Water Heater Issues: Repair or Replace? Traditional or Tankless?

Water Heater Woes and How to Fix Them!

Water heaters are non-issues UNTIL you get hit with that first icy shower or giant puddle in the basement. Then you have to think fast: Repair or replace?  Our friends at www.houselogic.com walks us through the options of replacing vs. repairing.

If it’s a conventional storage-tank water heater nearing the end of its 10-13-year life, replacement is obvious: New models are up to 20% more efficient and can save up to $700 in energy costs over the life of the unit. However, if your water heater is only a few years old, repair may be the way to go. Not sure whether to repair or replace? Here’s how to decide.

How to diagnose water heater woes

Conventional water heaters are simple. Cold water enters the tank and is heated by an electric element or gas burner. A thermostat regulates the temperature, usually 120 to 140 degrees. As the water heats, pressure builds inside the tank. When you turn on a tap, pressure sends hot water out the faucet.

Because water heaters contain few moving parts, only a few things can go wrong.

  • Pilot light on gas water heater flickers out.
  • Circuit breaker for an electric heater trips.
  • Burner or heating element fails.
  • Thermostat breaks.
  • Valve sticks.

Repairing or replacing any of those parts is relatively inexpensive: A plumber can do the job for $150 to $300.

But if the tank is more than 10 years old, or if it’s leaking, a new water tank likely is in your future.

When replacement is your only choice

Over time, water minerals react with steel, corroding water heater tanks. When water heaters spring a leak, repair isn’t an option.

On the bright side, modern water heaters are far more energy-efficient than older models. Manufacturers now inject foam insulation between the tank and its outer shell, resulting in higher heat retention. New glass liners make tanks less prone to corrosion.

You’ll pay $500 to $1,500 to purchase and install a new conventional storage unit. A high-efficiency model that meets Energy Star standards saves up to 20% in energy costs.

Tankless, heat pump, and solar water heaters offer even bigger savings and also qualify for federal tax credits. Some credits expire at the end of 2011 but others run to 2016.  These products cost three to five times more to buy and install, so consider payback carefully.

Factor in hidden costs of water heaters

Even with conventional water heaters, replacement might not be as simple as hauling out the old and hooking up the new. Many local building codes now require you to upgrade the following:

  • Water heater mount
  • Size or type of venting system
  • Drain pan underneath the heater
  • Supply pipes

Before starting work, ask your installer to outline all costs.

If you know your way around plumbing tasks, you may be able to install the new unit yourself. Most manufacturers provide detailed instructions, and you’ll need to check your local building codes. Turn off the water and gas or electric before you begin, and take particular care to vent gas models properly.

Maintain your water heater

Whether you repair or replace, water heaters will perform better and last longer if you flush the tank once a year to remove sediment. A bonus: Without all that gunk inside, your water heater will operate more efficiently, saving you money.

Also, check the anode rod—sometimes called the sacrificial rod—every three years. An aluminum or magnesium probe inside the tank, it collects corrosive elements and should be replaced when caked or eaten away. A new one costs about $30.

Stay on top of these simple maintenance tasks and you can avoid thinking about water heaters again for a long time.


Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/water-heaters/water-heaters-repair-or-replace/#ixzz1wNvBn6DY

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Kurt B. June 01, 2012 at 01:26 PM
One additional expense that was not mentioned, that I still don't understand : why do we ( Des Moines area residents ) have to pay for a permit to get the water heater replaced. When we had ours replaced a year ago, they charged us $27 for the permit. I questioned this and was refered to the city fathers. They told me this is necessary so the city can send out an inspector to make sure the installation is done correct. The installation is done by a certified installer so they are responsible for the correct installation. Is the city just taking our $27 and pocketing it ?
Anne Carothers-Kay June 05, 2012 at 02:58 PM
I'm not sure if Urbandale requires a permit Kurt, but I'm checking it out. My heating and cooling guy just told me I probably need a new water heater. Arghh! The costs of home ownership!


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