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We’ve all heard the saying before, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” This old adage works well with some things but, when it comes to mechanical systems, nothing could be farther from the truth.

An excellent case brought this to mind when I went to see my parents over Thanksgiving. I noticed the same 50 gallon water heater that has been in the house for the past fifteen years. The reason that I noticed was the ice cold water that greeted me as I tried to get into the shower after my wife and one of our daughters.

Well, I thought to myself, at least I know what I will be getting my parents for Christmas this year. They were the perfect candidates for a tankless water heater and I went ahead and told them about it. (it is tough to surprise someone with a water heater). My father was excited about the project as they live alone now, while frequently having 4 to 10 family members visiting over weekends and holidays.

After a really nice visit we came back home to Boise. One week later my father called. “Son,” he said. I answered,”yes” with a little bit of apprehension knowing something was up. “ We are having our new water heater installed today” was how he continued. This seems like it would be a good thing. It was not. I hadn’t bought his new water heater yet. Their water heater had started leaking and he neede a fast replacement. He ended up putting another 50 gallon tank in because, as he said, “nobody around here knows anything about those tankless water heaters.”

There wasn’t anything that I could do at this point except to curse our luck, (and my Dad’s plumber). The next time I visit I’ll just have to plan on being the first one in the shower I guess.

The moral of this story is that no one can tell when a mechanical system will break down. Whether it is your furnace, air conditioner, or water heater, proper planning will allow you to get the system that you want, not just whatever is available. If you decide to “run it “til it drops” you will probably be faced with an emergency situation rather than having the time to weigh your options and make an informed decision.

Chance Oswalt is a system designer and consultant for Western Heating. He can be reached via email atchance@westernhvac.com or by phone at (208) 631-7938