I live on the second floor in a condominium and had my direct vent hot water heater replaced approximately 8 years ago. At the time I recall having various vendors out to give me an estimate and very faintly remember being denied service because I'm on the second floor and because my hot water heater unit is 'special.' This could be incorrect, but I remember having to go with a plumbing company in my community that specializes in units for our community (I'm sure this was BS now that I look back).

Today, after the first really cold night we have had all winter, we woke up to brown water coming out of all of the faucets (hot side only). I have never done any routine maintenance on the hot water heater because I was never instructed to do so.

I called the same vendor who did the installation for us 8 years ago and charged me $1,350.00 and asked what that would cost today. They told me the unit alone is now $2,800.00 bucks.

I'm wondering if I was ripped off and being upsold? Our unit is 50 gallons for an 1100 square feet condo with 2 full bedrooms.

Any ideas on what could be wrong and is this something a regular plumber should be able to resolve for us?


I also now understand that my aquatherm unit also works in conjunction with my hot water heater. So I imagine this also is what inflates the cost of the unit I need to purchase?

  • 1
    How is your aquatherm unit hooked up? Is the hot water heater used for all of the heating load for the condo, or is there another heating water source (like a ground loop)? From what I can determine, it looks like these are installed as a complete system (not just a water heater) - hot water heater/condenser/air handler, so the quote might be to replace all of it.
    – Comintern
    Jan 6, 2016 at 1:43
  • @Comintern well we just replaced our HVAC unit last year which included a new aquatherm unit. The cost for that was about $5800. So I'm guessing they are separate systems that are interconnected? I think the hot water heater is used for all of the heating load.
    – nullByteMe
    Jan 6, 2016 at 1:46
  • Well from what I can find, the air handler, heat exchanger, and water heater need to be matched with each other and that may be driving some of the cost (that and a non-straightforward installation). Those things look like they basically treat the water heater as a boiler, but only 8 years of life seems to indicate that it works the hell out it.
    – Comintern
    Jan 6, 2016 at 1:52
  • @Comintern is the brown water a sure indication of a unit needing replacement or is there any glimmer of hope that something could be fixed to extend the life of the unit a little more? We have a service guy coming out tomorrow and just trying to mentally prepare myself.
    – nullByteMe
    Jan 6, 2016 at 1:54
  • Is it brown as in rusty? That could be a couple different things, but if it's only on the hot water side I'd be leaning toward a worn out tank liner. If you're getting rust directly from the tank, it's probably too late to replace the anode rod. Hard to tell without inspecting it though - just make sure to ask questions about the system. I'd get some recommendations for how often to check the anode. It sounds like the aquatherm is eating them alive.
    – Comintern
    Jan 6, 2016 at 2:01

1 Answer 1


Definitely get a plumber out. Sounds like the water heater is dying. Either scale build-up dropped off the tank side, tank surface rust gets weaker as it gets thicker & accumulated mineral deposits will peel off in large pieces. Or, your anode rod was so eaten away that a piece fell off of that. Items dropping in the tank stirs up the tank's bottom sediments.

The Aquatherm can contribute since it has metals, but that didn't cause it. The water heater just wasn't serviced & therefore assessed every year or 2. Run the hot water for 10 or more minutes, like taking a shower, to see if it clears up at all. Use the bath tub (if you have one) not the shower or a sink that you can get the aerator off (the tub doesn't have one) of so you won't have to take it off later for unclogging.

Yikes, I haven't heard of a direct or power vent 50-gallon water heater costing that much before installation costs. Yeah, $1350 & that's still right in line now with the home improvement stores...Maybe you do have a specially shaped water heater or the contractor owns the market & is taking advantage.

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