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Old 02-25-2010, 11:35 AM   #1
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How much time to replace a hotwater heater


Hi all, first time posting here, long time DIYer.

I've got 2 40Gal Gas Hot Water heaters in the attic - easy access plenty of room to work.

I had one start leaking on me. Of course it was at 9pm, the night before I need to get up at 4am to catch a flight to china. I couldn't isolate the one tank as they put in shut off values on the cold sides, but not the hot sides which were T'd together. So I ran down to the local big orange box and bought a shut off valve some solder and flux (couldn't find mine since I hadn't done any sweating of pipes in years.) Got it isolated and went went off to China.

So, I'm back in the US and the wife's bugging me to get it replaced (we're doing fine on 1 40Gal unit - small family big house) as she's worried about the other one going to start to leak (both 10yrs old - same age as the house.)

I didn't want to do it, because I didn't want to drag the things up into the attic and spend the time, so I figured I'd get an estimate on having it done.

Well parts come up to be more than 2x what I calculated and I even had him list out what he'd be doing ($300 instead of the $125 that I came up w/ $40 of which are ball valves when I could even just re-use my 3 gate valves and add a 4th for $7.95.)

That was a bit of a kick in the sack, but on to the real kicker. He's asking $940 in labor ?

I was thinking it would take me about 1-2hrs per unit (4hrs max.) And I'd figure a pro would have it done in under 3hrs.

Am I way off base in this? or is this guy trying to charge me $300+/hr. Strange thing is he's got an A+ rating in local BBB.

After this I'm seriously considering going ahead and do the DIY. I'm willing to spend $300 on the labor and cost on the parts, but not $940 labor and an extra $175 on parts beyond retail cost of parts.

TAZ427

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Old 02-25-2010, 01:46 PM   #2
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How much time to replace a hotwater heater


get two more estimates. Rule of thumb, you can pretty much always do something cheaper yourself if you have the knowledge and skill.

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Old 02-25-2010, 02:04 PM   #3
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How much time to replace a hotwater heater


Is your attic accessible with a stair-well and not a fold-out attic ladder?

I'd suggest to, then, just rent a toe dolly and dolly a new one up the stairs.
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Old 02-25-2010, 04:07 PM   #4
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How much time to replace a hotwater heater


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get two more estimates. Rule of thumb, you can pretty much always do something cheaper yourself if you have the knowledge and skill.
Always a good rule of thumb, and I've already contacted a couple more. Hadn't done it earlier as this one was recommended by a friend/co-worker.

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Is your attic accessible with a stair-well and not a fold-out attic ladder?

I'd suggest to, then, just rent a toe dolly and dolly a new one up the stairs.
Fold-out attic ladder. Other wise yes, I'd use my trusty dolly w/ pneumatic tires. May end up calling in a favor for the lifting part. As much as I've done for my neighbors, I'd hope I could get one favor myself I swear some of them don't have the sense to come in out of the rain - most don't know where their shutoff valve's are. I got one neighbor who I told 3 months ago, that he's got an irrigation valve leaking, and he should shut off the supply to the irrigation at the Anti-backflow valve. It's still tricking out today, and he's said he's callled his irrigation guy to come out.

I feel like just climbing the fence and shutting the valve off myself. Heck I shut three of the things off back in January when we had a Hard Freeze (for Houston that's more than 1 day straight of below freezing.) Anyway 3 of my neighbors didn't know to shut the valves off, open the relief valves and so the things pop and shoot water 15' straight up. Not one of them knew that they should go turn the valve irrigation valve off. One at least had the common sense to start turning off his water main valve.

Ok, rant done . Back to the main question? Can anyone give me a good estimate on the amount of time it should take for a pro to do this?

TAZ427
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Old 02-25-2010, 04:39 PM   #5
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How much time to replace a hotwater heater


When I finished fixing the doctors plumbing and gave him the bill he said "HOLY CRAP that's more than I make and I am a Dr.".
I told him "It's more than I made when I was a Dr. also".
Might be a little on the high side but still in the middle of the road for two tanks in an attic
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Old 02-25-2010, 05:48 PM   #6
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How much time to replace a hotwater heater


myself, i allow min. 2 hours at least per heater for when my guys go out to replace depending on location of fixture. you r saying in the attic. you have to drain units before moving them carry them down then bring new ones up. alot of running up and down. in your situation your taalking 2-3 hours per unit by the time you start removing old ones while that is going on can be getting new ones ready, do not ever put a shutoff on the hot side due to the fact if the t/p valve ever failed, it could be very danderous. he sounds a tad high but you have to remember he has to pull permits remove old ones and possibly pay for dumping, at least you would have warranty if something goes wrong.
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Old 02-25-2010, 05:50 PM   #7
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definately go with the ball valves,only $10 each at menards.how about ditching the 2 40s and installing 1 50 gallon heater up there? lot fewer things to worry about,lot less weight sitting on your ceiling not to mention a lot less water to keep heated if youre not using it all
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Old 02-26-2010, 11:25 AM   #8
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How much time to replace a hotwater heater


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Originally Posted by plumberinlaw View Post
When I finished fixing the doctors plumbing and gave him the bill he said "HOLY CRAP that's more than I make and I am a Dr.".
I told him "It's more than I made when I was a Dr. also".
Might be a little on the high side but still in the middle of the road for two tanks in an attic
Yeah, I got two more quotes last night. All in the same range.

