Who to check with on leaky water heaters

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Q. I bought two instant-hot-water heaters a while ago. One operates well but the second one has been replaced twice. Now the second replacement leaks. I cannot reach the manufacturer by phone. Whether or not a plumber can fix the new leak is a question. What do you suggest I do? A reader Meredith, N. H.

A. I gather you bought the water heaters directly from the manufacturer and then had them installed yourself. If so, you bypassed the plumber who now could be responsible both for the water heaters as well as their installation.

More often than not, it may be advisable to buy such appliances from the installer, even though they may cost you more money. For that additional cost, you make the local plumber responsible for the work; and this is usually more convenient than dealing with a remote manufacturer.

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Before getting after anyone, however, check that the water pressure in the house is within the limits prescribed by the manufacturer of the heater.

If the pressure is higher than recommended, the leaky heaters may be your sole misfortune. Of course, I'm assuming that the heaters are still within their warranty period.

Otherwise, I'd send a certified letter, return receipt requested, to the maker. Describe the heaters by name, serial number, and date bought. Tell the story of the replacements and leaks. Ask for satisfaction and a reply by a given day; say, 15 days from date. Address your letter to the president of the company -- by name, if possible.

If the deadline passes without a satisfactory response, ask for help from the local Better Business Bureau or a consumer agency. If all other means prove ineffective, get in touch with an attorney.

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