Water Heater Repair: Installation and Cost Guide
We put together a water heater repair cost guide which includes information on installing a water heater, repairing one and contractors’ costs for the job.
For most homeowners, a water heater is usually the last thing in their minds until it stops working. Nothing is inconveniencing as a faulty water heater. Without hot warm in your home, so many operations come to a stop. Most people are likely to skip showers in the cold winter morning, dishes may not get cleaned, getting some stains out of your laundry becomes impossible, and your life at home feels like it has come to a halt.
If your hot water has stopped working, or its leaking the first thing in your mind is to have it repaired as soon as possible. However, you should also look into the possibility of replacement especially if the water heating system is almost completing its lifespan. For example, the lifespan of an electric water heating system is around 10-15 years.
If you have had your water heater for more than seven years, it’s time you start thinking about a new installation instead of repair. Even though the initial cost is going to be high, you will be saving a lot in energy bill as old water system tend to lose their heating efficiency and in the process consume more energy.
Common Water Heater Problems That May Need Repairs
Since the water heater is usually out of sight, it can go unnoticed for a significant amount of time. You will only notice it has a problem when you start getting cold water out your taps. In a typical case. As long as you are getting hot water, you might not have any reason to keep checking the heater.
Just like any other mechanical systems in your home, water heaters will get faulty at some point, and they will require regular repairs and maintenance to continue functioning efficiently. Fortunately, most water heater problems can be fixed through repairs by a professional or yourself.
Here is a list of most common water heater problems that you are likely to face in your home.
Little Hot Water
This is one of the most common problems you are likely to encounter with your water heater. The culprit here is usually an undersized water heater. With this problem, you will feel like you do not have enough water in your home.
If the problem keeps recurring or you recently increased your needs for hot water, you may probably need to install a bigger water heater to satisfy your hot water requirements.
If this is not the case, then you can try solving the problem by increasing the water temperature on the tank’s thermostat. When the outdoor temperatures drop significantly, the water heater system will have to function harder to heat and maintain the cold water coming inside. The water will cool faster as it runs through the pipes in the unheated spaces. Adjusting the water temperature to be slightly hotter will increase the efficiency of the system, and you start getting enough hot water.
You can try solving the problem of little hot water by testing the temperature-pressure relief valve. Its role is to keep pressure from pilling up in the boiler. You can lift the handle or lower it to let the water drain from the overflow pipe. If these remedy doesn’t work, you might have to replace the water heater TP relief valve.
Another cause for having little hot water could be that the dip tube that usually supplies cold water to the tank is faulty or broken. The tube is supposed to direct the cold water coming inside to the bottom of the water heater tank. If it is broken or cracked, the cold water will pour at the top of the water tank and mix with hot water that is running through the hot water pipes.
The solution, in this case, will be to call professional to replace the dip tube; or if the water heater is showing signs of aging, have it replaced with a new one.
No Hot Water
Another common problem with water heaters is failure to get hot water every time you turn on the hot water faucets. If you have a gas-powered water heater, the most probable cause could be that the pilot light has blown out. This happens due to a faulty pilot control valve or thermocouple.
If you have an electric water heater, the problem of having no hot water is usually caused by the heating element which should be replaced. To solve this problem, you can call a professional to replace the thermocouple for the gas-powered water heater or replace the heating element if it’s an electric water heater.
Discolored or Smelly Hot Water
If you experience smelly water, you should first check if the problem is originating from the source of the water or if it’s in the water heater. If it’s only the cold water that seems to have the strange smell, the problem could be the source of the water. Sometimes, copper, iron and other minerals can cause the water to have a discoloration. This problem can be solved quickly by installing a house water filter for the whole house or a water softener.
However, if you find out the hot water is the one with the bad smell, it is likely that there is corrosion in your water tank. The water will have a rotten egg-type of smell. The smell could be due to a reaction of the anode rod and the high concentration of sulfate in water.
This problem can be solved by letting the water off for a few minutes. If the rotten egg smell is still there, you can flush the hot water tank. If the flushing does not get rid of the smell, you may need to call a pro to replace the anode rod.
If the hot water has garlic-kind of smell, it could be that the pilot light has gone off. You can turn the gas valve control off and wait for the gas to dissipate and then light the pilot light on again. If the smell persists and does not dissipate, turn off the gas supply valve and make sure you ventilate the area. Call a plumber or the gas utility company in your area immediately to come and handle the issue.
