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New Hot Water Heater

RobLC Member Posts: 93
We have an AO Smith 50gal natural gas water heater that is almost 11 years old. Still works fine and no funny noises.

But we think it's time to replace before an emergency replacement is needed.

Some on the web like AO, some don't.

Would appreciate if anyone knows which brand(s) offer best reliability, safety, customer service after the install?

Thank you in advance for your advice.


  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 3,143
    Meddling here.

    You might want to consider having a look at the existing anode rod in the tank and seeing if it has any life left.  If so, the tank (with a new anode) can probably give you many more years of service.  Getting 30 years is easy.

    Yours,  Larry
  • bob eck
    bob eck Member Posts: 930
    New hot water heater

    As brand of water heaters go A O Smith is just as good as Bradford White or any other water heater. If you replace your tank type water heater with another tank type water heater you should flush the tank every 6 to 12 months to get sediment out of the bottom of the water heater. Do you have hard water? If you do and you do not have a water softener the lime sediment will build up on the bottom of the tank and over time the lime sediment will increase in thickness causing you to use more energy to heat through the steel tank and then through the lime sediment causing higher energy bills and putting extra heat on the bottom of the tank that can make the tank leak and fail. Another thing you need to do with a tank type water heater every two years is take out the anode rod and look at it. If it is gone you need to install a new anode rod. This will extend the life of your tank type water heater. Take a look at using the A O Smith tankless gas water heaters. Look at their ATI540H or ATI340H or ATI240H they are all high efficiency condensing tankless gas water heaters. They only use energy when hot water is needed and they never run out of hot water. The tank type water heaters have a 6 or 10 year warranty and the tankless gas water heaters have a 15 year heat exchanger and 5 year parts warranty. If you are going to install a tankless gas water heater make sure your gas line is large enough to carry 160,000 to 199,000 BTU depending on what unit you go with.
  • RobLC
    RobLC Member Posts: 93
    Larry, thank you for the info...

    We wanted to replace the anode rod but a plumber doing a yearly inspection on the HWH and the boiler said, "Since the heater is past 10 years old, and you have to shut the gas off so there won't be any flame in your empty tank after flushing, you run the risk of the thing not igniting, so just leave it alone."

    Thanks, again.
  • RobLC
    RobLC Member Posts: 93
    Bob, thank you for your info...

    When the time comes, it'll most likely be an AO Smith, the one we have now has been running trouble free since 2003.

    Yes, we were thinking of replacing the anode rod, I think it's magnesium. But we were told we have to shut the gas off before the tank gets flushed. And since it's over 10 years old, the heater might not fire up again. At that point you have to decide on a repair of replacing it if it's old.

    And thank you for the info about the tankless hwh. Looks like out gas lines all around the heater are 1/2 inch. The big ones coming into the basement look like 2 inch black pipe.

    Thank you, again for being so thorough.
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 3,143
    I'm having a hard time...

    ... following this statement "...there won't be any flame in your empty tank after flushing, you run the risk of the thing not igniting".  You can turn the gas to pilot rather than off when you replace the anode.  Even if the gas is turned off, you relight it.  No big deal.

    Yours,   Larry
  • RobLC
    RobLC Member Posts: 93
    I see what you mean...

    I'm having a hard time...

    ... following this statement "...there won't be any flame in your empty tank after flushing, you run the risk of the thing not igniting".

    I wrote it and I'm having a hard time following it. What I think the serviceman said was the the gas had to be turned off to the unit while flushing. And since it's old, there is a possibility it may not fire up. If that makes any sense.

    Thank you for the info about just turning the dial to pilot.
  • jch
    jch Member Posts: 29
    edited January 2014
    To check the anode rod...

    you don't need to drain much out of the tank -- just enough so that it doesn't burble water up through the anode hole when you remove the rod.  There should be a plastic 2" diameter plastic plug covering the access hole on the top of the tank.  Just pop it off with a screwdriver or a pair of pliers.

    Bob's right -- anodes are cheap (under $30) and buy you another 2-3 years each time you replace it depending on how hard (i.e. conductive) your water is.

    You'll need a 1-1/16" socket wrench to replace it.  Pretty much all manufacturer's anode rods are interchangeable.

