When your water heater is on the fritz, you’ll know it. Either your water will all come out lukewarm, no matter how much you crank the knob, or you’ll hear the last person in the shower each day shriek as the water goes from hot to freezing cold. The question, then, is whether you should have your water heater repaired or if it’s finally time to replace the dinosaur that’s been warming up your water for the past couple of decades. And there are a few things you’ll want to consider before you make your final decision on the matter.
For most homeowners, the obvious first step is to call a plumber out to make an assessment. If your tank is still under warranty and the issue is fixable, there’s no reason not to have it repaired. It could be something simple like a broken valve that costs very little to repair. Or if you’ve never had your tank serviced (inspected and flushed – both of which should be done annually) your problems could stem from a buildup of debris in the tank that a simple service will correct. In this case it will almost certainly cost less to repair your tank than to replace it. Of course, more expensive repairs might cause you to think twice.
If, for example, your tank is electric and you find that the heating elements have burned out, you might just want to replace the unit. If your water heater is still under warranty (most come with a 6-12-year warranty, depending on what you purchased) and the issue is covered, you could end up with a new water heater for free, which would be the best possible scenario. Of course, most water heaters last far longer than the warranty period, say 15-20 years with proper maintenance, in which case you’ll find yourself paying out of pocket for a new tank. But if your repairs are going to cost a fair percentage of the purchase price of a new tank, there are several good reasons to upgrade to something new.
Modern water heating units have improved significantly. For example, most are more energy efficient than older units, a feature that can be ascertained by checking the BTU listed on the unit. The lower the BTUs, the less energy or gas the unit will draw to heat your water, thereby saving you money on your utility bills and cutting your carbon footprint in the process. Additionally, modern units tend to come with safety features like automatic shut-offs and push-button starters that no longer require you to light a pilot.
Of course, you might also choose to replace your unit if the demand for hot water in your house has increased. If you’ve been working on expanding your family since you bought your home, the tank you have may no longer fit your needs. In this case, an upgrade to a higher capacity tank could be a better use of your money. And then there are modern options like tankless water heaters to consider, as well. If you can’t find what you want at a nearby national tank outlet, then you might want to pay a little more up front for this tiny unit, which is located outside your home, giving you more usable space inside. Since it heats water on demand, it is extremely energy efficient, saving you money over time and helping to make your household greener. So before you decide whether to repair or replace your water heater, it’s safe to say that there are several points you’ll want to consider.