Answers to common questions

Frequently Asked Questions

How quickly can I get my new water heater installed?

In a lot of instances if you call before 12 noon we can have your new water heater installed same day for you. This excludes Sundays, days of inclement weather, and our out of stock items. In these circumstances, next day installation is usually available. 

When should I consider replacing my water heater?

The life expectancy of a water heater is anywhere between 10 and 13 years. When your heater starts approaching that range, you should start regular inspections of your water heater. You should inspect all visible areas for signs of rust or corrosion.

Additionally, anytime the tank itself starts leaking, the unit will need to be replaced. Please check carefully when you notice water around your heater as there could be other things that might be causing the issue. Another reason you might want to consider replacing your unit would be a drop in production. (i.e. running out of hot water.) There are several reasons that can cause this, but if you unit is order than 10 years old, it is normally best to replace the older unit.

What size water heater will work best for my family?

Think about the following lifestyle questions. Remember to consider each question as they apply to your current circumstances as well as for the next 10 years, anticipating major changes in your family structure. ( e.g. elderly parents moving in, children growing up and moving out)

  • How many people are showering and when? Is there a "shower rush hour" in the morning or at night? This is one of the most important  questions as there is a significant difference in needed capacity  if you have 5 people taking showers within the same hour, versus spread throughout the day
  • Do you have a deep soaking tub or whirlpool? What is its fill capacity in gallons? And how do you use your tub; e.g. do you generally take a long shower first and then get into a full tub?
  • When are major appliances in use?  Is the dishwasher and washing machine needed at the same time family members are showering? Most Americans are accustomed to staggering hot water use, so it is atypical to find a home where multiple hot water appliances are needed at the same time.

Why do I need a permit if I’m replacing an existing gas water heater?

The Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code requires a permit to be issued for any installation or replacement of a gas appliance.

Why should I use a licensed contractor to install my water heater?

A licensed contractor will be up to date on any code changes as there is a mandated continuing education classes every two year as required by the State of Virginia. Our technicians are trained on all city and county code requirements and safety requirements.

Why do you give a basic quote and why would I have additional charges? What are some examples?

In order to keep our prices as low as possible we provide a basic quote based on us being able to reuse everything currently at your home and everything currently being up to code. Once our experienced technicians arrive at your home, they will perform a basic safety inspection to check for code compliance. After this inspection they will go over with you the things that must be changed or upgrades and any additional charges. If at that time you no longer wish to continue with your installation, you can cancel without incurring any penalty or trip charge.

On a gas water heater installation, we will generally check to see that your water and gas valves are in working condition, able to be reused, and meet the minimum safety standard for the State of Virginia. We will also check the exhaust system of the water heater for a number of issues.  These include but are not limited to some of the following; the proper rise of the connector, proper vent material, and whether there is any corrosion, rust or holes in the existing venting or likely to deteriorate to that point within the next 10 years. If your water heater vents into a masonry chimney we will inspect part of the base of this chimney to see if you have any mortar deterioration that might require that your chimney be relined to protect the health of your family.

All gas water heaters in the State of Virginia require that a permit be issued so that your local jurisdiction can come and inspect our workmanship for code compliance. 

On an electric water heater installation we will check to see if your water valve is in working condition, able to be reused and meets the code requirements  for the state of Virginia (full port). We will also check that the water heater is on the right size breaker and has the right type and gauge of wire.

What is the purpose of the thermal expansion tank and do I need one?

As water is heated, it expands increasing in volume and increasing the pressure within the water system. This action is referred to as "thermal expansion". Some jurisdictions allow for this expansion by having an "open" water system. This allows the expanding water to flow back into the public water system where the pressure can be easily dissipated. Other jurisdictions in an attempt to protect the quality of the public water system have a check valve at their meter which results in a "closed water system". The result of a "closed" system is that the expanding water cannot be easily dissipated and as such a device to relieve or control the increased pressure must be installed. This is very important. If left untreated thermal expansion can create a rapid and dangerous pressure increase in the water heater, quickly exceeding the safety setting of the relief valve, causing it to continually operate during each heating cycle. Thermal expansion, and the resulting rapid, and repeated expansion and contraction of components inside your water heater and piping system can cause premature failure of the relief valve and possibly the heater itself.  Replacing the relief valve will not correct the problem.

Our suggested method of controlling thermal expansion is to install an expansion tank in the cold water line between the water heater and the check valve. The expansion tank is designed with an air cushion built in that expands as the system pressure increases, thereby relieving the over pressure condition and eliminating the repeated operation of the relief valve. Because of the presence of this air bladder we recommend replacement of any old expansion tank with the replacement of your water heater.

What is the benefit of having a metal drip pan installed and do I need one?

Metal drip pans provide a place for a leaking water heater to drain safely without damaging any surrounding areas. Ideally, they are run to a floor drain or sump pump. In some areas a drip pan is now a requirement of installation for your new water heater. In all jurisdictions a pan is required if it can cause structural damage due to leaking from your water heater. A metal drip pan will not crack or break over time, whereas a plastic or rubber drip pans will due to the constant expanding and contracting of their material with the heating cycle of the water heater.

How long does basic installation take?

The average installation time for a basic water heater installation is 1 1/4 to 2 hours. 

What is the difference between power vented water heaters and natural draft water heaters, and why can't I just take the fan from my existing unit?

Power vented water heaters feature a fan that mechanically pushes or blows combustion gases out of your home, through a PVC pipe and normally exits on the side or back of your home.  This type of heater is needed in a situation where a home does not have a chimney or a common vent. A natural draft water heater vents through an aluminum pipe that connects to a common vent or chimney where the heated gases vent upwards above your roof. A power vent model cannot be interchanged with a natural draft model as they operate completely differently. 

Your existing fan from your current power vent unit cannot be installed on a natural draft water heater as a power vent heater is an integrated unit that performs a series of safety checks before igniting. 

I have a gas water heater in my condo what are some special considerations?

The most important consideration for a gas water heater in a condo would be to find out if it also provides the heat for the condo unit. If so, you will need to replace that unit with one that has the outlets on the side to provide for space heating applications. We have seen every type of gas water heater used in these applications but the two most common would be direct vent or power vent. Typically, these water heaters will be set to a higher temperature and cycle it to a heat exchanger. 

What is the difference between a high efficiency gas water heater and an Energy Star rated gas water heater?

A high efficiency gas water heater generally has more insulation and carries an energy factor of 0.62 or higher. An Energy Star rated water heater will have an energy factor of 0.67 or higher. In order for a natural draft water heater to obtain the efficiency necessary for the Energy Star rating it will generally need to have a powered damper. These units are usually only slightly more in price as compared to more basic units but will provide savings year after year on the operating costs of your water heater.