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3 Reasons to avoid hardware store hot water systems

In a previous post we talked all about why it’s good to own your own tank. This should be a shorter topic. Why you should buy from your local hvac contractor instead of a big box hardware store.

With the rising realization that it’s more economical to own rather than rent, hot water tanks are becoming popular purchases. With the rise of buying your own hot water tank, hardware stores have also started supplying them. That means sale, price-matching and all that good stuff. We get good prices at our suppliers, but even they can’t compete when the big hardware stores have sales. So why would you want to pay more for the same thing?

1. It’s not always the same thing. Certain hardware stores sell an “exclusive item”. What this means is that their model is different from the ones our suppliers sell. This is not a good thing. The last time I checked at a local hardware store, they don’t carry all the parts for the tanks they sell. So you may have a great warranty, but parts are harder to get a hold of. Some of them can be found online, but then you’ve got to wait for shipping and have no hot water until the part arrives. Most of the suppliers I purchase from do not even have the ability to look up a parts list for these tanks in their systems, so they can’t help very much either. So far, I’ve found one supplier in all of Ottawa that has the ability to see what parts belong in these models.

2. Suppliers charge to process warranties. When it comes to warranty you can understand why this particular supplier would have a tough time. They didn’t sell the original tank, so they made no profit on that. Now they’re spending their time and capital processing warranties on items they didn’t even get a penny of profit from. Understandably, they charge a processing fee for warranty items they didn’t originally sell. In some cases, this processing fee (about $135 plus tax) is more costly than the part is to purchase outright.

3. You may end up paying more.

Recently a customer decided to buy a tank from a hardware store, install it himself, and then hire us to inspect it afterwards before turning it on. He didn’t install a lot of things correctly, so we had us correct his work. When we were done, we tried to start the hot water tank. It had a failed part right from the manufacturer and he would have to wait a week to receive the part under warranty. So he then had us remove and return the entire tank to the hardware store and install a new one. In the end he paid twice the cost of labour that he would have if he had just hired us to do it in the first place.

So you may have a parts warranty, but if you have to wait to get a part in, or pay a hefty processing fee in order to get your hot water running, you don’t have much of a warranty really.

In contrast, when you buy from a local hvac company, parts are far more readily available and your warranty stands for something. We often include labour warranties as well if anything should go wrong with the tank. The tanks Bowler Heating and Air Conditioning sells are all contractor-only models and in my experience, tend to be a lot more rugged.

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