Purchasing a new water heater can be a simple, stress-free process if several factors are considered. Most people don’t know that water heaters with longer guarantees are actually the same units as the basic six-year-warranty heater with an additional anode rod, a different jacket and an extended warranty. Home centers love to promote these “extended warranty” units and many people think they are buying a superior water heater. Additionally, when you buy a home center water heater and a problem develops, the home center refers you to the manufacturer to work out the details of the warranty.306

Most of the manufacturers are located on the east coast and don’t take calls after 1PM. When you finally get through the automated phone system and have remained on “hold” for 20 minutes, they typically advise you that they will have a representative in your area in a few days (or a week) to inspect your faulty water heater. Obviously, if your water heater is leaking you can’t wait up to a week for hot water, so you press them to come up with another alternative. They have one! They then advise you to remove your water heater, take it to one of the home centers that carry their brand and purchase a new water heater. They will then inspect your old water heater (when they arrive in your area) and if all things are as you say, have the home center issue you a credit. I hear this story several times each month from people who have unwittingly found themselves in this predicament. What value is a warranty if it is easier and cheaper to purchase a new water heater and pay cash for it?

Conversely, when you buy a water heater from a licensed plumbing contractor, you will generally get one of several leading brands whose warranty can be handled the day you call by any licensed plumbing contractor. The major brands of water heaters sold in our area are: Bradford/White, Rheem, American and A.O.Smith. GE, Whirlpool and Kenmore are brands sold through home center outlets and whose warranties must be handled through the manufacturers directly.

It is true that some of the commission-driven, franchised plumbing companies’ prices are considerably higher than even the home center’s flawed warranty deal. Companies that won’t give you prices over the phone, or leave several of the details “open-ended,” should be prudently avoided. Our prices are generally a few dollars less than the home centers, we’ll quote a price and you can schedule the job over the phone in a few minutes.

The following are a few points to consider when replacing your water heater:

Because of chronic high pressure, water heaters in north San Diego County generally last 7-8 years on average.

All water heaters use similar tank specifications and controls which are made by other manufacturers.

The basic warranty period is six years; longer warranties are extensions and do not reflect increased quality in tank specifications, or controls.

Should a water heater fail during the warranty period, only the time remaining on the original unit carries over to the replacement unit. Additionally, re-installation is not covered and must be paid by the customer.

If there is not chronic insufficiency of hot water, it is unwise to increase the size of the unit, thereby heating an unused extra 10 gallons of water year round.

A tank leaking from the bottom, or from inside the jacket, cannot be repaired and must be replaced.

A tank that is near, or has passed, the average life-expectancy mentioned above, that does not deliver sufficient hot water, is a poor candidate for extensive repairs i.e., new controls, thermostats/elements (electric models) and is, in most cases, better being replaced (value-wise).

The age of most water heaters can be determined from the serial number, which is coded with the first few numbers and the size by finding the plate (sticker) which contains the serial and model numbers and is listed as: “Capacity US Gallons.”