The Water Heater Tank Is Noisy
A noisy water tank is an indication of several issues. It’s likely that there is contraction, and expansion of the metal parts of the tank. It’s also, likely that minerals and hard water scales have accumulated inside the water heater tank or on the heating elements of the electric water heater.
The dissolved water minerals will dissolve and recrystallize when heated. They will form scales that get attached or stuck on the interior surface of the water heater tank making it less efficient. to resolve the problem of corrosive minerals, an aluminum or magnesium anode rod can be inserted at the top of the tank and also, make sure you flush the tank occasionally.
If your water makes boiling-type of a sound, it could be an indication it is overheating. This happens when there is pressure build up which is dangerous. Make sure you call a professional the moment you hear the boiling sounds.
A Leaking Water Heater Tank
If you have a leaking tank, you may have no other options other than replacing it. A leaking tank will drain your water in your utility room or basement, something you would not want to deal with in your home. The minute you notice the leaks, start looking for ways to get a new water heater.
Water Heater Repair Cost
The average cost of repairing a water heater comes to about $529. Most common water repairs range from $206 to $851. Some homeowners spend much less like $100 and others spend as a high as $1,300 on repairs.
There are two type of water heaters:
- Gas heater
- Electric heater
The gas heater works by use of gas flame while the electric one uses electric element, others use coil. Both of these types have same lifespan of about10-15 years and their cost of repairs is relatively the same.
Cost of Repairs for Gas Water Heater
In most cases, the gas models tend to have problems that are distinctive to their power source. The most common and frequent issues for the gas units include the thermocouple, the pilot light, and the gas control valve.
If your gas unit is not working as it should, you will need to call a pro to troubleshoot the cause of the problem. A plumber will charge you an average of $45-$150 per hour for repairs. The average cost of fixing the common issues associated with the gas units ranges from $150-$500.
However, there are some repairs that you can fix yourself. To do the repairs, you need to follow the instructions strictly and make sure you secure the gas line. However, it important to exercise caution when working with gas and should you smell strong gas odors, call a professional immediately to address the problem.
Cost of Assessing the Pilot Light
It’s common for a pilot light to go off with the gas water heaters. In most cases, it could be that the heater lost its gas connection temporarily or it’s just blown out. For this issue, you will not be in need of any repairs. To assess the pilot light, a professional will charge you $45 to $150 per hour. You can save yourself this fee by following the safety procedures to relight the pilot light of your gas unit. However, if the light doesn’t light, it could be possible that you are having valve or thermocouple issues.
Cost of Replacing Thermocouple
The work of thermocouple is to detect if the pilot light is lit. It triggers the gas control valve which then releases gas. If the thermocouple is faulty, it will not be able to detect the flame, and the control valve will not release gas. Without the gas connection, relighting the pilot light or the burner becomes impossible.
If your thermocouple stops working you have no other option other than replacing it. A plumber will charge you an average of $20 to $150 to install a new thermocouple. However, if you do the installation yourself, the only cost you will incur is that of buying the part which comes to about $20. If you are doing the thermocouple installation yourself, make sure that you shut off the gas connection and give the water time to cool before doing you start working.
Cost of Replacing the Valve
If there is no problem with your pilot light and thermocouple for the gas unit, the issue could be with the gas valve. The control valve works by releasing gas and also, turning it off when the pilot light goes off.
If the control valve is faulty, your gas unit can become unsafe. Replacing the control valve is a better cost-effective and efficient option as compared to repairs. A professional will rule out issues to do pilot light and thermocouple before they diagnose the problem. Expect to be charged $300 to $500 for control valve replacement.
Cost of Repairs for Electric Water
The most common issues with electric heaters include faulty heating elements and tripped breakers. If your electric heater has a tripped breaker, you can resolve the problem without having to hire an electrician. However, if the problem is the breaker, you need to look at the thermostat and the heating element to know the cause of the heater’s problem.
Cost of Replacing the Heater Element
There are two heating elements in your electric water heater. One is at the top while the other one at the bottom. The heating element at the top is the one that controls the one at the bottom. If the top heating element becomes faulty, your electric water heater will not be able to generate hot water.
A professional will charge you an average cost of $200 to $ $300 to repair the heating elements. It is critical to note that the electric water heater receives a high electrical voltage which can be hazardous if you choose to work with it. Before doing any a test and repair for the heating elements on your own, make sure you shut off the electrical connection to your unity. You can test if the heating elements are working using continuity testers which will cost you roughly $10 in most hardware stores.
