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BrandonD 01-03-2013 01:24 PM

Replacing water heater
Hi guys,

My water heater has suffered a major leak. We just bought our house in April and part of the deal was the seller purchased a home warranty through American Home Shield (AHS). While I have the skills needed to replace a water heater I decided to go through AHS to save on the cost of replacing the water heater. It's a $60 service fee and AHS covers the replacement water heater and labor.

The plumbing company came out and established the water heater is under manufacturer warranty. It's actually a Rheem Marathon series tank, one with a lifetime warranty (replacement tank of same size and brand/model would run me $1000 if I didn't go through AHS). Unfortunately they can't find it in stock anywhere so they've ordered it from the manufacturer to be installed on Monday or Tuesday.

I was just called by AHS and they said there would be extra expenses not covered under the $60 service fee. The plumbing company said they have to pull a permit at a cost of $135 and install an expansion tank for $125. Is a permit really needed to install a water heater? Do I really need an expansion tank since I don't currently have one? The only thing I can think of is that they have to bring it up to code and since it's not they have to pull a permit and install an expansion tank (is that now required under code?)

Either way, as of now this replacement will cost me $320 which I guess I still better than buying a cheap replacement tank and installing it myself.

joecaption 01-03-2013 01:42 PM

Yes it's best to have an expantion tank, may even be one of the reason the old tank failed.
You would have to check your local code office to see if a permit is required.
I would not have an issue with having to have a permit, another set of eyes to make sure it's done right.
Make sure they use dielectric nipples when connecting it up, make sure there's a ball valve installed on the cold water line. If it's a gate valve now have them replace it.

diyorpay 01-04-2013 09:35 AM

Another couple of suggestions:

If you're on a second floor or in a condo, get a plastic reservoir (like a big bowl) for heater to sit in. Helps with containing small leaks.

Replace drain valve with a metal one if new one comes with a plastic one. Make sure a hose will fit without obstruction.

joecaption 01-04-2013 09:37 AM

jagans 01-04-2013 10:09 AM

Hi Joe,

Assuming he has city water, which he does not say,

Why is an expansion tank needed prior to a HWH? And why would the lack of one cause premature failure of a tank type water heater?

3 What is wrong with a Brass Gate Valve?

Just Wondered.

BrandonD 01-04-2013 10:12 AM

I have well water.

Not much personal experience with gate valves but I've read where they are known to fail more readily than ball valves. I actually just replaced an old gate valve just off my well last week partially as a precaution, partially because it would not close all the way the last time I needed it off, and partially because it was incredibly hard to turn it.

DannyT 01-04-2013 10:36 AM

gate valves don't last as long anymore because they are crap made in foreign countries since the 70's. ball valves are much better anyway if you can find a good one.

jagans 01-04-2013 10:42 AM

Yeah, The key work here being find a good one. I have had the stems of two ball valves bought from HD break off in my hand after a couple years of service. Chinese Crap. You cant even depend on a damn valve anymore. :mad:

The American made Gate valves usually failed because people would back them up against their stops, instead of full open 1/4 turn closed. I like the ball valve a lot, I just cant find good ones.

joecaption 01-04-2013 10:42 AM
Trash tends to fall unto the bottom of the sealing surface so the gate can not close off all the way. Once they have sat in one positon for years the packing has dryed out and will leak once the handle is turn and need to be replaced or the packing nut tightened down, The gates get stick and the stem rings off when you turn the handle.
A ball valve should have none of these issures.

The small acumulater tank goes on the hot side of the water heater not the cold side. It allows for exspantion when the water heats up.

AllanJ 01-04-2013 11:12 AM

I don't think the lack of an expansion tank shortens the life of a water heater but when the tank has nearly rusted out in a spot, the added pressure given the lack of an expansion tank can be the straw that breaks the camel's back a tad sooner.

If your city requires a permit for replacing a water heater, that will probably be an extra cost not covered by the warranty. Also added parts needed to come up to current code will not be covered. (If there was an expansion tank already there, the new water heater can re-use that.)

Check the exact terms in the warranty document to be sure.

mikey48 01-04-2013 11:20 AM

Most expansion tanks are installed on the cold water side. Check tank instructions.

BrandonD 01-04-2013 11:26 AM

The tank is a marathon series -- plastic construction made to avoid rust. Supposedly one of the best tanks available (and priced as such) with a lifetime warranty. Not sure what caused it to fail so horribly at not an overly old age. Water will literally gush out the top from the three pipes entering/exiting the tank and also from the heating element access panels (yes, I'm positive it's leaking from there and not just appearing as doing so from water cascading down from the top).

I was aware that the warranty company would not cover the costs of the permit and costs of extra parts requiring it to bring up to code -- they make that quite known. Just wanted to be sure they were truly needed. Either way had the tank not been under manufacture warranty it would've been covered at a cost of $1000 not including installation (which they also cover).

jmon 01-04-2013 11:38 AM

I had a similar situation. I had to replace my hot water heater as well. Cost me a little more because of extra ball valve, piping and expansion tank.

Plumbers, electricians, hvac techs, carpenters all have to, by law, follow all applicable current codes when updating, renovating, replacing current equipment or structures. They could lose their certifications for failure to do this. It's not that they are trying to rip you off or sell you something extra you don't need, it is probably required by code.

Some places require a local permit for just about anything now a days. It's a money maker for the local township etc. I had to get one to replace my front door and reshingle my roof. Unfortunately, that is your responsibility to pay for any permits that are required.

Consider the extra 323 dollars you had to come up with a good investment.

TheEplumber 01-04-2013 11:42 AM

199 Attachment(s)
It's been a while since I put in a marathon, sounds like the threaded connections split. Check with marathon and see if a exp. tank is required for their warranty. Perhaps it should have been there on the original install- so previous warranty is void.
As for permits and tank, you need to verify that with the local codes. Technically I need a permit to install any install/replace any plumbing fixture.
Expansion tanks are required in several areas.

jeffnc 01-04-2013 11:43 AM


Originally Posted by BrandonD (Post 1085403)
Either way, as of now this replacement will cost me $320 which I guess I still better than buying a cheap replacement tank and installing it myself.

Yes. Go with the expansion tank, it's a separate issue and a good idea, so just pay for it. As to the permit - do you "have" to? Depends on what you mean. Since someone else is doing it, it's not a bad idea. Kind of like paying for a home inspection when buying a house (except granted, percentage-wise this is more expensive.)

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