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Water heater professionals help when a home’s hot water is not reliable or not running at all. It can be dangerous for homeowners to repair water heaters themselves because of the gas or electric work involved. Water heater pros can safely diagnose and repair problems or install new water heaters when necessary. Costs depend on the nature of the problem, what type of new heater will replace a failed one and the amount of hot water needed on a daily basis.

Tank or tankless

The most costly part of water heater installation is the water heater itself. Water heaters come either with a tank or without. Tankless water heaters cost three or four times more for installation because most homes need to be retrofitted to accommodate them. Tankless water heaters, however, are more energy efficient than those with tanks because they only heat water when it’s needed. Homeowners can save anywhere from $40 to $100 or more on annual energy bills with a tankless heater, depending on how much hot water they use.

Gas or electric

Water heaters are available in gas or electric options. The long-term cost of each option depends on the relative costs of natural gas and electricity in a given area. Gas might be slightly more expensive, but an electric water heater will go out during a power outage, for example. The most straightforward and least expensive plan ultimately may be to go with the same type of water heater than was previously in the house to avoid the cost of retrofitting. Some (less common) water heaters are powered by propane or solar energy. Solar, in particular, can help homeowners save big on energy costs, but these water heaters are much more expensive to purchase and install.

Size

The size of the water heater should be based on the number of people living in the house and how much water is typically used on a daily basis. The two most common options are 40- or 50-gallon tanks. The larger the tank, the more expensive the water heater, but homeowners will be less likely to run out of hot water during peak times.

Labor

Most water heater installers charge either by the hour or a flat rate for their labor.

Maintenance

Some installers, as well as many utility companies, offer a maintenance plan to keep the water heater in good shape for years.

Retrofitting

Once on site, an installer may discover that the gas, electric or plumbing hookups have issues that must be resolved prior to installing a new water heater or to simply bring a house up to current code. Be sure to ask for a quote prior to work, and if the quote seems high, call around to get other estimates. Retrofitting costs can also include the cost of any permits and licenses required by the city.

Disposal

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.

Cost-saving strategies

Before installing a new water heater, ask whether an existing one can be repaired. The older the heater, the more economical it is to install a new one when problems arise. Younger ones are often worth salvaging. Also consider purchasing the new water heater on your own to avoid the plumber’s markup—but be sure to hire an installer who specializes in the same type and brand of heater you purchase.

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Millions of people ask Thumbtack for help with their projects every year. We track the estimates they get from local professionals, then we share those prices with you.