Cost of Replacing the Thermostat
The two heating elements are connected to their thermostat. If the plumber assesses the elements and they are both in a working condition, the problem could be that one of the thermostats is not working. A professional will charge you around $150 to $200 to install a new thermostat. You can also opt to replace the thermostat yourself. The parts will cost you up to $20, and you can find them in home improvement stores.
Cost of Repairs for Hot Water Heater
Some homes have hot-water heater or a boiler, instead of the gas or electric water heater units. The boiler has same repair issues as the conventional systems, i.e., the electric and gas models.
Most homeowners have gone the “greenway” and have the indirect system which lets your electric or gas boiler to be able to heat the water in your entire home. The cost of repairs for boilers come to an average of $350.
Here are the common problems and repairs you are likely to come across with the hot-water heater or boiler in your home.
Blown Fuse – electric or tripped breaker – This is a problem that a homeowner can diagnose. The cost of a fuse comes to about $20.
Blown pilot light-gas – The pilot light is usually one of the common problems with hot -water heater and boilers. You can diagnose this issues yourself if you feel you can handle gas. You can choose to hire a plumber to do the pilot light repairs at the cost of $45 – $150 per hour.
Replacing a thermostat – the thermostat controls the temperature in hot-water heater and boilers. They are commonly known as Aquastat, and they cost about $70 to $150. They make a quick DIY, and you can easily replace them. Before you do the replacement, ensure you that you have turned off the breaker.
Problems with low water levels – This is one of the most common issues with boilers. If the water level in the expansion tank is low, the homeowner can fill the tank themselves. The most appropriate fill is usually halfway and pressure of 12-15psi.
Cost of Replacing Relief Pressure Valve
The pressure relief valve acts safety measure for your water heater just in case the pressure gets too high inside the tank. Sometimes there might in residue build up in the valve, or the water tank pressure is high making the valve leak.
You might have to replace the valve with a new one. The replacement is one of the repairs that you can carry out safely. You just need to make sure you turn off the unit. If it’s gas-powered, turn off the gas and allow the water to cool before doing an inspection. The replacement will cost $20 to buy while a professional will charge you up to $200 to do the pressure relief valve replacement.
Cost of Replacing Anode Rod
The work of the anode rod is to ensure that your water tank does not corrode on the inside. The anode rode attracts and draws the corrosion to itself. With time your anode rod will corrode extensively; a situation that can cause your water to have a rusty color and a strange odor/taste.
The anode rode cost about $20 to $50. Plumbers recommend doing a replacement every five years to save the interior of your water tank from corrosion. If you leave the rod a long time, the interior of your water tank may end up being severely corroded, a situation that will leave you with no other option other than replacing your water heater.
Cost of Replacing the Dip Tube
The dip tube is placed on top of your water tank passing through to the bottom. It carries cold water from top to the bottom your water tank. Your water may not get hot if the dip tube is broken and you have to replace it. The dip tube costs about $10. If you hire a professional to do the replacement, you will be charged an average cost of $150.
Cost Of Flushing the Water Tank
You water unit will perform more efficiently and last longer if you flush the tank more often like once a year. The flushing will get rid of sediment which can spoil the heating element, or cause leaks or even worse the water heater fails.
If you hear some noise coming from your tank, the cause could be the sediments at the bottom of the tank. This means its time for you to flush the tank. To flush your water heater tank, a plumber will charge you an average cod of $200.
|Average cost of water heater repairs||National average||$529|
|Cost of hiring a plumber||Per hour||$45-$100|
|Gas water heater repairs||Assessing the pilot|
|Replacing control valve –professional costs||$300-$500|
|Electric water heaters||Replacing thermostat-buying the part|
|Hot water/boilers||Average cost of repairs||$350|
|Blown fuse/tripped breaker||$20 a fuse|
|Pilot light(gas)- plumber charges||$45-$50|
|Replacing pressure relief valve||Cost of the valve|
|Replacing anode rod||Cost of purchasing anode rod||$20-$50|
|Replacing a Dip tube||Cost of buying a dip tube||$10-$50|
|Flushing the water heater’s tank||Plumber’s cost||$20|
Cost of Installing/Replacing Water Heater
Having hot water running in the pipes in your home is essential. Hot water plays a vital role in the operations of our homes. It’s safe to say that hot water is not a luxury but a necessity for the modern life. Therefore, whether you are installing a new water heater system or replacing an old one that has become inefficient, the decision will benefit the entire household.
Factors That Influence the Installation Cost Of a Water Heater
As a homeowner, you might be concerned about the cost of installing or replacing your water heater. Several factors will determine how much you will spend on installation cost. This guide will lay down the available options and the related costs.