    Takes about 10 minutes, once every 2 years.  Well worth it in my mind.
  • RobLC
    RobLC Member Posts: 93
    Ok, Jch, thank you for your help...

    This is an AO Smith 50 gallon natural gas fired hot water heater, about 60" high. It has the plastic plug you refer to. It also has a separate hex head on top with a spot weld on top of the hex head - - magnesium rod?

    Can we just shut off the water supply and leave the gas alone and drain it about half?

    Or do we still have to turn the gas valve to pilot and then shut water and then drain?

    And it seems we'd have to use an impact wrench, else the whole tank might want to turn.

    Thank you
  • jch
    jch Member Posts: 29
    Turn it to pilot first...

    then shut off the water supply to the tank.  Attach a garden hose to the drain at the bottom of the tank, then drain about 3-4" of water -- not a lot necessary.  Just enough so that the water doesn't burble out the top when you remove the rod.

    Then put your 1-1/16" socket wrench on it (don't use a cheater bar unless you have to) and it should come out.  I would not use an impact wrench except as a last resort -- you don't want the glass lining to flake off the inside of the tank from it getting pounded on.

    Have a new rod ready to go.  Under 30 bucks at any big box store.

    Once the new rod is in and snugged up, refill the tank, then turn the gas back on.

    Does this help?
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Open the drain until

    the milky stuff stops and you see clear water coming out.  Do this every 6 months or so and the tank will both heat better and last longer.
  • jch
    jch Member Posts: 29
    Good tip, SWEI

    For gas tanks, regularly flushing the sediment is a very good idea.  For this, leave the supply water on so that it'll stir up the sediment as you're draining it.
  • RobLC
    RobLC Member Posts: 93
    jch, swei, much appreciate you making the time to respond...

    This is really great. We'll get an anode rod for this unit before we remove the old one and try to remove the hex nut with a ratchet and socket before going to a breaker bar or impact wrench.

    Once pilot is off, we follow instructions on tank and put back to gas and light with long match.

    I'll double check the lighting procedure.

    This would be a good time to put in a brass drain? There's a plastic right now. We've been emptying out about of a half gallon of water every two weeks for some years and I always close the plastic drain valve with three fingers just until it stops leaking. Then cap it with a brass cap.

    Thanks again, guys for your help and patience.
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    If you've been opening and closing the plastic drain

    every two weeks for the past eleven years, you're clearly far luckier than I.  Kudos for doing the right thing.  I'd replace it ASAP.

    I've replaced tank heaters from the '40s and '50s which were regularly maintained.  Never mind homeowners -- the number of licensed plumbers who don't understand this is disgraceful.
  • jch
    jch Member Posts: 29
    Amen SWEI!

    Totally agree.
  • RobLC
    RobLC Member Posts: 93
    SWEI, haven't been here for a bit but about that plastic drain...

    After I read your post about how I was lucky that the plastic drain didn't leak...

    I went down to basement next day and drained a little and pop the water started gushing out of the plastic drain and it wouldn't stop running even if I closed the valve.

    So, turned to pilot, then shut water feed.

    Unscrewed top part of plastic drain valve and o-ring had split. Replaced o ring and completely flushed all crud and scale and black until ran smooth and clear (about 20 minutes)

    Shut valve, filled up with water (closed hot water faucets upstairs after air was bled), lit pilot, turned on to A on hot water temp dial and it fired up. No leaks. Hot water good.

    Didn't do anode rod because the leak caught me by surprise. I wanted to put a brass drain valve in but plumber told me don't do it unless you get a dielectric fitting, else corrosion will occur where brass nipple from valve meets hot water tank inlet.

    Hope this makes sense.
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 7,227
    edited February 2014
    Plumber ... Is not

    Brass IS a dielectric fitting! Where did you find this "plumber".

    Bradford/White water heaters (the best :) come with brass drain valves.

    If you can't find a one piece brass replacement valve, just use a 3/4" brass hose bib and a 2 1/2" brass nipple. Or a 3/4" boiler drain with a brass coupling and nipple. The 1/4 turn ball valve type is the best.
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Water Heater Drains:

    Massachusetts Plumbing Code" No plastic drains. Only brass is to be approved.
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Water heater drain

    a standard boiler drain will work OK in most places.  If you have the kind of hard water we do, a brass nipple and a full port ball valve will let more of the rocks out.