Is it Worth it to Repair a Hot Water Heater?

Portrait of young handyman in uniform setting up electric heating boiler at home. Horizontal shot

Hot Water Heater Repair

It sits quietly in the basement, garage, or a closet, doing its job when asked, and your mornings run like clockwork. Then when you get home that evening, get dinner cooked, rinse the dishes as you load the dishwasher, and the kids start their bath time routine. There’s no hot water. This is not the best timing to have to buy a new water heater, repairing this one maybe, but not a new one! 

How much is a water heater?

Before you jump right on buying a new water heater, make sure the current one is dead first. If it is gas powered, check the pilot light and if it is off, relight it. Wait 20 minutes or so and then see if it starts heating water again. If not, this semi-water heater repair didn’t work, you’re going to need a new unit.

If it is electric powered, it may need to be reset. Here is how to reset a water heater: Check the circuit breaker and if it has flipped off, flip it back on. Check the reset button, usually close to the thermostat and red, or could be behind a panel that opens. Push the button and release. If it starts heating water, you’ve done your own water heater repair. If it doesn’t, or the button pops out again, you’ll need to call a plumber. 

After you and a plumber have ascertained that a water heater repair isn’t possible, start shopping! The average cost of a new water heater will depend on the energy source you need, electric or gas, and the size of the tank. A 50-gallon gas-powered water heater installed will cost around $1,200.00. 

You can choose a lower-end quality water heater and get a replacement installed for around $800.00.  Or if you choose to upgrade to a tankless water heater, you could spend up to $10,000. Why so much?  There is rewiring and replumbing to be done with a tankless unit. The upfront expense will give you an ROI with energy savings though. 

How long does a water heater last?

The choice in brand and quality when buying a new water heater will have an important role in the water heater’s lifespan. The suggested service life of water heaters is between eight and twelve years, with some last between 15 to 20 years. 

How well you maintain the unit, like flushing it out as needed can make a difference in the lifespan. The water quality where you live if there is a high mineral content, and the quality of the install job will affect the lifespan as well. 

What is the most common problem with water heaters?

There are a few common problems with the water heater, repairs are sometimes possible. We’ll focus on the standard tank-style water heater today since that is the more common style. Before you begin your troubleshooting efforts, make sure the electrical power is off to avoid shock. With a gas-powered water heater, turn the thermostat off. 

Water leaks are a common problem with water heaters which can be from any of the following: 

  • PRV (Pressure relief valve). This is a water heater repair that requires replacing the valve. 
  • Ball valve by tightening the nut that secures the handle, a water heater repair is done.
  • A loose connection or stripped thread near the top of the water heater, or a loose water connection that a water repair of simply tightening the connections or replacing the nut.  
  • The drain valve leaking can be replaced to stop the leak.
  • Condensation on the exterior of the tank, turn the unit off for 2-3 hours, and lower the temperature. 
  • A leaking tank from the sides or bottom isn’t a candidate for water heater repair. You’ll need to replace the unit. 

Insufficient hot water is a common issue that can be caused by any of the following: 

  • An electric circuit breaker has tripped. Flipping it back into position may be the only water heater repair needed. 
  • If the high temperature has reached a limit, push the reset button. If that water heater repair step didn’t fix it, take the step:
  • Test each heating element with a tester probe touched to each screw. If no hot water, try the next step: 
  • Check the thermostat is at the right setting, typically 120 degrees. If these steps didn’t get the water heater repair results you need, call a plumber.
  • The tank could be too small for usage in your home. When you buy a new one, upsize the tank size. 
  • Sometimes the dip tube has gone out and a professional plumber can do a water heater repair by replacing the dip tube.

Other issues water heaters are known for having is the water is too hot. This is a simple water heater repair done by lowering the temperature setting. If that is where it should be, it could be the thermostat is broken and a water heater repair or replacing it may be possible – all a plumber to inspect the unit and advise. 

A water heater heats too slow can be the heating elements or the thermostat need to be replaced. These are water heater repairs that a professional plumber can do for you. If the water is coming out dirty, rusty, and/or smelly, the unit needs to be flushed. You can do this yourself or call for a professional water heater repair with a plumber.  If the unit is older than 5 to 6 years, it may need to be replaced if you haven’t had it flushed since it was installed.

Almost done. Worker set up electric heating boiler at home. Close-up of young handyman

What are the signs of a water heater going bad?

The following are indicators that your water heater may be beyond water heater repair, but a professional plumber can confirm this for you after an inspection:  

1. Water tank leaking 

2. Water heater age 

3. Run out of hot water fast 

4. Temperature is inconsistent 

5. Water is discolored 

6. Unusual noises coming 

7. Water pressure low

Should I replace my water heater before it fails?

We’ve discussed the signs that will tell you when to replace a water heater is your only option if water heater repair isn’t possible. But if a water heater repair is possible, should you replace it instead? If the unit is close to 10 years or older, yes, replace the unit so you aren’t caught without hot water one morning. 

Should I repair or replace my water heater?

The age of the unit and the quality of the water will be deciding factors. If the unit is 8 to 10 years old, a water heater repair may be nothing more than a band-aid for another 30 days or so. If the unit is under 8 years old and you’ve never had a water heater repair done on it before, go with the repair option.

In Closing – A Maintenance Step to Prolong the Lifespan

No matter where you live, a water heater will get a buildup of sediment inside the tank over time. Knowing how to clean buildup in a water heater will give you longer use of this appliance.  If you have the owner’s manual, it should have instructions on how to do this. You can also find YouTube videos online that will walk you through the process, or you can have a plumber do the flush-out for you.

Wicked Plumbing helps with water heater repair in Somerset, MA. Contact (508) 272-1196 for help with services.