Ignorance is not Bliss

The Tank Ignorance is not Bliss

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    My downstairs is currently being converted to an inlaw sweet.
    I decided to replace my 13 year old Gas W.H. Proactively.

    So, I do like most average homeowners do, I go to Lowes or H.D.
    Since I am a Jimmie Johnson fan I go to Lowes.
    I tell the guy I what I need and that I wanted a higher efficiency model.
    The 3 he has are all Whirlpool ( which this website barely mentions, not a good sign for average Joe) $439, 378, 299.
    Didn’t bother with the first one. The difference between the 2nd and the third (he says ) $378 has a glass lined tank and is self cleaning and has 9 year warr. . The $299 model is neither and has a 6year warr.
    It didn’t sound right to me. I asked again. He said same.

    So in my ignorance of water heaters, do they make water heaters with out a glass lining? It seams to me the water quality would suffer from any thing other than a glass lined one.
    Does Sears sell different brands? What does Home Depot sell (their website doesn’t list them)?
    I have about a week to 10 days to meet the contractors timeline for the water heater installation.
    I plan to intall the additional rod, not so sure about my ability to install the dip tube correctly ( I am pretty sure I could mess it up though)
    Any help would be appreciated.
    Clueless in GA

    Randy Schuyler

    Well, first, I could be the devil’s advocate (or even the devil himself) and suggest you simply do the external inspection described under Know-how, then maybe pull the anode and replace it and flush your tank if the anode has anything left on it. Thirteen years is a long time in some places, not so long in others. You never know.

    But since you ask, Whirlpool gets little mention because it’s made by American, an A.O. Smith subsidiary, which invariably uses aluminum anodes, which we invariably dislike. But we have nothing else bad to say about their heaters.

    Kenmore sells State water heaters. State is another subsidiary of Smith. Home Depot sells GE water heaters, made by Rheem.

    We tend to emphasize features over brand. The features we like are use of magnesium anode rods (Rheem, Bradford White, some States and some A.O. Smiths — although Rheem’s have an electrical resistor in them that we aren’t crazy about), and as much insulation and EF factor as you can get.

    If you read elsewhere on the site, you’ll see we also advocate either buying a long-warranty, two-anode tank, or buying a six-year with a hex-head anode (Rheem, some States and A.O. Smiths) and buying the second anode from us. Rheem kind of loses there, too, because they redesigned their tanks to accept only a special hot-port combo anode they sell that is smaller-diameter than our standard combo anodes. We found a source for them, but they also cost more (Are you reading this, Rheem?).

    We also would like you to buy a flush kit from us because we have a low opinion of the “self-flushing” feature offered by all the makers, as well as their miserable drain valves.

    There is another Rheem issue that has given some folks grief — and you can find such posts here in The Tank: the federal government mandated a flame-arrest system for water heaters several years ago. Rheem uses a glass bulb that breaks if the system activates — but also occasionally breaks by accident. If that happens, the tank is junk. Rheem is good about replacing them when this happens, but it’s still vexing for a homeowner, and not always clear why the water heater has suddenly stopped working. Other companies use a metal strip that melts and can be replaced later.

    Beyond these issues, which are about longevity and efficiency, there are others that only you can answer. There are other features that water heaters have, such as Btu input and first-hour recovery that are more dependent on just what you and your family need. Only you can answer those.

    I suggest you go elsewhere on the site and read The Basics to learn more about all this stuff.

    So, if Jimmie Johnson drives for Lowe’s, who does Michael Schumacher drive for?;)

    Randy Schuyler


    Thanks for replying

    The tank that I have now (Rheem) has never been flushed. I bought the house almost 2 years ago. I asked theprev. owner and he said no he didn’t maintain it like that.

    I’ve read this website over and over the past few weeks. Fascinating stuff I must say.

    First the $378 Whirlpool glass lined self cleaning tank is going back. I don’t want

    aluminum. 🙂

    So if I get a G.E. and the second anode doesn’t fit as easy as just screwing it in, then what other places sell Bradford White’s? They seem to be waterheaterrescue friendly.

    Also so you think I should try and inspect my tank b4 buying new? Hmm…The top ports are corroded somewhat. I suppose I could take a look. At the minimum I could drain it and see what comes out. I can say that I have calcium deposits in all of my aeroator faucets. Not a good thing right?




