Most people don’t pay attention to their water heater until there’s no hot water in their shower or their basement floor is flooded. At that point, you only have two decisions. Should you repair or replace?
If the water heater is old, near the end of a 10 or 13 year life span then you obviously need to replace it. New models can save energy. They’re 20 percent more efficient than the older storage tank water heaters. Over the life of a unit, newer models can save as much as $700 in energy costs.
If your water heater is fairly new, then you may want to repair. However, there may also be reasons to replace. There are some things you should consider before making the decision.
Diagnosing Water Heater Troubles
The process of heating water with a conventional water heater is simple. The cold water comes into the tank and heated a gas burner or electric element. The thermostat on the tank regulates the water temperate which ranges from 120 to 140 degrees. The heated water builds pressure in the tank which send hot water to the faucet when you turn the tap.
Because this process only uses a few moving part, there are only a few things that can go wrong with your water heater.
– A gas heater’s pilot light can go out.
– An electric water heater can trip the circuit breaker.
– The gas burner or electric element can fail.
– The thermostat can break.
– A valve can stick.
These repairs can be relatively inexpensive. If you determine these are the problems causing your water heater not to work, a plumber can easily fix these problems for around $150 to $300.
However, if the tank if over 10 years old or if it’s leaking, you should look into buying a new water heater.
Replacement May Be Your Only Choice
Water heaters corrode over time. The minerals in water react to the steel tank and weaken the metal. When there is a leak coming from your tank, there is no way to repair it.
Luckily modern tanks are more efficient. The newer models have foam insulation between the outer shells and inner lining which means the tanks retain more heat. Glass liners put an end to the corrosion associated with steel tank liners.
A new water heater may cost you $500 to $1,500, including installation. However, this new high-efficiency model may save you as much as 20 percent on your annual energy costs.
You can find bigger savings by investing in a tankless heater, heat pump or solar water heating system. These types of systems also qualify for federal tax credits. Some of these tax credits expired at the end of 2011, however others do not run out until 2016. While these products may cost up to 5 times more than a conventional unit, over time they may save you money. Think carefully before choosing these types of systems.
The Hidden Cost of Water Heaters
Even when replacing a water heater, installation of the new system may not be as simple as just hauling out the old tank and hooking up the new one. Some building codes may require certain upgrades before the new tank can be installed. These may include the following:
– A water heater mount
– Changing the size or type of ventilation system
– Putting a drain pan under the water heater
– Changing the supply pipes
Before getting a new tank installed, you should ask the installer if there will be extra costs.
If you plan on installing the tank yourself, the manufacturers supply detailed installation instructions with the tank. But, you’ll need to check with your local building department about local codes. Make sure the water and gas or electric are all turned off before beginning installation. Also make sure you vent the gas units before removing them.
Water Heater Maintenance
Whether you keep the old unit or get a new one, you need to maintain your water heater in order to make it perform better. Flush the water tank once a year, this will remove any sediment int he tank which will allow the unit to operate more efficiently and save you money.
You’ll want to check the anode rod, or sacrificial rod, every three years. THis is the probe that is inside that tank. Over time, it can collect corrosive elements and may need to be replaced. This is a quick repair which costs about $30.
By keeping on top of your tank maintenance, you can keep your water heater in top condition. Hopefully, that will extend its life so you don’t have to worry about replacing it anytime soon.
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