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What brands last the longest?  Rating:  Rating
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 Posted: Wed Apr 6th, 2011 05:45 am
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dldvorak
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I need to replace a leaking GE gas water heater that had a 12-year warranty but only lasted 8 years.  This time I want to get something that lasts for, say, 15 years.  One plumber I know highly recommends American Standard as the longest lasting, and he also installs Bradford White.  He does not like the common "retail" water heaters such as GE, Whirlpool, and Rheem.  I'd like to hear other reports of long-lasting water heater brands so I can make an informed choice.  Thanks.

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 Posted: Wed Apr 6th, 2011 04:20 pm
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SnowyNorth
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My feelings, after reading the wealth of information on this forum, is this. Care, in the form of monitoring and maintenance, will be a greater factor in the life of a water heater than the original cost. A cheap car that is well maintained will outlast a RangeRover that is operated in harsh conditions without proper care.

I believe water heaters, like most modern consumer products, have very little difference across a manufacturers product line. The top end models, with the bells and whistles, have the same basic design, and the same basic components. A manufacturer may offer two models. One has a tank with a 6-year warranty and another a tank with a 12-year warranty. The tank, the steel vessel that holds the water, is the same in both models; the 12-year has two anodes instead of one.

This website and forum empower us to preserve our water heaters far beyond the manufacturers "design window". We can treat water heaters like lights bulbs; install and forget, then replace. Or we can perform some simple maintenance which mitigates the design obsolescence the manufacturers depend on to promote replacement sales.

Some people may be unwilling or unable to perform these steps themselves. If you are dependent on your plumber for all service then heed his product advice, but always get another opinion or quote, he may have a boat payment due.

Others here can offer advice on brands, I am only familiar with the one I own. But I intend it to be my last water heater. Following the sage council offered here, I feel confident that it will outlast me.

Sorry for the ramble. Short answer: Shop around, do lots of reading here and other sites. Beware of short pay-back promises. Get informed. Now I'll step off the soapbox.

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 Posted: Wed Apr 6th, 2011 05:55 pm
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elenano
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Thanks, SnowyNorth, for this reply and the previous one. Dldvorak can actually get something like what he's talking about. It had gotten to the point where I didn't think any manufacturer offered a heater that could be prefitted the way we advocate, when, by chance, I learned there are two.

The Kenmore Powermiser 9 and Reliance 909 come with a .84-inch-diameter magnesium anode in its own port, and the Powermiser also has 2.5 inches of insulation, which is pretty good.

If Dldvorak were to add one of my .84-inch-diameter combo anodes to one of those heaters, the factory warranty wouldn't change, but he'd have 18 years worth of rust protection.

Reasons a 12-year heater might have leaked after eight years would include running a water softener, tank defect, pressure above 80 psi and/or thermal expansion spikes, external leaks, corrosive chemicals in the same space as the water heater.

It's always a good idea to keep an eye on your water heater no matter how good you think it is, and to be aware of all the issues that can wreck a water heater.

Randy Schuyler

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 Posted: Thu Apr 7th, 2011 12:59 am
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Ej
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Randy I am glad you added pressure variables in your post. A 25 dollar expansion tank goes a long way in the life of a water heater. Also something you don't mention is sizing. A water heater that is undersized no matter how many anodes you have won't protect metal fatigued cause by condensation and constant flame exposure.

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 Posted: Thu Apr 7th, 2011 01:26 am
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elenano
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On some level, I was aware of sizing issues, but I don't think I've ever actually mentioned them on the site, an oversight I intend to correct. Thanks!

The first thing that I thought of when you mentioned it was an apartment complex I ran across in San Jose where they had put in 75-gallon, 75,000 Btu heaters to serve a bunch of units and just wouldn't accept undersizing as the reason they broke so often.

Randy Schuyler

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 Posted: Thu Apr 7th, 2011 06:12 am
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KurtVF
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Ej wrote: Randy I am glad you added pressure variables in your post. A 25 dollar expansion tank goes a long way in the life of a water heater. Also something you don't mention is sizing. A water heater that is undersized no matter how many anodes you have won't protect metal fatigued cause by condensation and constant flame exposure.
Should all water heaters have expansion tanks?  Will an expansion tank add longevity to a water heater even with normal pressure or is it overkill???

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 Posted: Thu Apr 7th, 2011 06:50 am
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energyexpert
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The plumbing system as a whole benefits when protected from pressure excursions.  A chain is only as strong as the weakest link.  Most non-reinforced washing machine hoses only last a few years before failure.  Even solenoid valves in washing machines and dishwashers have a bigger challenge when pressure is 100 psi vs. 40 psi. 

When water is heated it expands (gets less dense).  If there is no "void" somewhere in the system, pressure goes up.  In an otherwise solid system, a water heater must "see" (ie, no check valve) an expansion tank or a well tank (private well).  And commonsense (which is becoming less common) tells you you need twice the expansion room for an 80 gallon WH as you do for a 40 gallon model.

