Why do I give this company an overall F rating? Read how the whole story went down in the next section. If I can save future subscribers from giving their hardearned money to this unscrupulous business, I would be thrilled that my time to document and get alternate quotes for the work was worth it.
Affordable Water Heaters appears to have done a competent job of installing a new 50 gallon water heater in terms of functionality; however, it failed City Inspection due to 2x4 wood supports being unsecured. A company boasting it performs 15,000 water heater installations per year should know to do this simple task. The City Inspector could not really comment on the need for the 7 "code upgrades/requirements" that Affordable insisted were necessary because Affordable removed all evidence of the old parts (how convenient). However, consensus amongst other contractors we polled was that a less than 10 year old house in excellent condition should not need the exorbitantly priced items below. A good laugh was had by all about the company's name being "Affordable". The bill in fact was just a giant lump sum of $2072, with no cost itemization, and an accompanying 7 page contract attached to the invoice. What? A 7 page contract for a water heater replacement?
The invoice, while only showing a total of $2072, was broken into 2 parts: the water heater (including installation & removal of the old one), and then the aforementioned code upgrades. The water heater portion amounted to $1139. With about 3 hours of labor, & knowing the heater retails for approximately $400, there is no way $1139 is a realistic charge. The company refused to break down the charge. Clearly much profit is involved. Therefore, we are pursuing competing estimates to obtain a partial refund.
Here are the "code upgrades/requirements" items they said were needed & they installed (with our permission via phone, granted), along with the cost breakdown that was emailed to me at my request after work was done. Based on feedback from contractors I interviewed afterwards, most upgrades were unnecessary, & the charges were clearly astronomical. When I asked what the breakout was for materials versus labor for each item below, they refused to give me that, saying that by quoting it by the task it would save me the sales tax. What? Does the CA State Board of Equalization know that no sales tax is being collected? (Or that Affordable is pocketing it.) 1. Earthquake fire block wood ledger - 6 feet of cheap 2x4s. $88 --> good idea, outrageous price. An 8 foot piece of 2x4 at Home Depot is $2.48. With a few quick cuts to make 6 pieces $88 is totally unreasonable. 2. Gas flex line & drip leg sediment trap $228 --> not necessary, nothing wrong with the one already installed. 3. Water flex lines $138 --> not necessary, nothing wrong with the ones already installed 4. T& P union $69 --> not necessary, nothing wrong with what was there before 5. Secure vent $48 --> not necessary, nothing wrong with what was there before 6. Pipe insulation $98 (3.5 feet)--> good idea, outrageous price. I can get 6 feet at Home Depot for $5.25 & cut & install it in under 1 minute. 7. 2nd anode rod $149 --> this is for the water softener & according to our water softener installer it's unnecessary. 8. City Permit $115 - no other water heater installer would pull this, so OK we could pay for this, but note that it failed inspection & now we need to ask Affordable back & then ask the City Inspector back once it's fixed. I really don't want Affordable back on the property.
Would you have your water heater installed by a company with an "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau (http://www.la.bbb.org/business-reviews/Plumbing-Contractors/Affordable-Water-Heaters-and-Plumbing-Inc-in-Santa-Clarita-CA-13062954), one star on Yelp (here are some victims reports near Bay Area - (http://www.yelp.com/biz/affordable-water-heaters-and-plumbing-atherton ), scathing reviews on RipoffReport.com (http://www.ripoffreport.com/heating-cooling-ventilation/affordable-water-hea/affordable-water-heaters-and-p-74bac.htm), TrustLink.org (http://www.trustlink.org/Reviews/Affordable-Water-Heaters-and-Plumbing-Inc-205982921), & Angie's List, among other websites/glogs? And, an article in the SF Chronicle (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/12/02/BUGG2G1KI41.DTL&sn=001&sc=1000) about unfair marketing practices (via the infamous yellow sticker). Of course you would not call them. But when your water heater has flooded your garage & you aren't home, time is of the essence & comparison shopping is a luxury activity.
So then how is it we called Affordable? Because they are the company that mailed 1 million bright yellow stickers all over California to place on your current water heater, in case it breaks down. Clever marketing tactic! But their competition feels it's unfair, read the article in the SF Chronicle (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/12/02/BUGG2G1KI41.DTL&sn=001&sc=1000I), guess that's how they sucker 15,000 customers a year into using them to install water heaters, including us. As an example of consumer reaction to this, read how others have gotten taken on this blog (http://waterheatersripoff.blogspot.com/) with the following excerpts from the Better Business Bureau, which precisely mirrors my experience: "Complainants allege price gouging, unnecessary repairs, and false representation concerning the diagnosis or repair of water heaters or other plumbing problems. Several customers complain that company technicians advise that their original water heater installation are not up to code, therefore no repairs can be performed unless the alleged code violations are also repaired.....The company responds to most complaints by refusing refund or reimbursement requests, and disputing the validity of the customers allegations. They contend that customers are aware of the total price before the repairs are performed, and have the option of finding another service."
So, facing this giant bill, what did I do after I got the "code upgrade" breakdown? First, I asked Visa to deny the charges. Then I called the Affordable customer service person, several times, but no callback until 10 days later after I threatened via email to expose their predatory practices. He was pleasant on the phone, but obviously was not going to do a thing for me despite repeated requests from me as well as my threats to expose their fraudulent practices. So far feedback from other vendors conclusively supports my assertion that this company is using consumers' ignorance of water heater installations to charge exorbitantly not only for the water heater installation but for additional items that are totally unnecessary, I will make sure to get the word out in every form possible that this company has no qualms about taking advantage of consumers' trust by gross overcharging. In any economy, but especially in this one, Affordable should be ashamed of itself. Even a corporate giant like Capitol One Visa understood the wrongdoing & has agreed to deny the charges while I gather competitive quotes.