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Thread: New water heater and potential ripoff

  1. #1
    Senior Member Easto's Avatar
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    Post New water heater and potential ripoff

    Our water heater died the other day. We got 17 years out of it so I think we got our money's worth. Although I've tackled a lot of small DIY stuff around the house I've never replaced or installed a water heater. For the record our water heater is located outside on the side of the house, only 50 gallons, excellent access and to me pretty much an easy money job. So I get on the phone and start calling around. Well, the first guys to show up (A well known company that I see in our neighborhood all the time) and they quoted me $2417.00. I almost started laughing when the guy showed me the quote on his iPad. I mean honestly, $2417.00 for a water heater?


    As these guys were pulling away from the curb my neighbor drives up and I relay the story to him. He looks at me and says "Why don't we just do it now, I'll give you a hand?". After a quick assessment of the old heater we head over to Lowes and 10 minutes later I'm walking out with almost the exact same brand, model, capacity and 6 year warranty as what was previously installed for only $870.00. An hour and a half later I'm taking a hot shower.

  2. #2
    Administrator Philip's Avatar
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    It is even easier these days with those flex "shark bite" hoses, you don't even have to use CPVC glue, etc.

    In my old house in Tampa water heater started leaking exactly 20 years after the house was built, and got it replaced myself - very similar story. Just had a bit of a hard time draining it because of all the hard-water buildup.
    Anyway, plumbers' quotes are getting up there with HVAC repairs and Electricians. If you can get one to show up at your house for under $200 you have to consider yourself lucky. Still 2.4k for a water heater replacement sounds like a highway robbery, heh.
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  3. #3
    resident plumber Mark's Avatar
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    plumbers are expensive but so is the cost of doing business, most people have no idea what it takes to be a legal/legit plumbing contractor these days, permit fees, license fees, insurance costs a ton, all kinds of things go into the price.

    basic plumbing may seem easy and usually is, but it takes many years of experience to make it all look easy.

    a legit plumber will only use a sharkbite in an emergency and there is no other choice, but really there is no reason to use them at all.

    i have no problem with someone doing their own plumbing to save money, but i can bet your heater is not installed to code. and heaters from big box stores are hit and miss if they are worth a damm.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Easto's Avatar
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    ^^ totally understand ^^

    I was really hoping that since this was a local (I mean not even 1/2 mile from my house) company they might be a bit more sympathetic towards a local customer and try to gain me as a regular customer. There is one of their trucks in our neighborhood every day. I did some due diligence regarding the Bradford-White brand they were offering and they are a solid highly rated brand. The A.O. Smith that I installed was virtually the same heater that had been installed when we had our house copper repiped back in 2005. I guess in that case it was a "Hit" and I'm hoping to get at least 10 years out of this new one. Maybe it's going to turn out to be a dud, time will tell. The installation was virtually plug and play. All fittings were the exact length and size including the downpipe for the atmospheric exhaust fitting. We even used the pre-existing earthquake bands. I do have a high level of confidence that it would pass code but I'm sure there's possibly something we missed (but I don't think so).

    But I do understand about how much overhead goes into running a business. I was self-employed for 8 years. Sometimes it just doesn't pay to take the job. But honestly, even though they included everything including removal and disposal of the old unit, I can still put it on my curb and the city will come and pick it up for free. I just couldn't justify $2417 for a water heather and installation.

  5. #5
    Administrator Philip's Avatar
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    Mark, I can also appreciate all the overhead, expertise, time, licensing, etc. involved. Still sounds unreasonable cost for simple water heater replacement.

    I see many new water heater installs use those flexible "stainless steel corrugated connector hoses" instead of cpvc, I guess they're still not sharkbite.
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    Moderator YeOldeStonecat's Avatar
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    Being in small business, and providing products and services, I can appreciate the higher costs of "paying someone to do it".
    These days, it's expensive to hire someone to install something. Or do something. Several years ago I wanted to change the exhaust manifolds and risers on my boat, twin 350ci inboards.

    The marina quoted $6,700.00 to do it. I ordered them (same OEM Mercruiser brand) for $1,600.00 and installed them myself.

    This past summer I blew the starboard engine, marina would have charged about $14,000.00 to install a new one. I ordered a reman for about $4k, swapped over the parts myself, paid the marina for a few hours of crane time to pull old engine, lower new engine, and I finished the rest.

    Several years ago, we bought a smaller house, didn't have AC, got a couple of quotes for a couple of mini-split units. Had estimates around $9k. I ordered a couple of MrCool self install units for about $3.5k and installed them myself.

    About to do the brakes on my truck before driving down to Florida in a few weeks for a month say, will cost me a lot less to do myself.

    Re: sharkbites....I've used 'em, I redid some plumbing in the galley and head on the boat. I was awake at night for a while...worried I'd hear some dripping. Lots of debates on them, if they're good for a long time, or just good for short term.
    But, sometimes, the home "do it yourselfers"...use these lesser priced, easier to use products.

    Some of us were brought up by dads who showed us how to do stuff, and we want to do much of the "wrenching" ourselves. I always work on my vehicles, change the oil, brakes, whatever. And tackle some home projects too!

