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Q & A

Answers to commonly asked questions from the experts on Thumbtack.

What is the most common type of heating system?

The most common type of home heating system is a forced-air heating and cooling system. This type of heater involves a furnace, which is commonly powered by natural gas, forcing air through a series of ducts that distribute the hot air through different rooms in a house. Furnaces can run on other types of fuel, including electricity, propane and oil. This type of heating system is quite popular because it doubles as a path for air conditioning in the summer.

What is the most efficient heating system for a house?

Geothermal heating tends to be the most efficient way to heat a house when compared to traditional HVAC systems, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Geothermal heat pumps (also called ground-source heat pumps) transfer energy to and from the ground to supply heat, cool air and hot water.

Note that one of the most important ways to boost efficiency, save electricity and lower your heating bills is to make sure your house is weather-tight and well-insulated.

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 do plumbers charge per hour?

Depending on the service you need (unclogging a drain, fixing a pipe, installing new pipes, etc.), plumbers charge anywhere from $45-$165 per hour. Plumbers often operate on a fixed rate model, too. Some won’t charge hourly rates because the variables involved in their work makes it less practical to do so. 

Plumbers will scope out the work, calculate the cost of parts, and roll it together with other fees to give you an estimate for the job. They may even offer standard flat rates for things like installing a toilet or a sink. Reach out to plumbers near you to get an accurate cost estimate for your project or repair.

How much does it cost to install a heating system?

The cost of a heating system depends largely on the type and size of the heating system. For example:

To find out how much your new heating system will cost, contact heating and air companies near you and ask for free cost estimates.

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.

How much does it cost to install a hot water heater?

You’ll know when it’s time to install a new water heater. Water heater installation costs average between $360 and $780 nationally, with rates increasing depending on the project. The total project cost will be higher when you include the cost of the heater itself. Select your new water heater based on the number of occupants in your home and the number of gallons of capacity you’ll need. Installation costs can vary based on the type of water heater you are removing and the type you are installing, any necessary repairs, regional cost of labor, and whether disposal of the old heater is included. Natural gas water heaters retail on average between $650 and $900 for standard models. Electric water heaters range between $300 and $700 for standard models. Tankless electric water heaters retail on average between $250 and $700 for standard models. Tankless gas water heaters retail on average between $200 and $1,300.

A company may charge approximately $1,000 to replace a 50-gallon tank-style electric water heater (not including any upgrades required by building codes). Replacing a gas-powered water heater might cost $1,100 (not including code upgrades). Some companies roll the disposal of an old heater into the overall cost of the new water heater installation. Other professionals charge an additional removal fee that can range from $35 to $150.

Why is my hot water not working?

The most common complaint among homeowners is that their hot water isn’t working — and the water heater is generally the culprit. Typically, it isn’t making the water as hot as you’d like it to be. When the water isn’t hot enough — or isn’t hot at all — run through this troubleshooting checklist for basic water heater repair tasks:

  • Make sure the power is connected to the heater, then reset the thermostat.
  • If it’s a gas water heater, make sure the pilot light is lit.
  • Raise the temperature setting on the thermostat.

If these stops don’t lead to hot water, it’s time to either check the heating element in an electric water heater or the burner unit and gas control valve in a gas-powered heater. A water heater repair and maintenance company can handle these repair jobs. However, if your hot water heater is eight years or older, it may be time to replace the water heater instead of repairing it.

Who can fix a water heater?

When a water heater stops running effectively, it’s best to hire a water heater repair professional to troubleshoot the problem. Whether it’s a plumbing company that offers water heater repair services or a provider specializing in water heater repair and maintenance, most repair companies offer same-day service as well as weekend and after-hours emergency calls. Usually, water heater repair professionals are experts in both electric and gas systems, as well as tank and tankless heaters, and can repair any kind of unit.

Why is the water in my house not getting hot?

If the water in your house is not getting hot, it may be time for water heater repair. Nationally, the average water heater repair cost ranges between $120 and $200, although prices can range up to $400, depending on the problem and materials. Competent homeowners may also be able to try DIY fixes, whether they have a traditional gas or electric water heater or a tankless gas or electric heater. Troubleshooting the different issues that can arise with each of the styles requires some knowledge of how they operate and what red flags to look out for. For a natural gas water heater, the first step is to check whether the pilot light has gone out. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s directions if you want to relight it yourself. If you smell gas, stop everything and call your gas company — the smell could signal a dangerous gas leak. If your household’s water is not getting hot enough, you can try increasing the temperature on the water heater’s front dial above the standard setting of 120 degrees; for safety, always turn off electricity to the unit before adjusting temperatures. If you keep running out of hot water, your household may simply need a higher-capacity water heater, so consider upgrading. Quick professional fixes include replacing the thermostat or heating elements and cleaning and repairing the thermocouple.

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