Those of you who know me well also know how frustrated I get doing projects around the house. I'm not a very good repair man. I'll get the job done, but it'll usually take me at least two trips to Home Depot and a lot of frustration.
Aside: For you non-submariners out there, an "A-Ganger" is an Auxiliary Division ("A-Gang") mechanic who keeps the hydraulics, diesel generator, plumbing and sanitary systems in working order.I liked the idea a couple of you shared about finding an A-ganger to help me. Unfortunately, I don't know of any A-gangers in the DC area. A-gangers are awesome at what they do, unfortunately there aren't many requirements for A-gangers in the Pentagon. DC duty is mostly paperwork and powerpoint, and A-gangers and paperwork go together like oil and water - no offense intended! If we had been in a submarine home port, then that would have been a pretty good idea.
As I typically do with large purchases, I put together a spreadsheet to compare costs and features. I compared the water heaters at Home Depot, Lowes, and Sears.
In the end, I decided to go with Sears for two reasons: support for the military and cost.
First, I recently read an article about the Sears company's support of military members. If a Sears employee is deployed as a military reservist or national guardsman, then Sears will pay the difference between their Sears salary and their military salary and will maintain their Sears benefits while they're deployed. Based on that aspect alone, I probably would have chosen Sears even if they were priced a little more than the competition.
Before I jumped on that band-wagon, I wanted to make sure I was being fair. I didn't want to say I chose Sears because of their policy if Home Depot and Lowes were doing the same thing. So I did a little research.
To Home Depot's credit, they do make efforts to hire military veterans and dependents, but I could not find anything on their website that offered the benefits that Sears offers their military reserve employees.
On Lowes' website, I could not find anything about military reserves or national guard, and nothing came up for me on a Google search for "Lowes' military reserve" other than military discounts for customers shopping in the store.
End of Tangent
Okay, so given Sears' support of their employees in the reserves, I was predisposed to choosing Sears for our new water heater. However, when I added up all the installation costs, haul-away costs, county permits, etc, etc, Sears actually ended up coming out being the cheapest. It was only $12 cheaper than Lowes, and $50 cheaper than Home Depot, but it was still the lowest price (for a similar 50 gallon, natural gas water heater with a 12-year warranty).
I've had two friends recommend a tankless water heater, but I decided not to go tankless due to this article at Consumer Reports.
Someone else also mentioned not paying the extra for the longer warranty. In our last house, I totally agreed. We didn't expect to be there more than a few years, and I got the lowest priced, shortest warranty water heater. In this case though, I turned to another article at Consumer Reports. Given the place I am in my career, it is possible we could own and live in this house for a long time to come, and the longer warranty water heaters come with more design improvements as highlighted in the CR article.
The Sears guy came and installed the new water heater yesterday. He asked my wife, "What's wrong with old one?" She told him our story, and I don't think he agreed with the consensus of you folks here. I got the impression he thought we were nuts for replacing a functional water heater. Oh well - he's not the one who would have to clean up the mess when it blows, right?