The Choice between Tanks versus Tankless
Water heaters are available in two different styles: tank and tankless. Even though both of these two styles will heat your water, they will do so in different ways. A tank style water heater will store water in certain capacity, normally 40-50 gallons. It keeps the water hot to the set temperature, and that’s what you will get when you open the hot water tap.
On the hand, the tankless water heater will not store water and only heats it when you are in need of hot water. It heats the water through a series of hot coils. The average cost of installing the tank water heater ( 40-50 gallon capacity) comes to about $889. It will cost you $3,000 to in install tankless water heater.
Both of these tanks have their pros and cons:
Tank – pros
- Costs less, almost half the price of tankless
- The installation of the tank is easy, and it will only take you 2-3 to install
- It’s a proven water heating technology that works just fine
- Technological advancements and materials have contributed to their increased efficiency
- The tank water heater can handle a significant amount of water
- Since the system is continuously on, it will still heat water even when you are not in need of hot water
- The tanks occupy a lot of space
- It can only be installed indoors on an elevated platform, and it has to be strapped in strongly.
- It must be insulated with insulating water blankets
- It can only last up to around 12 years
Tankless – Pros
- Since it heats water only when necessary, it will save you almost 25 % on your annual water heating costs
- The tank system loses 30% of energy while the tankless has only 5% energy loss
- You will always have hot water
- You can install it anywhere in your house or outside
- It can last up to 20 years
- It’s small in size compared to the tank water heaters
- It is costly compared to tank-style –almost twice the price of the tank water heater
- Installation involves special kind of pipes and requires extensive venting
- It is expensive to retrofit your home to accommodate the tankless system. It can cost as high as $3000
- Since it can’t handle the high demand for hot water that your home requires, you will have to install several units, which is costly. This beats the idea of energy savings that drove you to install the tank system in the first place.
- It takes almost 10 hours to install as compared to the tank style
Gas versus Electric
Water heaters come in two categories; the gas powered, and the electric powered. The gas-powered water heater heats water through natural gas while the electric water heater heats water via resistance coil. Compared to the electric water heaters, the gas option is less energy efficient. However, considering the overall cost of electricity, the gas-electric water heater becomes less expensive.
|Electric water heater||Gas water heater|
|Has lifespan of around 12 years||Has lifespan of around 12 years|
|Its almost 90% energy efficient||It’s about 60-70 energy efficient|
|Costs for a lifespan of 12 years $6,248||Costs for a lifespan of 12 years $4,979|
|Cost per unit $300-$2,880||Cost per unit$250-$1,500|
If you have a big family that consists of more than five people, the gas heater is usually recommended. Since it has a fast recovery time, your household will be assured of having enough hot water in the shortest time possible. For smaller families, the electric water heater or the tankless style will work better.
Additional Cost Considerations
When replacing your water heater, there are additional costs that are crucial when planning your budget. The installation process might not be as simple as you think even if you are replacing your heating system with the conventional one.
You need to factor in the building codes requirements. Most of them will require you to make an upgrade of all systems that are connected to your water heater. These systems include the venting system, the water heater mount, the supply pipes and the drain pan which is usually underneath your water heater.
When planning for installation, it’s crucial to ask your plumber about the building codes requirements to avoid being caught off-guard when the issues arise, and you have spent more on the changes.
Cost of solar water heaters
You can opt to supplement your hot water heating system with a solar heater. It will increase the amount of hot water for your household at a lesser cost. However, these option does not come cheap; solar water heaters are costly. The least you can spend on a solar water heater is $1,000. The savings you make out its installation will vary according to usage.
Factors to Consider Before Installing a Water Heater
The guide might have given you the various types water heaters available for your choice. However, before you decide on the type of heating unit perfect for your home, there are several factors you need to put into consideration.
How Much Hot Water Does Your Family Need?
To calculate the amount of water your family needs on a daily basis is fortunately easy. You will need to know the First Hour Rating (FHR). How do you go about this? The FHR is the amount of water required in your home during the peak hours. The peak hours are usually in the morning when most of your family members are taking a shower and all other morning activities that require hot water.
You need to have the exact number of people in your home, or, if the house is unoccupied, get the number of bedrooms and then add one. For example, if your house has three bedrooms, your total will come to 4. Now to get the FHR, you will multiply the number of bedrooms plus one with 12 which is the estimated number of gallons that each person is expected to use. Therefore your total will be 48, i.e. (3+1=4, 4×12=48.
Once you know your FHR, you will know the amount of water required for your home, and best energy factor for the water heater you should get. Always go for the highest energy factor. This information is usually on the yellow label of all models of water heaters.
