A busted water heater is more than an inconvenience, it can lead to flooding and expensive home repairs. It’s best to replace the appliance before it reaches an end date, but how do you know when it is time? We’ll guide you on when it’s more advantageous to repair your water heater, and when a replacement is in order.
A hot water heater provides comfort in a home, warming water piped into the house and channeling it to faucets and appliances. Its task is to heat and store water for ongoing use, using either electric or (gas or oil) fuel to transfer the heat. Water heater tanks are usually made of steel, which succumbs to rust eventually. It’s the rust that instigates irreversible damage: it eats at the steel, producing holes and leaks.
The lifespan of a water heater is about 8-10 years, and generally, this is the biggest influencer in deciding which action is more cost-effective to take.
Repairing a Water Heater
Some wear and tear is expected over time, including:
- Clogged drain valve. This happens when sentiment builds up.
- Lukewarm water. The result of water warming only to a certain degree, never getting hot.
- Noise. Mineral buildup can cause a knocking or popping sound.
It may be that you need a new heating element, but you should check the fuses and breakers first to rule out electricity disconnects. Twice a year, however, it’s a good practice to drain and flush the water tank and soak the parts in vinegar to remove scale. This eliminates buildup and keeps the heater running smoothly.
Replacing a Water Heater
Sometimes the damage is too severe, or it’s just more cost-effective to replace the water heater. That may be the case if it:
- Is 10 years or older
- Leaks from the tank base
- Works intermittently
- Rusts or is corroded
Ignoring these signs could put you in figurative hot water–this is when the tank can give way suddenly and unleash the water it has been holding, flooding the area where the heater has been housed. It isn’t a question of if but when this may occur, so monitor your water heater and keep track of its age and overall performance. It’s a good idea to get ahead of potential problems and replace it before something major happens.
Replacing a water heater is an expense, but it’s one that could actually help you save money on an ongoing basis. According to HomeAdvisor, “homeowners experience up to a 20 percent decrease in their bills with a new efficient water heating system.” How are newer systems different? They are more durable and retain heat for longer periods of time. Many tanks are lined in glass to prevent premature rusting, and a layer of insulation is placed between the tank and outer layer. It takes less energy to keep water warm with these newer models, and you have more protection for the water it stores.
When considering an upgrade, there are several factors that may help you determine the best style and type of system:
- Is gas or electric a better short and/or long-term option for your house?
- Tankless water heating systems are long-lasting. Is that a good option, given your family’s water use?
- How much capacity do you need? (less or more than the average 40 or 50 gallon tanks?)
- How many gallons will it heat per hour (recovery rate)?
- What size/type of water heater will fit in the allocated space?
- What is the degree of energy efficiency, or rating?