    Professionally, as an IT guy for businesses, all I work on is "business grade" computers and network gear, and focus on Microsoft 365/Azure stuff. And when I businesses set up by "someone in the family" or "a friend" who "knew computer stuff"...and I see residential grade hardware in there, done on the cheap, yeah...I chuckle and look down at it myself.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member Easto's Avatar
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    I am sure a master plumber would have and could have done a better job, that they would have seen things we didn't. But $2417 is outrageous. I can see having to add a little to the bill to compensate for awkward access or some other out of the ordinary application/install, but there wasn't anything like that. I would actually go so far to say it was too easy, even for a first timer. From the time we left to go and pick it up until the time it was hooked up and running was approximately 1 - 1-1/2 hours. Most of that time consisted in getting it in and out of the truck, removing the cardboard and reading the install manual.

    In my old age I have found immense pleasure and satisfaction in tackling jobs that I would have not done in the past. I remember replacing my first set of brakes on our Accord. When I was done I was astounded as to how easy it was. The sense of accomplishment was incredible, not to mention the amount of money saved. And they're still running strong 10k later.

    One thing that has nudged me towards more of a DIY approach to plumbing is the apparently new phenomenon of charging just for an inspection or quote. If I'm going to have to pay $75 "that will be credited to any work done" I'm going to use the $75 towards doing it myself if I feel it's something I might be able to DIY. For the record I have paid a plumber to install a garbage disposal. Several years ago we needed a replacement and after tackling the job myself I could only stand back and think about the lesson I just learned and that I basically paid an additional $100 to have someone else do it in the past.

    Don't get me wrong, there is definitely a need for quality tradesman. I'm sure Mark and YeOldeStonecat do incredible work in their fields and it's worth every penny. There is also a good feeling knowing that you have someone standing behind their work. But I also think/know that there are plenty of unscrupulous tradesmen and companies ready to take advantage of an unsuspecting consumer. As an example, the local Honda dealership has a service "Special" for replacing the Engine and Cabin air filters for $129.00. Even if I buy a quality name brand replacement myself both filters won't total $30.00. I can have both installed in less than 5 minutes. Actually, I could teach anyone how to replace them in 5 minutes.

  8. #8
    Moderator YeOldeStonecat's Avatar
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    inspection or quote....it's tough to do "for free". If I'm paying someone XX/hour, and he goes onsite to look at something...I'm paying for a rolled truck, gas, his time, and then his time at the office to produce a quote/estimate.

    A lot of clients just call and ask "can I get a quote for a laptop?" or...worse..."OK, can you quote me for a new server?" Heck a server quote takes a good part of a whole day! Washes off a good part of the profit of selling a $10k server at 200 bucks an hour to sit there and research what server components are in stock/avail, for the specific chassis you want get use.

    Some people want those minimum wages to go way up, because "flipping burgers" or "washing dishes" is supposed to be a career that someone can buy a house on and put their kids through college. Without thinking of the scaling in pay and burdened costs to a business for all the other staff to keep wage staggers proper for all levels of employees. Getting really difficult (aka..EXPENSIVE)..to run a small business now. Esp in a blue state like where I'm at.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Easto's Avatar
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    I hear ya. I started 2 different business's here in California when I was in my late 20's (36 years ago) and one of the things that stood out the most was that it seemed like at every turn of the road the Feds/State/City governments had another fee or tax for something or another. I remember thinking I had everything all wrapped up and then there would be another bill in the mail for something I had never even thought could be a fee. Alarm system permits, Fire protection permits, then if you store propane you have to let the county fire authority know all about it including where you keep it in your warehouse. Fire extinguisher recharges every couple of years.

    It costs a ton to keep your doors open. I always get a laugh when I talk to young people who are thinking about opening their own business and they don't even have a clue what's involved.

  10. #10
    SG Enthusiast cybotron r_9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Easto View Post
    From the time we left to go and pick it up until the time it was hooked up and running was approximately 1 - 1-1/2 hours. Most of that time consisted in getting it in and out of the truck, removing the cardboard and reading the install manual.
    Sounds like you did a good job and saved a bunch of money too.

    We hear horror stories out there about rediculous prices being quoted for faucet replacements and such. Definately stay away from places such as Roto-Rooter and the like.

    I work same place as Mark but in the warehouse and I deliver heaters to our plumbers quite a bit and as far as that cardboard goes I sometimes think they should make planes out of it...LOL

  11. #11
    Administrator Philip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cybotron r_9 View Post
    ...as far as that cardboard goes I sometimes think they should make planes out of it...LOL
    I thought that's one of the main uses of corrugated cardboard, it's so hard to break!

  12. #12
    SG Enthusiast Leatherneck's Avatar
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    Being a poor Marine Husband and Dad for many years, I became a pretty handy DYI guy. Between home & car repairs, I am sure I have saved $30-40k. Plumbing is my absolute most hated repairs. If I am not 100% sure I can do it well, then I call a pro. It is never "cheap", but a good job and guaranteed. I consider water heaters on the easy side since I have done at least 8 over the years. I have learned to take advantage of modern parts like mentioned.

    2 things I cannot do is extensive HVAC work (need special tools, etc..) and putting in a new furnace.
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