Repair or replace? As a homeowner, this is likely a question you’ll ask yourself more than a handful of times when it comes to household appliances. Whether that be the washing machine, dishwasher, water heater or any other appliance, this is simply a part of homeownership. On one hand, a replacement can be an expensive investment, but the long-term savings can certainly make up for the initial cost.
Considering water heaters are under increased pressure during the winter months, now is the perfect time to take a deeper look at the repair vs replace dilemma. Throughout this blogpost, we’ll examine the many factors you should consider before ultimately deciding to replace the entire unit. For those currently in the market for a water heater replacement, you’ll want to check out a special offer at the very bottom!
Age of the water heater
The first factor you should always consider is the age of the unit. Like most other appliances, water heaters aren’t built to last forever. They’re under constant pressure throughout the year and will break down over time. As a result, the recommended lifespans typically tend to be spot on! Most traditional tank-style water heaters are going to last around 10-12 years. Meanwhile, the new tankless models can easily last north of 20 years.
In short, on the topic of age, if your water heater is getting close to the timelines listed above or even past those, a replacement is probably going to provide the best bang for your buck. On the flipside, if it’s still a few years off, there’s likely some easy repairs to be made.
Check your energy bills
Newer water heaters are more efficient. It’s as simple as that. Just like countless other areas, as technology has advanced, we’ve witnessed plumbing appliances that can operate without as much waste. In terms of water heaters, this means that an inefficient water heater has to work harder to produce the same results.
According to a report from EnergyStar, 14% of a home’s energy usage is tied to water heating efforts. Having said that, it’s not hard to see how an old, inefficient water heater can quickly make itself known. If your energy bill continues to go up a little bit each month, you may have found your culprit right here!
The steel used in hot water heaters is certainly a strong material. For one, it’s able to contain all of that 130° water! However, steel is not invincible. It’s kryptonite happens to be corrosion. The scary part about corrosion is the fact that it doesn’t take long for it to spread across the steel and ultimately eat away at your unit. If you see rust, a leak might not be too far behind. The only problem is rusty water isn’t always a result of a rusted water heater, as it can also be due to the pipes leading to the faucets.
An easy water to determine whether the pipes are to blame or if it’s the tank itself is by draining a few buckets of hot water out of the tank. Having drained three or four buckets, if your water continues to come out rusty, you’ll want to replace the water heater ASAP.
Loud noises and rumblings
Surprising to most, when your water heater all of a sudden starts making loud noises and rumblings, a replacement isn’t always the number one solution. These loud noises are arising from sediment that gets built up at the bottom of your tank. The solution to this is flushing your water heater, which we recommend doing once a year. While it can be a DIY project, we generally suggest that it’s best to have an experienced plumber perform the flushing. Luckily, it’s a much more affordable investment than a complete replacement!
What effect does built-up sediment have on your water heater? First off, it leads to inefficiency and increased energy bills. Your water heater is working harder through all of this sediment to heat up the water. Secondly, as the water heater works harder, it can quickly cause increased damage to the interior of the tank. It won’t take long for it to gradually wear down the metal and rusting will follow!
No hot water?
We’re all guilty of taking hot water for granted on more than a few occasions in our lifetimes. It’s simply something that you expect to be there when you hop in the shower in the morning or go to wash the dishes in the evening! So, in those rare instances where it’s only releasing cold water, it can be frustrating! While these can signify that your water heater has died, there’s plenty of scenarios where a small malfunction is preventing it from doing its job. Here’s a few to consider:
- Adjust the thermostat: Occasionally, someone will bump into the thermostat and move it from it’s previously set temperature. No matter what model you have, the recommended temperatures are going to continue to be 120-140°.
- Pilot light is out: If your pilot light is not lit, that would be another easy sign of your water heater not working. As was the case with the thermostat problem, this is also another easy fix. More often than not, it’s a result of a thermocouple that’s either bent, dirty or damaged. We covered the pilot light problem is greater detail in a recent blog post. Feel free to check it out HERE.
- Tank size: Lastly, if your household has added on a few members, then there’s a chance your tank isn’t big enough. In these cases, a replacement is most likely your only solution.
When will it need replaced?
One of the best methods for determining whether a replacement or repair makes the most sense revolves around recent work. Have you had to hire a plumber a couple of times over the last few years to make repairs? Is the performance still not at an optimal level? How about the lifespan, is it getting close to the years listed above? In any case, if you think you’ll likely need to replace it anyways in 2 years, it might make the most sense to bite the bullet now. Many people believe in the 50% rule. If the repair bill would be at least 50% of what it would cost to replace, then the smarter investment is to replace it now. After all, the increased efficiency of a new model will likely even save you a few bucks on your monthly energy bill.
Here at Stine-Nichols Plumbing, it wouldn’t be a normal week without at least one water heater project! Whether that be a complete replacement or simply fixing a small malfunction, every job is unique. From a water heater that’s nearing its final years to one that’s making some weird noises, don’t hesitate to give our team a call. We work all throughout the Kansas City area and surrounding cities. Having been in the plumbing industry for over 40 years myself, you’ll have the peace of mind that any advice you receive is coming from a trained professional.
Psst…if you’re looking to move forward with a water heater replacement, you might want to take a look at our coupons page. There may be a special there to make sure you don’t run out of hot water this winter!