Proactive or just wasting money?

21 Replies

I have an 11 year old water heater servicing 20 units. No problems just would rather not have it go out on a Friday night. Do you do scheduled change outs or just wait until it dies?

I would check with local plumbing contractors and see what the typical lifetime is of water heaters in the area.  In my area it would have already gone out..   

@Waylon Gates I think by any standards it is at the end of life. However do you milk every last month or year out of it or just schedule the change out. Plumber says life expectancy is 8 years which means some would have changed it three years ago. 

For the record I am changing it out but I am wondering what others do. 

I would agree with what you are doing.  If the typical life expectancy in the area is 8 years, then you were lucky and got more out of it.  I would also be a little wary of the plumbers opinion who is replacing it.  Many times I get an opinion from someone and specifically tell them that I am not going to hire them no matter what just to hopefully get a more unbiased opinion (the plumber makes more by replacing the unit).  When it comes to items that I can get replaced fairly easy I usually wait until they break, I have found many instances that various mechanical items last much longer than expected. I also can see good reason for having a schedule, but I would base that on the entire picture.  If I am promoting the property as a vacation rental and am getting very high rates then I would do more pro active work.  If I am nursing a C or D class property it might just make since to fix when items break.   Since your W/H is serving more than one unit that is another reason to replace it because you would potentially effect more people if / when it does break.   

A great option would be to make sure your are budgeting (if not already) to replace it and also have it evaluated by a vendor to determine the cost/time required to replace. If you have a good relationship with this vendor, then you can hold off until the W/H stops working and then have replaced promptly. With this, you do run the risk of it breaking down after-hours, but you may also have another year of life left, for which cost savings easily outweigh even an after-hours replacement cost.

You are already ahead of the game by knowing it is old and looking into it!

Wait till it dies and have another one lined up ready to go! 

Great property management - - scheduled maintenance!!  Inform the tenants well ahead of time and perhaps even ASK - - would you prefer week days while you are at work or weekends when you might get away?

Thanks for the replies, @Waylon Gates @Wade Williams @Rosston Smith and @Jeff B. . Rosston, I don't normally  go looking for trouble at our SFRs but I've had some bad experiences with plumbing issues on the multi-family places.  Hate the thought of 20 units without water for the weekend! I'm looking into some rebate programs offered by Southern California Gas Company and am told that the best program starts January 1, 2017.  I'll do a little shopping around and see if it is worth risking the wait. Jeff, I like your suggestion about possibly doing the work on the weekend however my plumber probably would not be thrilled :( working on the weekend. Thanks, Wade for encouraging words. I listen to the pod cast and I've never heard one good thing said about "mom and pop" managers.  Guess I'm a little too sensitive.

The problem with most water tanks is when they break, they leak. I would replace before it's died or at the least have the new tank identified and ordered.

I love the idea of scheduling, but getting 20 people to agree on a time is simply not possible.

I proactively change out anything around plumbing, including tanks, toilet hoses, and garbage disposals. 

@Christine Swaidan If you aren't strapped for cash, go ahead an replace it. I think being proactive is ALWAYS better than waiting for something bad to happen. Especially when it services 20 units. What types of headaches will you have when all 20 are complaining they have no hot water and want a "discount on rent", etc.  You are taking the right approach to replace it now. 

I am always proactive on maintenance that I know will need to be done. I prefer this over having a  emergency maintenance approach on items I know will be a significant inconvenience for both myself and my tenants when they fail..

When it comes to a item like a water tank that I know is near the end of it's life I watch for tanks on sale and buy them ahead. This way not only do I save money on the purchase but I am able to install it myself as opposed to having a plumber do the work in a emergency situation if I am unavailable. By being pro active I probably save 50% on the total cost of a tank replacement.

The issue with tanked water heaters is life can be dependent on the water quality of your area (and age of pipes). Sediment in hard water and rust from old pipes can settle in the tank. The result is the tank will hold less water, will take longer to heat, and will need to work harder in order to, well, work. Having to heat longer produces more stress on the bottom of the tank - the part that will fail and leak.

If this is a multi family as you state, then I would do preventive maintenance as opposed to wait it out. It will save you on utility costs and your tenants will complain less about having hot water available. It's also nicer from a tenant perspective to have a planned outage as opposed to a last minute inconvenience.

