Is It Worth It to Repair a Hot Water Heater?

water heater repair with mans hand and pink insulation around the bottom

What is a water heater?

A water heater is considered an appliance. Defined by Oxford Dictionary, an appliance is a “device or piece of equipment designed to perform a specific task, typically a domestic one.” How often do you rely on your water heater? Repairs aren’t something many people realize are possible for this important appliance. 

This appliance that maybe not be needed as much as the refrigerator, but it does make life more comfortable and convenient. So, if you can tell your water heater is having problems, you can possibly get the water heater repaired instead of replacing it. But do you know what are the signs of a hot water heater going bad?

Are water heaters important?

Every day, one person will use as much as 80 gallons of water. How much of that water usage is hot water? That depends on why you’re using the water, but on average, you’re utilizing the water heater probably 20 times in one day, per person. Think about how many people are in your home and wow! That is a lot of water heater use. Makes sense why water heaters are pretty done in 10 years or less unless you keep water heater repairs and maintenance done.   

How can you tell when your water heater is going out, and when should I replace my water heater? Here are 4 main indications: 

  • AGE: The average lifespan of a water heater is eight to ten years. If you keep water heater repairs and maintenance current, you could get up to 15 years if the water quality is good. If you haven’t had any water heater repairs in 10 years, have it professionally inspected by a licensed plumber. If it is close to the end of life, they can advise you accordingly. 
  • RUSTY WATER: When you turn on the hot water for your morning shower and it comes out rusty looking, there is sediment built up in the tank. A water heater repair for this problem would be to flush the unit, but if the rust returns, then it is time to call a professional plumber for a replacement. 
  • SURFACE RUST: Rust on the exterior of the water heater tank, on the water pipes connected to the tank, or on the PRV, there is probably rust inside too. There isn’t any water heater repair for this, so replacement is your only option. 
  • NOISES:  Sediment builds up inside water heaters over time, building up in the bottom of the tank. This makes the appliance work harder, and that creates banging and rumbling sounds when it’s heating water. Have the unit professionally inspected and if the buildup isn’t too bad, the plumber may be able to do a water heater repair by flushing the unit. Otherwise, it is time to replace the appliance. 
  • LEAKING: When you notice water on the floor or around the water heater, do a thorough inspection around the entire appliance. There could be a small pinhole in the tank that is leaking, which doesn’t have any water heater repair for that, but it could be a water pipe connection that came loose and can be tightened. 
  • NO HOT WATER: This could be the thermostat or the heating element. Make sure the thermostat is set at the recommended 120 degrees. If it is then here is how to test a water heater element: 

With a multi-tester, touch one probe to each screw on the element. If there isn’t a reading, or a reading higher than 16 ohms, the element is bad. There could be some resistance from the elements which will show a reading between 10 ohms and 16 ohms. If the reading is higher than 16 ohms, a professional plumber can complete a water heater repair by replacing the element.

How much does a water heater repair cost?

A water heater repair cost will depend on the problem. It can be as low as $100 and as much as $1,000. The age, brand, and model will factor in the water heater repair cost as well. Once a repair cost reaches $500, it may be better to replace the appliance so that you have a new warranty.

Do you know who to call for water heater repair?

You need a person that is experienced and trained in how to fix a broken water heater, and most licensed plumbers will fit those requirements. When you’re calling around, you want to ask that water heater repairs are offered by that plumber.

What is the life expectancy of a water heater?

There are several factors that can affect the lifespan of a water heater. Repairs, age, brand, electric or gas-powered, and water quality. A gas water heater can last up to 12 years on average, some have lasted 15 to 20 years. Routine maintenance like flushing the tank will extend the lifespan and allow for any water heater repairs performed as needed. 

water heating system set up

Do You Need A New Water Heater? 

The first question will typically be, “How much does it cost to replace a water heater?”, when the time has arrived when water heater repairs aren’t possible and you need to replace your appliance, you can expect the water heater itself to cost between $800 and up to $1,600. The brand, model, and size of the water heater will have an impact on that cost. 

Having the water heater installed is an additional cost, averaging between $150 to $800. Again, the brand, model, and size will determine the labor cost. These prices are based on the standard tank-style water heater. A hybrid or tankless type will cost more to purchase and have installed. 

Then the next question is usually, “Can I put a water heater in myself?”, and while we can’t say that you “could” do it yourself, it will depend on where you live. In cities, there are usually building codes for this type of appliance installation. Often a permit is required followed up by city inspection after the installation is complete.