How Much Space Do You Have?
Make sure the space allocated for the water heater is sufficient before deciding on type to buy. The unit itself may not require a lot of space around it but you will have to make sure there is enough space for the person installing and servicing it.
Also, considering that the federal regulations increased the width and height of all water heaters, any new unit you buy will be bigger than the one you previously had, and so, you will require more space.
Before installation, it’s advisable for the contractor to inspect and take measurements of the location that you plan on installing the water heater. This way you will be able to tell if the water heater you want to purchase can fit in the space and still leave an extra room.
How Do You Plan To Heat The Water?
This might depend on the heating method you have in your home; is it gas, electricity? If you do not like the current one, you should budget on changes that will be made to accommodate your choice of the water heater. Make sure you study the pros and cons of the option you have in mind.
How much do you plan to save on the new water heater?
It is important to consider how efficient the new water heater unit will be for you in your home. With the modern advancements, water heaters can now heat your water faster and better. Most of them are injected with foam insulation between the outer shell and the tank which increases heat retention. In addition, the water heaters are now built with glass liner inside which prevents corrosion from the sediments of the minerals in the water.
Even though the upfront cost of installation might be bigger, with time, you will be able to save big on your energy bills. When purchasing your water heater consider the Energy Star Rating, and Energy Factor. If your water heater has many stars, you will save a lot on your energy bills. A high EF means your water heater unit is more efficient as compared to lower one.
Do You Need An Expansion Tank?
If you are planning to install a water heater, this is a critical question that you should be asking. However, you might be wondering what an expansion tank is. Since hot water expands, and it’s not comprehensible, it has to go somewhere. So where does this water go? Most water heaters have been designed with a little extra room inside to accommodate the expansion.
Since water doesn’t expand that much, the little room can work, but the system can fail sometimes. If this happens, the expanding water will flow into the expansion tank. You will need an expansion tank to be able to accommodate the expanded water just in case you water heating system fails.
Expansion tanks cost about $40 to $70, and if you are a DIY enthusiast, you can install the tank by yourself. But if you are not sure how to go about the installation, you can always call a plumber to do it for you. It’s critical to note that most building codes nowadays require you to have an expansion tank if you are doing new construction.
Signs That You Need a Water Heater Replacement /Installation
If you are having doubts on whether to replace your water heater or do repairs, here are tips and pointers that should enable you to make the decision.
If you have an old water heater that has been around for more than ten years. It has high chances of malfunction and cost of repairs might be the same as buying a new one. An old tank can also be less energy efficient causing dents in your pockets due to high cost of utility bills
If you are moving into a new home, you need to make sure your water heater meets the demands of the new house. The current one might not fulfill the needs of the new home especially if it’s bigger than the previous one
If the hot water has been contaminated and it’s already been proved to be a major health hazard. Repairs may not help your water heater, and replacement is the only option
If the current water tank is not meeting the hot water demands of your household, you need to consider a bigger one that has a larger capacity to accommodate your whole family
If the current tank for the conventional water heater has too many problems such as frequent leaks, corrosion, cracks, etc.
If you are experiencing any of these issues, it is time to start shopping around for new water heater and plan on installation costs.
DIY Vs. Hiring a Professional
Water heaters are dangerous to work with especially if you do not know what you are doing. As mentioned in the guide, there are several DIY maintenance services and replacements that you can safely carry out as long you follow the instructions. Some of them include relighting the pilot and replacing a thermocouple.
However, other repairs require a professional to handle them. For example, if you are experiencing a leaking tank or problems that need replacements of the heating elements. You need to hire an expert who has the right skills to handle the complex issues. Also, problems with gas units especially if there is a strong odor are best handled by a professional.
Replacing a water heater for your home is a complex process that will require professional to do it. They will ensure that the setup is done according to the building codes and the unit is safe for your home and use. They will also assist you to find the right water heater for your home. With their experience and skills, your heater will be installed accurately.
Your home’s water heater is one the most important appliance in your home. If it breaks down or stops work, you will be inconvenienced significantly. For it to function properly and remain energy efficient, you need to have regular maintenance and repairs. Some of the diagnoses are easy to assess and fix, but for the complex ones, it better to call in a professional to handle them.
If your tank has outlived its lifespan or it has become corroded, or there are leaks from pipes, you should consider a replacement. Shop around, research and consult a professional or an experienced plumber to find out the best water heater option for your home. Make sure you factor in your home’s hot water requirements and the energy efficiency of the water heater.