Cold Shower! Replacing a Water Heater (includes expected $ saved)

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!

Cost Savings: 

Let’s take a look at the Energy Guide annual electricity amounts for both the old and new unit:

Old water heater
New water heater

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?

2 Replies to “Cold Shower! Replacing a Water Heater (includes expected $ saved)”

    1. The toughest part is getting started, trying to figure out how to do it and the tools needed. Once I started, it was intuitive. Thanks for the comment!

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