Q: My water heaters are about 10 years old, and I want to replace them before they fail. What information can you give me about the quality and longevity of replacements?
A: This is one purchase where you truly get what you pay for. PGE recommends you purchase a water heater with the longest possible life expectancy to reduce your risk, and a high energy factor (EF) rating to maximize energy efficiency. Life expectancy of the tank is critical to rental property owners because tenants often do not notice or act promptly on a leak. Particularly when the water heater is located inside a rental unit or above other units, a leaking tank can cause flooding, disruption, major damage, mold, mildew, and the need to relocate tenants and hire an expensive disaster recovery firm.
Electric water heaters fall into the following four categories:
Basic water heaters are just that
The most inexpensive electric water heater typically costs about $225 retail*, uninstalled from your local plumbing store. It has a steel tank and comes with a single sacrificial anode or rod. A sacrificial anode is made of a readily-corrodible metal that is intended to react at a faster rate with the minerals in the water than the steel tank. The anode oxidizes nearly completely before the tank begins to corrode. Even so, this type of tank typically rusts through in only about six years. These tanks also are the least energy efficient, with a 0.86 EF — the minimum federal energy standard. The heat loss from the water stored in the tank is high because the tank has minimal insulation.
Second-tier water heaters are slightly better
For about $275 retail, you can purchase a water heater that carries a nine-year warranty against rust-through because the tank is thicker. This kind of tank still has only one sacrificial anode. The EF is bit higher than a basic water heater.
Upgrade models offer two sacrificial anodes
A water heater with a 12-year warranty against rust-through typically retails for about $325 retail. The tank is thicker still and has a second sacrificial anode. These water heaters are much more energy efficient, with at least a 0.92 EF.
Marathon water heaters are built like a tank
A Marathon electric water heater is a unique product that is well suited to rental properties because the tank is not expected to leak, rust or corrode as long as you own your property. Marathon models sell for approximately $600 wholesale.* In fact, it is quite possibly the last water heater your property will ever need. This water heater has a seamless polybutene tank that is five times stronger than steel and is covered with a rugged, water-tight outer shell. It is a premium product that is durable, leak-proof and expected to last upward of 20 years. Because of its worry-free loss prevention, you may consider talking with your insurance agent about the potential for lowering your premiums.
This water heater can help save your tenants money compared to other models** because it has a 0.94 EF, making it one of the most energy-efficient models on the market. It has thick insulation that keeps water hot and cuts “stand-by” heat loss to only 5 °F per 24 hours. The insulation is free of both chlorofluorocarbons and hydrofluorocarbons, which are ozone-depleting gases. You can learn more about this water heater and special pricing for PGE customers by visiting PortlandGeneral.com/MarathonWaterHeater.
Don’t wait for water heaters to fail
No matter what type of water heater you install, don’t delay the replacement of any water heater greater than 10 years old. Waiting is a false economy. Just ask any property owner who has been through the hassle and insurance claims associated with disaster recovery.
If you have questions you’d like answered in future “Ask the Energy Expert” columns, please e-mail Roch.Naleway@pgn.com.
*Hot water heater prices provided represent the approximate price and do not include installation costs. Retail water heater prices are approximate and based on current pricing found at local retail hardware stores. The Marathon water heater price is an approximated wholesale price provided by the distributor, General Pacific.
** Individual circumstances will vary; ask your dealer for more information.
Rick Hall, President and CEO, General Pacific, Inc., displays an energy-efficient Marathon water heater featuring a long-lasting polybutene tank. Special pricing and a $75 Energy Trust of Oregon cash incentive are available on qualifying models purchased before April 30, 2008