David

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 Posted: Thu Apr 7th, 2011 06:56 am
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energyexpert
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Randy,

Undersizing and condensation:

Would shortening the dip tube on a gas WH mitigate the condensation?  This will effectively yield a smaller tank on the initial draw of hot water.  But incoming water temperature would mix with the HW in the tank so the lower regions would not be as cold???

David

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 Posted: Thu Apr 7th, 2011 03:22 pm
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eleent
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Hello:  About the expansion tank: It's only needed where there is a pressure reducer, check valve or some other thing that prevents thermal expansion from working back to the water supply.  If it's an "open" system, there is no need for an expansion tank. 

About short dip tubes... it feels like a band-aid :?.  I'm not certain it really would fix the problem of condensation, but even if it did, is it worth suffering through the poorer service a short dip tube will give?  Setting the temp up a bit will give more hot water and reduce condensation but at the cost of more standby loss.  Is the standby loss as expensive as that cup of mocha-java Starbucks?  Probably not :cool:  It's a choice.

Yours,  Larry

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 Posted: Sun Apr 10th, 2011 04:12 am
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dldvorak
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Thanks for all the responses to my original question. I now have a new American Standard water heater that the plumber is so confident in that he has guaranteed it for 12 years, even though the American Standard box says 6 years. This water heater comes with a curved dip tube since it advertises "SELF-CLEANING – Turbulence inducing cold water inlet-tube engineered to diminish hard water area sediment deposits." It is also ultra-low NOx emission because here in Los Angeles County it must comply with regulations of the Southern California Air Quality Management District.

In response to SnowyNorth, I saw that Consumer Reports bought many barnd new water heaters and took them apart to look for differences. According to their report: "Look for a long warranty. Most cover 6, 9, or 12 years. Heaters with the lowest and highest warranties differ by just $60 to $80 for electric models and $50 to $100 for gas units. But we found much bigger differences inside. Electric water heaters with 9- and 12-year warranties typically had larger heating elements, thicker insulation, and thicker or longer corrosion-fighting metal rods, referred to as anodes. Most higher-warranty gas heaters had bigger burners and better heat transfer for faster water heating, along with more anode material and thicker insulation. An exception: Whirlpool’s 40-gallon gas heaters, whose 9- and 12-year models are identical inside."

Also, in response to elenano, I do have a water softener, so that might explain why I only got 8 years out of a "12-year" water heater. My question, then, is: "How can I tell when it's time to install a new anode?"

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 Posted: Sun Apr 10th, 2011 05:31 am
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elenano
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The answer is, "vigilance." You can't tell from the outside. You need to check the anode periodically. Once a year, perhaps, since you are softening. When you can see six inches of core wire exposed, you replace it. If that is happening frequently, consider replacing it with a powered anode. They are not consumed and last indefinitely.

If you don't check the anode, then I expect your plumber will have to make good on that 12-year warranty sooner than he thinks.

As to the dip tube. Self-cleaning is not the same as curved. As far as I know, no water heater comes with a curved dip tube open at the end for expelling sediment. They come with tubes closed at the end with holes in them for stirring up sediment. Not the same thing. For you, it's moot because softeners take care of most or all of the sediment. That's their whole point.

Randy Schuyler

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 Posted: Sun Apr 10th, 2011 05:36 am
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KurtVF
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Correct me if I am wrong, but you still need to DRAIN the sediment, correct??  Wouldn't a self cleaning water heater be a misnomer??? (and misleading to the average consumer??)

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 Posted: Sun Apr 10th, 2011 05:24 pm
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elenano
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Drain no, flush yes. I suggest you read the Sediment page in The Basics section, as this is fully discussed there. Draining doesn't do much, especially with self-cleaning dip tubes. Flushing under pressure does, especially with the curved dip tube Larry Weingarten invented.

Randy Schuyler

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 Posted: Mon May 2nd, 2011 05:57 pm
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Tony1M
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My wife and I are still using a John Woods natural gas water heater that was installed in 1977, shortly after our house was built. If what I'm reading about "modern" water heaters is true, like many many other products, "they don't build 'em like they used to."

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 Posted: Mon Oct 3rd, 2011 07:06 pm
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johnlee
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I went to Sears and saw their Power Miser 6, 9 and 12 sitting side by side.  The 6 and 9 have 1" insulation.  12 has 2".  Unless they actually put a 6 on the 9 spot. 

I'm in search of a new WH to replace my A.O. Smith manufactured in 1999 which is not leaking but never maintained.  I slightly prefer Kenmore to GE if both use magnesium. 

One thing is that can the Kenmore RoToSwirl dip tube be easily removed for the curved one?  They have a figure on the tank to depict the RoToSwirl how it looks like.  The tube is down at the bottom and extended half circle horizontally.

John

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 Posted: Mon Oct 3rd, 2011 07:20 pm
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elenano
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I may have to pay another visit to my local Sears. When I wrote that, it was because I found a model on the floor of the local store that confirmed what a rep had told me: .84-inch magnesium anode and 2.5 inches of insulation.

But when I search Sears site online, nothing is actually identified as being a Power Miser. There is just a big long list of water heaters at different prices.

Anyway, yes, you can still take the Roto Swirl dip tube out. Dip tubes are pretty flexible.

Randy Schuyler

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