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Question DetailsAsked on 3/4/2016

How much should it cost to replace a 50 gallon electric water heater tank in N. Virginia high rise condo units?

Actually had a couple of plumbers quote $1500 to replace 50 gallon electric water heater tank. the tank some would use is the same one big box store sells for $400. water tank is accessible via a 24" utility closet; no steps. Other' quoted less than $1000. Why such a huge difference?

If takes 1 - 2 hours including disposal, say 3 hours max, how much should this job really cost with a reasonable vs egregious profit? $700? $750?

Do you need a plumber or can you get an electrician or general contractor to install electric water heater tanks in Fairfax, Arlington, or Alexandria VA counties?

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2 Answers


Could be several reasons - first, 50 gallons is the size where units less than 22-24 inches in diameter phase out, so a couple may have recognized that the closet will need modification or they have to buy a special (more expensive) tall slender unit like the Kenmore Slender 18" unit. Generally, this year the new energy conservation regs bumped the diameter of most water heaters up about 2 inches for the added insulation, so many replacements in utility closets are running into trouble.

One other factor - the first two might have recognized (or assumed) that you will now (under newer codes) need to have an expansion tank installed, which can add from one to several hundred $ depending on plumber.

Here is a link with about 125 responses to the question of what a water heater install should cost - less than $800-1000 installed on a flat fee (as opposed to time and materials) is getting rare these days.

As to what is fair - my go-to plumber usually charges a flat 2 hours (so $300) labor and a $25 disposal fee if easy access and straight forward replacement - plus any incidental plumbing parts meaning typically about $50-75 for that. Plus the $400-1000 for the heater (including 20% markup) depending on size and efficiency of course.

Many flat rate charge plumbers also changed their schedules this year to account for installing the heat-pump water heaters now required for heaters over 55 gallons - or they may have assumed a heat pump type water heater for your case, which might or might not actually safe energy costs for you depending on whethear the energy they are stealing from the surrounding air is "waste heat" or has to be made up by the furnace/boiler.

As to electrician installing water heater - by code and licensing laws in your area, no - Plumber has to do the plumbing, and can also hook up the power provided it is already provided to the heater with proper breaker.

Sounds like maybe you need to call the bidders back and clarify the dimension thing and whether they bid heat pump heaters or not - also check brands - might be a lot of difference in quality of the heater brands they offered. The first two might have offered State or GE or such, the low bidder maybe Richmond or Zhongshan or Nangbo Zhenhai or such.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD


One thing I did not consider - if you don't have elevator access to your floor, that could add some to the labor charge to haul a water heater up flights of stairs. I know one remodel job I worked on the plumber charged $50 per flight of stairs for the added effort and hassle of taking the new one up and the old one down.

Also confirm they included the permit in their cost - permits for water heater replacement are out of sight in some areas - as much as $150 !

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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