Just now I quoted a customer for a water heater because his old one went kaput. He tried to blame the consulting company's contractor for screwing it up, as they did a blower door test on the house and blew out the pilot. When I got there, the pilot light was on and the thermostat set to "warm", but the burner wasn't on and all the customer could manage was tepid water through the taps. The thermostat was bad and the water heater is more than old enough to take to the bar. The solution would be to replace it this point and I informed the customer, an elderly man.
I gave him a price of $1150 to replace it with something comparable, which in this case is a 40 gallon Bradford White water heater that runs on natural gas. The customer immediately complained on the price and blasted me for it being too high. I could go on about this guy being the same joker who whines to the pump jockey when gas prices spike, but out of common decency, I won't. Ahem. To be honest, I can't blame the guy. Prices have gone up. Gas used to be 25 cents a gallon when I was a little shaver and now it's $3.30 or so. Cars used to sell for $3000 now sell for ten times that. Raw materials have gone up, and copper has gotten crazy expensive in particular. Liability insurance used to cost me $167 every six months in 1987 when I got my first car and now it's over $800, with no tickets.
See what I'm getting at? A short 40 gallon natural gas, natural vent water heater at Menard's with a six year tank warranty cash and carry is $584.56 and it is not a Bradford White. This is retail and not wholesale. Now there's the price of $130 to $150 to get the truck to the door, possibly even getting another man to help move the water heaters. Then you have the technician's time of 4 hours, plus his or her workman's comp insurance. You also have to consider there's a shop that needs lights, wear and tear on the vehicle, gas for the torch, solder, fittings and pulling the permits with the municipal government. Pulling a permit alone is going to run into some money. I remember when a water heater could be had for about $150 and this was as recently as 1997. Back then gas was comfortably under $1.00 a gallon and raw materials were cheap. It was also about $180 to have a Builder's Square's installer to put it in and that included permits too. What a value, what a deal. Sorry, but those days are long gone and everyone has to pay more. No business can afford to sell and install items at wholesale and stay in business for very long. Businesses that can't stay in business will lay off employees. You know the drill. Please stop using price as a way to beat up your technician as he or she isn't responsible for the state of affairs in the world. I assure they have no control over the price of materials and probably haven't had a raise in a decade. They also have to buy all their own tools to work and these are a lot more than the price of a water heater. Even business owners are struggling to make ends meet too. Maranatha!