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myself, i allow min. 2 hours at least per heater for when my guys go out to replace depending on location of fixture. you r saying in the attic. you have to drain units before moving them carry them down then bring new ones up. alot of running up and down. in your situation your taalking 2-3 hours per unit by the time you start removing old ones while that is going on can be getting new ones ready, do not ever put a shutoff on the hot side due to the fact if the t/p valve ever failed, it could be very danderous. he sounds a tad high but you have to remember he has to pull permits remove old ones and possibly pay for dumping, at least you would have warranty if something goes wrong.
First tanks drained. As for the shut off valves on the hot side, I know it possibly could be dangers if they're actually shut off and the t/p valve didn't work. That said, I'd rather be able to isolate and run off a single unit if needed and I'd never turn the hotside off w/o turning the unit off. Permits are no charge here, and the dumping is $35 for 1 truckload of landfill (dumped about 2 tons of ceramic tile i ripped out this past summer)

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definately go with the ball valves,only $10 each at menards.how about ditching the 2 40s and installing 1 50 gallon heater up there? lot fewer things to worry about,lot less weight sitting on your ceiling not to mention a lot less water to keep heated if youre not using it all
Calculations on my house 5 bedroom, 4 bath would make it an issue at resale. I could easily live w/ 1 50Gal w/ my family and typical usage (would become an issue during holidays though w/ 8-10 people staying at my house.) So 1 50 isn't an option. No issues w/ weight sitting on the ceiling - 2x6 planks sit on top of 2x10 rafters, which are supported directly underneath by the outside wall - an inside that is 7' away, and another wall that is 90 deg to this (it's over one of the upstairs bathrooms.) Plus the house codes require hurricane support loads and it stood up to Hurricane Ike (Sept '08) which was the 3rd costliest Hurricane in US history.

I'm considering just going ahead and doing it myself, one unit at a time.
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Old 02-26-2010, 12:06 PM   #9
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How much time to replace a hotwater heater


Are both heaters tied together so as to supply hot water to the entire system? OR-is one a pre-heater? I've been doing research/reading on using two heaters, with one as a pre-heater. The local electrical power supplier is also doing testing and the results look good as far as energy savings. IMO-the fact that your units are in the attic is a factor with pricing. Sounds as if you know how to do this exchange, find time to do it, have the wife help , use the saved monies to take the wife to dinner for being such good help. Making points with "wifey" is not a crime. David
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Old 02-26-2010, 12:53 PM   #10
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Are both heaters tied together so as to supply hot water to the entire system? OR-is one a pre-heater? I've been doing research/reading on using two heaters, with one as a pre-heater. The local electrical power supplier is also doing testing and the results look good as far as energy savings. IMO-the fact that your units are in the attic is a factor with pricing. Sounds as if you know how to do this exchange, find time to do it, have the wife help , use the saved monies to take the wife to dinner for being such good help. Making points with "wifey" is not a crime. David
The hot side is tied together. Yes, I have the know how, but I tend to balance what I can do vs what I'm willing to pay others to do for me a bit more as I get older. That said, I don't think I'm willing to pay this much in labor charges. Heck, I consider asking if a bottle of KY Lube came with the deal.
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Old 02-26-2010, 07:44 PM   #11
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How much time to replace a hotwater heater


Track your TOTAL MAN HOURS.

Time it takes to get the water heaters, shut off valves. And any other misc items you need/use.
The amount of time your help is there to help get the old ones out, and the new ones in. Along with your install time, and time to make sure they are working right.

You might be surprised how long it takes.

And then remember, a company either fills the rest of the day with work. Or pays the men for doing nothing, or sends them home without pay, and risks losing employees.

Lots of unseen cost in labor charges.



PS: get rid of those gate valves. use ball valves only. And install an expansion tank.
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Old 02-26-2010, 08:55 PM   #12
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Why not just put in a tankless waterheater. It will replace both of those 40 gal and be a lot cheaper to run.
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Old 02-26-2010, 09:01 PM   #13
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1 Turn off gas and electric to water heaters

2 drain them - this part can be iffy if the drain down is clogged, especially if they are in the attic, they MUST be drained before coming out. There's no way to 'muscle it' outside. This can take the better part of an hour farting with the drain down and trying to get it unclogged so that the water will flow out.

3 disconnect everything from water heater, waters, gas, flue, electrical

4 haul water heaters out of attic. This is very tricky with the fold down attic ladders, which around here DO NOT meet code requirements for accessibility, AND will need a helper to get it down from there.

5 get new water heaters up into attic hopefully without scratching them because most home owners will crap their pants if their new appliance has a big scratch on it. "Hey, do I get 50% discount for the missing paint?"

6 re-connect everything

There's nothing wrong with getting another estimate, but I can't say he's honestly that far off. We did a 50 gallon in an attic like you describe and i seem to recall it was about 700 bucks (heater included of course, but gas is a bit more work getting them hooked back up and fired up. Maybe he includes labor for drive time too if you're far out from his shop.

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Old 02-27-2010, 08:35 AM   #14
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For a flimsy ladder you should build a hoist over the opening. . . it would require some steady rigging, like a saw-horse setup over the opening, and some pulleys and quite a bit of rope.

I did a similar hoist when I was lifting sheets to the ceiling solo.

Anything's possible.
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Old 02-27-2010, 11:15 AM   #15
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For a flimsy ladder you should build a hoist over the opening. . . it would require some steady rigging, like a saw-horse setup over the opening, and some pulleys and quite a bit of rope.

I did a similar hoist when I was lifting sheets to the ceiling solo.

Anything's possible.
The ladder will be in the way.

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