Electric Water Heater Replacement

The Tank Electric Water Heater Replacement

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    My 30 something year old oil fired hot water heater is beginning to have some serious issues. Surprisingly the tech that services it recommended going with an electric, I sort of was thinking that way as well after he quoted a price for a new one with installation, so I’ve started researching different brands at the local big box stores.

    GE from Home Depot – Made by Rheem appears to be a plus. Can’t seem to find reviews on the GE’s, which maybe indicates fewer problems(?)

    Whirlpool from Lowes – The “Energy Smart Control” looks interesting for possibly saving some money on usage, but some reviews from several years back indicate it had some problems with board failures. Have these controls been improved for reliability in recent years? Other problems indicated from reviews seem to be leaking of water at the tank top well be before warranty period is up. Has Whirlpool quality improved from a few years ago?

    One reason I was considering the nearby Lowes or Home Depot was the ready availability of basic replacement parts – heating elements.

    Kenmore from Sears – Believe it manufactured by the same company that does Whirlpool(?) Possibly similiar quality as the Whirlpool?

    From a few older posts I’ve read on this forum, GE seemed to be recommended over Whirlpool water heaters. Is this still the case? What’s out there that might be a step above GE at a close price point?



    Larry Weingarten

    Hello: I’ll try to help, but can’t answer some of your questions directly as I make little attempt to keep current on prices. What much of this site is about (in my mind) is sidestepping the merry-go-round of “replace heater with same, do nothing for ten years, repeat”. That word repeat, it’s a great way to double shampoo sales :D. This site is also about how to make the hot water system perform better, saving water, energy and waiting time — and doing it in a way that actually saves money over the long run.

    One usually starts with being in a great hurry as their tank is leaking. There are ways usually to remove that time pressure. It is possible to limp along with a failed heater if the leak is slow and if you turn off power and water when not using hot water. A hot tap needs to be left open also to prevent pressure build-up in the tank. That trick could buy you some time. I’ve had folks use it for up to three months 😎

    With time, now you can consider how to make the system do more for less as well as being able to comparison shop, get competitive bids etc. Here is a post from someone in a very similar situation to yours; http://www.thetankatwaterheaterrescue.com/forums/view_topic.php?id=1625&forum_id=3&highlight=system+efficiency I gave him a little homework to do and hopefully he used it to his advantage. EnergyExpert also mentions the Marathon heater which I’ve seen him list a place on the web to buy it at better than usual price. (the search function above will help you find that info) It has better insulation than any other electric heater I can think of and a lifetime warranty. Hook it up to an efficient system and time of day metering if possible and get to think about thinks other than hot water for a long time.

    Electric water heaters are really pretty simple animals. However, if they get at all wet on the wrong side, things turn nasty. So whatever heater you get, check the plumbing hookups again in six months to be sure they are still tight. Look into the element hatch covers to be sure you see no signs of water or arcing.

    With any of these, get the highest energy factor (EF) rating you can find. Rheem/GE is coming out with a new heat pump heater now which should cut in half the electrical energy usage. The industry has had a hard time making a reliable unit though, so make sure that if you get it, it has a strong warranty. The efficiency stuff mentioned in the earlier post earlier can easily cut your need for hot water in half, so go there first as efficiency measures are far more durable then complex equipment.

    Hope that helps!

    Yours, Larry


    Thanks for the reply Larry…

    After some careful thought and research, which I sometimes do too much of, I ordered a Marathon water heater. I’m pushing 62 years of age and the thought of potentially swapping out a failed water heater at somewhere around 70 didn’t appeal to me too much. I’m more of an electrical type of person, so if an element or similiar component has a problem it will be easier to deal with.

    Surprisingly I couldn’t find a local plumbing supplier that carried Marathons. I ended up at an Aubuchon’s that was slightly cheaper than prices I found online. Called my local utility to see if they had any rebates or offerings like I could find in the midwest coops, but no money back from my utility.

    Thanks again…..

    Larry Weingarten

    Hello: Check with your tax preparer, but you might be able to get some energy tax credit on the heater. Just guessing here 🙂 Aside from that, you’re putting in a sound building block that can stay in place should you decide to upgrade other parts of the system. All good!

    Yours, Larry


    Sorry for this delayed response.
    Best place I’ve found to buy Marathons is http://www.chec.coop.

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