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Q & A

Answers to commonly asked questions from the experts on Thumbtack.

When is it time to replace a water heater?

Although regular water heater maintenance and water heater repair may extend the life of your hot water heater, it won’t last forever. Most water heaters have a life expectancy of about 10 years. Many water heaters need to be replaced when they’re 8-12 years old — that’s when they start to show signs of fatal wear, such as leaking around the base of the tank. A water heater should be replaced when it fails to sufficiently heat water for the home; if your heater is operating erratically, check first for a blown fuse or a tripped breaker to make sure an electrical issue isn’t causing the problem. Another time to replace a water heater is when you want to upgrade to either a larger model or a more energy-efficient one.

What are plumbers and what do they do?

Plumbers are skilled professionals who are trained to install and maintain pipes and systems for drinking water, sewage and drainage. They usually have trained through four- to five-year training programs, which include apprenticeships, via trade schools and community colleges. Plumbers’ areas of expertise typically go beyond pipes to include mathematics, blueprint reading, plumbing codes and water distribution. They handle plumbing emergencies, such as broken pipes or clogged drains, and install and maintain everything from a new piping system to a replacement faucet. Plumbers also know how to install bathtubs and showers, toilets, water heaters and dishwashers. Plumbers may work on residential or commercial sites, sometimes designing and laying out a pipe system during construction.

Who fixes furnaces?

If your furnace needs to be repaired, you’ll want to find a qualified heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) repair technician. Each state has its own licensing requirements; some require all HVAC technicians to have an HVAC license, while others only require someone operating an HVAC service and installation company with employees to hold a contractor’s license. For example, in Alabama, the Alabama Board of Heating Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Contractors regulates licensing, while in Kansas there is no state regulatory body and HVAC licensing can vary by region. For simple furnace repairs like changing out a filter, a trusted handyman can probably handle the job, but a trained professional should be hired for tasks like replacing a gas valve, installing a new inducer fan motor or other critical furnace repair jobs that involve dealing with gas leaks or other dangerous conditions. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring on Thumbtack.

How long is a water heater supposed to last?

Your water heater is an essential part of your home, heating water for showers, dishwashing, laundry and more. On average, a traditional water heater will last 8-12 years. The general consensus is that it’s better to replace your water heater with a new one than to repair one that’s 10 years old or more. Older models are less energy-efficient and thus more costly to run than newer models with better technology. Here are some indicators of when it may be time to replace an old water heater instead of repairing it:

  • Leaks: If leaking is not caused by loose connections, the water may be seeping out through slight fractures in the metal of the tank that have formed over time.
  • Strange noises: Clanking, rumbling and other noises can mean that sediment has formed on the base of your tank, contributing to fissures leaks, and inefficiency.
  • Age: If it’s more than 10 years old, it’s probably time to replace.
  • Discolored or rusty water: Have a pro check it out; if the problem isn’t resolved by draining and cleaning, you’ll want to replace the heater.
  • Lack of hot water: Inconsistent heating and hot water supply that runs out too quickly likely means it’s time for a new unit.

How much does it cost to have your furnace cleaned?

To keep your furnace in good working order it’s important to have it regularly cleaned. The national average furnace cleaning cost ranges from $60 to $80, though prices can vary greatly based on where you live in the country and what your furnace maintenance includes. An HVAC company may have different rates for different levels of furnace maintenance. For example,one company may offer general furnace maintenance for $79 and advanced maintenance for $138. Another company may offer a 38-point maintenance check for $89 and a 64-point maintenance check for $178. According to Energy.gov, a standard furnace cleaning and maintenance visit can include:

  • Checking the vent connection pipe and chimney
  • Checking the physical integrity of the heat exchanger
  • Adjusting the controls to provide optimum air temperatures
  • Checking the combustion chamber for cracks
  • Testing for carbon monoxide (CO)
  • Adjusting the blower control and supply-air temperature
  • Cleaning and oiling the blower
  • Removing soot and corrosion from the furnace
  • Checking the fuel input and flame characteristics
  • Sealing the connections between the furnace and the main ducts
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