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Question DetailsAsked on 5/4/2016

Expected cost to repair 50 gallon electric water heater.

Tenant states they have lukewarm water, property manager sent a plumber who drained water from 50 gal electric water heater, replaced lower element, replaced broke 3/4 gate valve, filled tank with water and tested it. The thing that is bothering me is that we have $250 repair fund and this happened to cost exactly that amount. There is no break down of parts or labor. He also stated that the pressure relief valve (current PSI of 100-110) and expansion tank are bad, he is quoting $525 to fix this. Please tell me if this is reasonable as we are out of state and unable to check on anything. Thank you.

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Voted Best Answer

$250 sounds about right for that work to date to me for most parts of the country - I would expect from $200-400 range nationwide. But it is quite possible, since he fixed the heater but did not do the PRV and expansion tank, that the manager blew it and told him he was limited to $250 authorization for repairs, so he did that much and stopped there. Technically, depending on what the pressure in the tank was (if he measured at full hot condition), if above that he could have red-tagged the water heater and not reconnected it.

If you are currently running 110+ psi that is high by at least 40-50 psi and getting into the dangerous zone (for pressure-retaining appliances and piping both) - temperature/pressure relief valve will usually trigger at 150 psi - so getting close to its limit probably on the heating cycle if the expansion tank is full of water and not working. And if seeing that pressure it is quite possible the membrane in the expansion tank is ruptured - no way to tell without testing it of course without taking it off, but if the membrane is intact then after hot water has been used (so cold water has been flowing past it recently) usually the top end of the tank is much nearer room temp and the lower about half would be cold. Unless it has sat for hours without use you should notice a clearly detectable difference in temperature between the two ends of the tank if it is retaining an air pocket - if all cold it is not working because it is full of water. However, without removing it there is no way to check if the membrane inside is intact or not - a vertically mounted (air valve end up, plumbing attachment end down) tank can commonly work fine with a torn membrane.

The cost for tank and PRV - $525 would definitely be in the high end of the range for this, but not out of range for a high-priced area. If you use the ASK button and put in (as two separate searches) the words - pressure - and - expansion - it will suggest prior questions with answers on this question - select the ones dealing with water heater pressure relief valve and expansion tank for prior answers with typical costs. Here is one exemple from that list -

In most of the country, if decent access and working room, I would expect more in the $250-350 range for this UNLESS your area requires the combination double backflow preventer/PRV valves (which some especially eastern cities do), in which case about $100 higher.

You could also call around to a couple of other plumbers and see if they will give you a phone estimate for that - be prepared to tell them if any access or clearance issues, or if it is wide open access.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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