A water heater has proven to be a vital appliance in modern homes. Most people don’t like a cold bath, after all. So when you’re experiencing issues, such as not enough hot water or no hot water at all, your first response may be just to replace it altogether. However, that may not be the wisest choice.
Before you decide to purchase a new water heater, you may want to determine if it can, in fact, be repaired.
Do I Need to Repair My Water Heater?
Many people don’t know much about water heaters or water heater repairs. Nevertheless, it’s something just about everyone must deal with at some point or another because no water heating system lasts forever. Determining whether you should repair your water heater or purchase a new one depends solely on what is wrong with it in the first place.
Disclaimer: Easy AC recommends always contacting a licensed plumber to repair your water heater and does not recommend repairing your water heater on your own.
Troubleshooting Your Hot Water Tank
The very first thing you should check for is leaks. If there’s water on the floor, don’t touch it or step in it. Switch off all breakers to your home and call an emergency service plumbing company in your area.
If there’s no sign of leaking, check the power circuit breakers or fuse box. If those are intact, the next stop is the control panel. If water is present inside the panel, leave it open and call for repair as-soon-as-possible.
In case the compartment is dry, try pressing the reset button. When the button clicks and power is restored, you are back in business. If not, this is the time to call for a repair. Usually breakers and reset switches will not trip without reason, so consider this as an early warning that you may need service soon.
Troubleshooting Your Water Heater
Gas is generally a far more efficient, less expensive means of heating water, but gas water heater problems can be tricky and dangerous. If you have no hot water, first check to verify that the gas is on. If so, the next thing to check is the pilot light.
First, turn the gas control knob on the water heater to "pilot, " then remove the metal plate and look to see if the pilot is lit. If the water heater is not lit, you can light it if you are familiar with the process or contact the gas company or a plumbing professional for help with igniting it. If the pilot is indeed off, turn off the gas valve immediately and ventilate the area to prevent gas build-up.
Should I Repair or Replace My Water Heater?
Based on the level of minerals in your water and how much water you use, the typical water heater will typically last between 10 and 20 years. Modern units are much more energy-efficient, so consider the money you will save on utility costs when deciding whether to repair or replace your water heater.
Professional water heater repair is always less expensive than water heater replacement and could save you money in the long run! Some jobs require highly specialized tools, and you need the knowledge and skill of an experienced professional to safely and accurately address specific issues that commonly plague water heaters. For instance, water heater tanks may accumulate sediment and scale over time, leading to the water tank overheating or corrosion of the sacrificial anode rod. A deep buildup of residue may be difficult to remove and also to flush the tank can be messy.
Changing the dip tube also requires removing the cold-water pipe and changing the heating component requires dealing with 220-volt electricity, so if you don’t have the experience with electrical work and plumbing, it is better to leave this work to your qualified local plumber. Also, any repair work needed for gas heaters is best left to an experienced technician to avoid the risk of gas leaks, fire or personal injury.
The Costs of Repairing a Water Heating Unit
According to a study carried out by HomeAdvisor.com, the average cost to repair a water heater is $501, with most homeowners spending between $203 and $800 for just one repair.
As with any home appliance, fixing some components will definitely cost more than others. Listed below are the costs of common boiler repairs:
$175–$485 to replace a broken ignitor. The boiler ignitor creates the initial spark/heat that ignites the fuel (oil, gas or propane). When ignited, the fuel burns up to generate heat. Therefore, if your ignitor is bad, you will not have any heat.
$150–$450 to remove mineral deposits. Mineral deposits from hard water can cause limescale build-up in the walls of your boiler tank. This could interfere with heat transfer and cause the system to overheat. Sediments can also settle at the base of the boiler container, decreasing the room designed for water and interfering with the tank’s pressure regulators. Flushing these sediments away can get your system back to normal again.
$230–$650 to replace the expansion tank. If your boiler is overheating or leaking, your expansion tank most likely has too much water and needs to get replaced.
$435–$1, 800 to replace the circulator pump. Like exactly what a blower really does for furnaces, a “circulator” pump does for boilers: it pushes hot water through radiators and pipes to warm your home. If your circulator is not working, your system will not heat your house.
$55-$350 to fix pipe leakages. Pipes in your boiler unit can leak, which will reduce your system’s efficiency or make it stop working altogether. Leaks can also cause water damage to your home, so you will want to get those fixed quickly.
Nevertheless, there are often other costs (aside from the water heater itself) that play into the total repair bill. Depending on when the water heater was initially installed, and any new building codes that now require compliance, the mount, supply pipes, air flow system and drain pan may also have to be upgraded or replaced.
Water heater repair costs can vary from expensive to inexpensive. Repairing it can be something of a mixed bag. There are many minor repairs you can attempt yourself if you know how, but there are issues that should be handled by a qualified professional plumber. It’s essential to understand what you are looking for and exactly what your abilities are when attempting to deal with any water heater repair.
You may need only a simple, inexpensive repair such as changing the anode rod if your water has an odor or replacing the pop off valve if it is leaking. Carry out your homework and research online to educate yourself to be better prepared to assess your problem before trying to deal with any water heater, because they can be dangerous.
The great news is that there are only a few things that can go wrong with water heaters because they have only a few parts.
However, if the whole water heater has to be replaced, that is when prices can get high. Especially when you may need to factor in costs to replace or update other items such as supply pipes and the venting system.
How You Can Tell When A Water Heater Is Broken
In spite of advances in technology, the water heater is a relatively simple system. Be on the lookout for these common problems with your water heater:
Age- Most water heaters last roughly 10 – 15 years. Some may last longer, and some may not make it that long, but it is a reasonable estimate to be aware of.
Noise- If you hear noises when your water heater is attempting to heat water, it may be due to the build-up of sediment.
Cold water- Cold water could be the result of several different issues, such as a broken thermostat, a pilot light that may be out, a circuit breaker that may have tripped, or even a heating element that may be faulty.
Rustic water- Rusty water coming from the water heater could mean that the water heater is rusting on the inside. It is a problem that needs to be addressed before the unit starts leaking.
Leaking water- Water around a water heater shows a leak in the tank itself and really should be looked at by a professional.
To avoid these problems, you should focus on regular home maintenance. Be proactive in extending the life of your water heater. Don’t wait until you experience leaks or no hot water.
Below are some great tips that will help maintain your water heater for an extended period:
- Ensure to flush the water heater tank once every year.
- Examine the anode rod inside of the water heater tank yearly and replace it if it has almost eroded.
- Check the temperature and pressure relief valve regularly to ensure it’s still in good working order.
- Check the surrounding pipes for leaks that could damage the water heater.
- If there is a valve stopping water from backflowing to the water main, relieve pressure to the water heater by adding an expansion tank.
- In locations where water has a high mineral content, otherwise known as hard water, add a water softener to reduce the unwanted effects that those mineral deposits can have on the water heater tank.