I agree with Ed E.  If you have soft water your water heater will last longer.  But if there is high mineral content in the water, it is harder on the water heater and will require at least preventive maintenance.  I would suggest that you have a water heater repair person take a look at the water heater and give you a recommendation.  It may be possible that it will be good for a few more years with some preventive maintenance. If you were managing hundred of units, scheduling replacements for fixtures and depreciable/componentized items would be scheduled.  But with fewer units, this may be a reasonable option to consider before replacing.

11 Years? Wow, what brand? That is good! If it were SFH, I would say, wait for it to die, but given that it is servicing 20 units, I'd go ahead and replace it and forgo the nightmare and possible additional costs (after hours emergency call). Check it off your worry list.

@Account Closed has it right. It depends on your water quality and whether or not any maintenance (i.e. sacrificial anode replacement) has been done on the heater. Example: my water heater at home is now on its 24th year, still plugging away beautifully. It is gas, and I've replaced a few things on it - the combustion fan, the gas valve, thermostat, and the ignitor (twice) - but otherwise it just keeps plugging away. I have a water softener, but haven't always had one, and I've only flushed it a few times. The biggest thing for water heaters, aside from the parts going bad, is rusting, and believe it or not some mineral scale actually protects the heaters from rusting because it forms a coating on the inside of the tank. Quick story: when the heater was about 10 years old, I was out of town for business when it stopped working. Wife called and I walked her through a couple of troubleshooting tries. She couldn't get it, so I told her go ahead and call the plumber let him take a look. He came out and looked at it and said "Oh, it needs some of the electronics replaced, it's not worth it so here's a quote for a new tank for $1500". I told her forget it, go shower at the kid's house and I'll look at it when I get home. $150 in parts and a couple of hours later it was back on. That was 14 years ago. 

Without knowing if your water is good quality - acidic or neutral, high iron, etc - and the fact that it serves 20 units, I would probably start planning to replace it. What I would probably do is purchase a new tank and have it on site, so that it could be swapped out fairly easily. You lose a little bit of warranty time, but WHs rarely fail before the warranty anyway. 

I'm replacing 2 water heaters in SFR's, one 12 year old, the other 14. By being proactive, my tenants won't get stuck without hot water in the winter, and I save $600 on each new heater.

Don't pre buy a water heater unless your going to put in right away. The warranty is from date of sale not date of install so does't really make much sense in having it take up space using up it's warranty just sitting around.

Pro active and scheduled replacement is always a smart move. I think more of us should consider it.

Check and see if you have any rebates you can take advantage of before the end of they year from your energy company also. 

The biggest factor is the water quality and if there are any issues currently signalling replacement. I have several water heaters over 20 years old. Also at the end for the day, the water heaters I have had fail, simply had a slow Leak in the basement and continued t function perfectly without any damage. I was able to come over that evening or the next day and swap it out in an hour or 2. I wouldn't spend the extra money unless you are seeing signs of failure. The difference for Tuesday is that I can do it myself whereas hiring out might add some cost and time delays...

This idea that water heaters only last 8 years and then blow up is nonsense! I've seen LOTS of water heaters in my day last longer than that. It is totally dependent on your water supply and how much maintenance has been done. If you have good water, it could last 30 years without trouble. The water heater in my house is from 1996 and still works perfectly - and I haven't done ANY maintenance in those 20 years. Nothing what so ever. No anode change, no tank draining. It's not full of sediment. If a water heater isn't leaking it rarely needs to be changed - anything else can be fixed. Anodes can be replaced. Elements can be replaced. Sediment can be flushed out.

For stuff like this I keep cheap spares on hand - it's oh so easy to find a ~1 year old water heater on craigslist for 50 bucks. I have them stacked up in a warehouse along with all sorts of other things I might need. 

Lots of good input. Thank you to everyone! @JD Martin and Account Closed I am working with a representative from the gas company to look into rebates. The best rebate program starts January 1. Just around the corner. I can honestly say that I am learning way more about water heaters than I really care to. The life of a landlord...

I don't know if you heard this week's podcast yet, but this question was asked of the guest. He plans for it by saving up money and replaces when it goes out.

I would be PROACTIVE, since it's servicing 20 unit. you can SCHEDULE a GOOD TIME FOR EVERYONE INVOVLED

If you wait for it to fail, you will be scrambling, and have to PAY EMERGENCY PRICES. (RETAIL and PLUMBER) , and you may LOSE RENTS if it takes longer than expected. Water is not like electrical outage.

Black Friday is coming up, hint hint ;p

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