced the water heater several years ago!
Do you have an old water heater? Have experiences similar?