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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

The Value Of The Second Opinion

 Scott and I have been homeowners for just about two years now.  One of the big differences between owning and renting is dealing with repairs.  In theory, as a renter, the landlord is supposed to fix things for free (in practice, this seems to vary considerably.  I never had a problem getting someone to come and take a look at whatever was broken, but getting them to actually fix it was something else!).  Now, we have to find repair technicians and pay.  The upside to paying is that they generally will actually fix problems because they want us to be happy.  But not always, as it turns out.

Shortly after we moved in to our condo, we signed up for a program with a local company that deals in both HVAC and plumbing.  With this program, we get two HVAC inspections and one plumbing inspection per year.  We also get a discount on parts and labor, as well as progressively larger discounts on new hot water heaters and HVAC units depending on the number of years we spend in the program.  Our thought in doing this was that neither of us know anything about either HVAC or plumbing, and we wanted a professional to look at both systems regularly to prevent major problems that could be brewing.

One relatively minor problem we've had since the beginning is that our hot water heater runs out of hot water pretty quickly.  This becomes more of an issue on mornings when we're both trying to get to work and take showers back-to-back.  Whoever takes the second shower definitely gets the short end of the stick.

Last year, when we had our plumbing inspection, I asked the plumber about this.  He drew up an estimate for a diagnostic that would cost several hundred dollars and a new hot water heater, which would cost even more.  He told me that I could have the diagnostic done, but that if the hot water heater couldn't be repaired, it would just be money down the drain (haha), and I'd end up buying a new hot water heater anyway.  His take was that I should just skip to the new hot water heater.  I told him I'd think about it.  We did discuss replacing the hot water heater over the past year, but due to my employment "disruptions" and the cost, we decided it was best to put it off.

Fast forward to this year's plumbing inspection, which we had today.  A different plumber came out this time, someone who had replaced parts in both toilets when they had crapped out (haha).  We asked him about the hot water heater, and he told us that that it was likely that either an element or a thermostat was out.  He said he could run a diagnostic, and that he recommended that we just replace all the elements and thermostats at once since they were all likely the same age and would likely all need to be replaced in short order.  And...the kicker is he did all of this for less money that last year's plumber estimated just for the diagnostic!

It's uncomfortable to have to conclude that last year's plumber was trying to fleece us, but it's hard to come up with an alternative explanation.  It probably didn't help that Scott wasn't home for this last year, and I'm a woman.  I also realize that last year's plumber asked me first thing whether I'd had a plumbing inspection before, which in retrospect makes me think he was trying to figure out what he could get away with.  In any case, the experience has reminded me of the value of getting multiple opinions before shelling out large sums of money.  After talking to today's plumber, I feel that I better understand the hot water heater, too.  I hope that knowledge will serve me well if anyone tries to pull a similar move in the future.


  1. I've had to replace both my furnace and hot water heater this year. The age made the decision easy, at least.