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.
Hot water heaters tend to last between 10 and 12 years. Like any mechanical machine, hot water heaters contain moving parts, high temperatures and pressures, and metals and other materials that fail. They won’t last forever. If you begin to hear telltale signs of failure like whining, knocking, creaking, or banging, your water heater is most likely on its way out and needs to be replaced.
Listen for sounds like rattling, clanking, whining, creaking or knocking. These indicate some mechanical stress or fault occurring inside the water heater. Because water heaters tend to last between 10 and 12 years, it’s wise to preemptively replace the unit if it’s old and begins showing signs of trouble. Other signs include leaking, no hot water and discolored water.
The cost of a new water heater depends largely on the type and size of the heater. The average national cost for a new water heater installation including a 40- to 50-gallon tank is $350-$780. Most homes don’t need larger tanks, but they are available — for a price. The average difference between a 50-gallon tank and a 75-gallon tank (the next most common size) ranges from $400 to $600. Hundred-gallon tanks are also available, and they can cost double or triple the price of a 50-gallon tank from the same manufacturer. New water heaters tend to be far more energy-efficient, so they can cut energy costs; homeowners may also be eligible for a new water heater rebate from their local utility company.
Typically, tankless water heaters, which heat water only when you need it, cost more but can save about 25 percent of annual water heating costs, on average. They also lose only 5 percent of their energy compared with a tank unit’s 30 percent energy loss. Note, too, that a water heater with a tank has a life expectancy of 10 years, while tankless units generally last about twice as long.
The final expense to consider is a possible disposal fee to get rid of the old water heater; some companies include it in the price, while others charge an average of $35-$150.
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.
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.