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Question DetailsAsked on 10/21/2013

Please help-why are my estimates so high for a 75 gal power vented water heater with 10 year warranty?

I have received 3 bids ranging from $3,250-$4,400 for a 75 gal power vented water heater with a 10 year warranty. In reviewing all the comments below, I am wondering why my estimates seem unreasonably high. This is to replace an old 50 gal tank that is not power vented, but vented through a basement chimney. So, yes, the new tank would need to be power vented, but the existing tank is very close to an exterior wall for venting. I realize that a permit needs to be pulled and some expense for piping, vent & gas, but these estimates seem extremely high based on plumber comments below. My estimates are for Bradford-White and AO Smith tanks with warranty upgrade kits. I am not looking for the cheapest bid and just want to feel I am paying a fair price for the tank I have described above. Comments welcomed.

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1 Answer


At first blush, $3200-4000 range sounded like either a brand new installation where there is no existing plumbing or gas service to the waterheater location, or a multiplex 100-150 gallon water heater replacement to me.

I would first question why you are talking a 75 gallon water heater - that is quite an expense if this is for a normal 2-3 bathroom house, unless you are looking at using it to fill a hot tub or sauna or such frequently. There is a giant price difference between 50 and 60/75 gallon sizes - the difference between single-family residence and multi-family or mansion sized units.

The 75 gallons drives the raw purchase cost from the $300-450 range of a 50-55 gallon heater up to about $1000+ purchase cost, and the power venting need drives it up another $500-1000 depending on brand. Going from standard 6 year to 10 year warranty another $250 or so. Also, the power venting means totally new exhaust ducting (and fresh air intake duct if high-efficiency condensding type), so probably from $250-500 additional there for a normal installation, depending how close to the wall you are - much more if have to go up into next level to maintain required vent pipe slopes. 75's can be a real problem if located near the center of a building, as the vent pipe has to rise so far above the heater immediately, then have a certain slope to the outer wall, plus the 75's are taller in the first place, so sometimes you just can't get there from here and meet all the criteria without going up into the next level's floor or even into a wall. Add all those to a $400-600 range installation cost gives you about $2500-3250 in my area - somewhat lower than your bids but appraoching from the low end, so I am guessing you are in a large city like NY, Boston, or Chicago with high labor costs, or maybe you have tight working conditions or such.

To get it down to the more normal $1000-1250 range for a residential water heater you would have to decide how important the 75 gallon capacity is to you, whether a standard 50-55 would work and get away with using the existing natural draft flue and venting, etc. I won't argue getting the 10 year versus 6 year warranty though some manufacturers sell exactly the same tank just for a higher price for the longer warrnaty - personally I buy 8 year ones as a compromise and get about 20 years out of them before they either leak or they start producing rusty water so I put them out of their misery before they leak.

Also, talk to your contractors why you need to use power ducting and direct vent rather than the existing chimney, and if required for some reason, whether moving the location closer to outside wall would significantly affect price (by more than just cost of additional ductwork). A number of things are driving this price high - you need to tie down what factors you can control and then decide on those. Sounds like what you need to do is discuss the setup with them, and get a breakdown on the cost for each component - explain to them you want a proper job but the budget is getting killed, so you want to know what the component costs are so you can cut "options" without cutting overall job quality.

I would also call your local building department about the power venting requirement - I find nothing in the national codes requiring power venting for a larger heater, unless your chimney duct size is too small to handle it and cannot be enlarged (typically $250-400 range), which seems unlikely. However, I did find some really screwy requirements for certain air pollution control districts in California for water heaters over 55 gallon capacity, which might be affecting you, though as far as I could tell they do not come into effect until 2015.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD

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