    Just as a warning, the Whirlpool gas water heaters are currently undergoing a class action lawsuit for their defective Flame Lock systems for units up to 2006. Speaking from experience with some of these units and the stores selling them, there is the chance that you could get one of these units, as Lowes and Whirlpool never did a recall. Also, the new assembly is prone to having a stuck thermocouple reset switch, sometimes even coming from the factory unable to fire up. Might not be a bad idea to change brands.

    Randy Schuyler

    Thanks, Squirrel. That was one I didn’t know about.

    As to JustinScottBGa, clarifications. First, draining your water heater isn’t worth the trouble. It’s the least part of maintenance (although also the part everybody has heard of) and the least telling regarding the condition of your tank.

    If you can get the anode out, that would tell you a lot. You can see examples on the Anode page under The Basics. Looking in the combustion chamber is important, too. If it’s rusty and shows water marks, the tank is probably not in good shape. If all you see is gray metal and white condensation marks, it probably is.

    The GE is fine as long as you buy Rheem’s special combo rod or the one I sell. They both have the hot-water outlet about an inch lower than on a standard rod. One of my commercial clients installed and standard one on a new GE and no hot water would come out because the outlet was blocked by the wall of the port, which extends much deeper than it used to.

    You’ll find that we’re pretty particular and few really satisfy us. Bradford White uses magnesium, so that’s good. They have a good reputation, so that’s good. But for ages, their tanks only came with one combo rod in the hot port with no place to add a second. That bothered us. Recently I learned that they’ve started making a model that has a hex-head anode, so that’s better. But I believe that you can only get them through contractors, so if you’re doing it yourself, that’s not so great.

    If you could get Sears to give you a Kenmore with a hex-head magnesium anode (look on the Anode page for comparison with aluminum) and two inches of insulation, that might be best of all. But they do also come with aluminum and also with combo rod only, so make sure hex-head magnesium is what you’re getting.

    Hope that helps.

    Randy Schuyler


    ok Randy
    Here’s where I’m at.
    The kit from you is leaving IL on it’s way way to GA. 1/2 way there.

    I loosened the Drain Valve,
    Cold water port (removed the dip tube, it had a 1/2″ rubber type of band above the tube. I had to remove it to get the tube out, saved it),
    Hot water port ( It has a pc of plastic in it shaped like a Y . I have to remove this to insert the additional anode right?, are you familar with. It’s a G.E. 6year Gas)
    I removed the existing Hex anode and teflon taped the thread, reinserted. (This is ok to do on all threads here on out right?) I see that most applications call for pipe dope.

    Now as far as installation of new water heater. I am going to ask the contractor to install a heat trap using a 24″ flex copper. I’ve read some conflicting posts about using the flex copper. Haven’t presented it to the contractor yet. The other method could be a hard line with double 90′ angle installation. Right now my hot line has a straight run and is in the unheated basement. The copper tubing is hot all the way up the ceiling. Not a good efficient way to go.
    So far the conversion is easier that I thought. I still have halfway to go though.
    I almost want to try the install myself just from all of the knowledge I’ve learned from this site, but I will watch the contractor and do the next one in 15+ years!

    Randy Schuyler

    Well, whether pipe dope or Teflon tape is a matter of preference. Some plumbers prefer the former. We prefer the latter, as we’ve found that it’s easier to get things loose later and we expect to be back periodically.

    Sounds as if the rest is going OK. Have fun.;)

    Randy Schuyler


    All is done and installed on my new G.E. 6 year Gas w.h..
    Very easy to do, although I could see it being very tough to get the anode out on an older installed w.h.
    Out of curiousity,I removed my 13 year old Rheem Anode. Geez, you aren’t kidding bout it being tough. Wrestled with it and had to use a bar to help with leverage. The wire was bare for the first 8-9″ from top, then the rest was pretty pocked up. It looked like it was doing its job though. I removed the cold outlet and used my pliers to remove………a 2″ pc of brittle plastic. There was nothing left! Nothing at bottom of tank either. Since I’ve been in the house (2yrs), the faucets would get hindered by little pcs of plastic. Over 13 years and I guess you get nothing left. That alone should save on recovery. My cold water water was cooling the hot water in the tank.

    I wrapped the new heater in a R11 blanket and wrapped the hot water pipe too.
    It has a nice new curved diptube, and a ballvalve drain.
    I appreciate your site you have here.

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