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Hi! Our water heater is just about to croak and the last BPN update on water heaters is over 6 years old. Any recommendations on reliable models and installers? Cheers!
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They don't make water heaters like they use to. I own a couple of rentals and have replaced 23 water heaters over the past 15 years. Some only lasted for 9 months. Brand doesn't mater. Where you buy the heater doesn't matter, the quality is all the same. I would not use FAST to install your heater. They are a HomeDepot company and will up-sell you on safety features you do not need. (They will misrepresent the the truth saying the it required by law. To install an $800 water heater they were quoted me $2,400 in additional items they said are required.
I would NOT go tankless. While all of the marketing hype may sound great they have drawbacks, The temperature of the water is lower in the winter as they just can't heat the water fast enough. When there's no power, you won't have hot water. If there's an earthquake, with a tank water heater you will have 40 gallons of drinking water in the tank.
I buy the water heaters at HomeDepot. Do not buy the extended warranty agreement. (Waste of money.) But the one with the 12 year warranty. (Hope you';ll get a good one and get 6 years or more. Brand doesn't matter. A.O. Smith, Rheem, GE they are all the same. If you are a PG&E customer check to see if you can get a rebate. I've received rebates in the past up to $300.
Hire a handyperson from Craigslist. If the person knows what they are doing shouldn't take more than 3 -4 hours. Should not cost you more than $500 if you want to be very generous. A licensed plumber would charge around $800 to $1,200.
Hope this helps.