When Your Water Heater Fails, Don’t Delay.
Most standard tank water heaters are pretty basic with few parts that can co bad. People rarely even think of their water heater until a freezing cold shower or a 50 gallon swimming pool erupts in their garage closet brings it quickly to mind. When a water heater fails we find it is generally 1 of 5 things. Let’s start with the ones you can do yourself.
1) Pilot light flickers out on a gas water heater. Some people may find this an easy do-it-yourself fix by simply re-lighting the pilot light. If that thought makes you nervous, we are a phone call away. A simple service call to re-light a pilot light is only $59 and for some, it’s much preferred over attempting it themselves.
2) Breaker trips on an electric water heater. This is potentially a sign that there is a bigger problem but the best bet is to reset the breaker before calling out someone for service. If there was a power surge or some other anomaly, you’ll find out relatively soon. If the breaker trips again, call a service professional.
3) Gas water heater gas valve or electric water heater elements control temperature and heat the water.. When a gas valve fails, there is not really a temporary way to get hot water before completely replacing it. I’m sure there are some really handy people out there who have repaired a gas valve but it would be temporary and time consuming. If you’re going to have someone come out, replace the valve. On an electric water heater there are single and dual element units. On a dual element unit, the top element is a relatively simple replacement. If one element goes out, expect to replace the other soon. Save the additional service call and take advantage of lower secondary service pricing by having the technician replace both at the same time. If you have an electric water heater and you water isn’t getting as hot as before or it seems to take much longer to get cold, you probably have one element out. This is probably the most expensive of the repairs and you should take replacement as a consideration before repairing.
4) Temperature and Pressure relief valve failure. A T&P valve is designed to “fail” when the temperature rises too high and creates more pressure in the tank than it was designed to handle. Technically, you should probably flip the small lever on the valve every 3 months or so to keep it from corroding and sticking. I say “technically”, because if you fail to do it often and regularly, you will damage the valve by doing this after it has already seated or become covered with calcium and lime scale. When a valve “fails” there will be some water near the base of the unit and potentially some steam damage if the unit was installed without a pan. A T&P replacement can cost between $175 and $225 but someone very handy around the house MAY be able to do it themselves. Take care not to strip the threads during removal or installation though or you’ll be pricing out new water heaters next.
5) The fifth common problem will require replacement. If you have a leak in your tank there is no option other than replacement. The length of time for a water heater to rust out varies with location but in our Phoenix metro area the hard water is also hard on the plumbing fixtures and appliances. If you’ve installed a water softener, expect an even shorter life. The salt and potassium water softeners essentially “eat up” the units anode rod which exists solely to prevent the chemical reaction that causes rust from affecting the tank. A salt or potassium softener can eat these away in less than 6 – 12 months. The average lifespan is 3 – 5 years under normal conditions. Once the anode rod is depleted, my experience has shown that you have about 3 – 5 years left before replacement is required. To answer the question currently in your head…yes, I’ve seen 5 and 6 year old water heaters rusted to the point of necessary replacement. This is one you DON’T want to delay your action when you find it. If you have visible exterior rust or small amounts of water from the bottom or sides of the unit, it won’t be too long till the room your water heater is in becomes a swimming pool.
If you have a hybrid water heater, a tankless water heater, or a solar water heater, I highly recommend having a professional to investigate the problem. Repairs can be difficult to diagnose and difficult to do.
How Much Does It Cost To Replace A Water Heater?
There are so many different options available now that throwing out numbers seems unfair. The options available include insulation thicknesses, composite tanks that do not rust, timers, flood stops, full port drain valves, high efficiency units, short units, tall & thin units, ball valves, etc, etc, etc… In addition, there are now hybrid heaters, tankless models, solar options, PLUS, many filtration options that we require for certain systems so they will last long enough to be a worthy investment. All in all, you can find prices ranging from $700 +/- all the way to $7000+/- depending on so many factors like type of unit, filtration options needed, location of unit, type of energy used, age of home, code upgrades required, and many more. At The Trusted Plumber our base electric water heater starts at $689.00 if there are no code upgrades needed and we can use existing lines and drain pan. That isn’t very often and it’s a trap people often fall into when calling around for pricing. Most companies that do offer quotes over the phone fail to identify that the base install is often not practical because there are code upgrades required or you could encounter problems selling your home. Tankless systems start around $3300.00 at The Trusted Plumber…but again, rarely does a basic installation work for most people. Tankless systems need a special type of vent pipe and sometimes require a change in the gas line. A true tankless system needs to have some type of no-salt descaling device prior to the unit or they are nothing but trouble. If your home requires all of the above the system can reach prices over $7000.00
That’s why we offer a FREE in home evaluation and estimate to make sure you have the equipment that gives you the service you need for the time you expect it to. Don’t invite someone into your home with hopes of a price quoted over the phone sticking. There is a reason our name is The Trusted Plumber. We have customers that keep coming back because once you find The Trusted Plumber, you’ll look no further!