Water heaters are to homeowners what new socks are to a kid on Christmas: not very exciting. However, unlike socks in your kid’s stocking, water heaters are critical to your home’s health and well-being. While the temptation to postpone this admittedly unglamorous expense may be great, it really, really doesn’t pay to ignore the warning signs your water heater is kind enough to communicate. We speak water heater, so we’ll do the translating and you can call your plumber.
Unlike Wine, Your Water Heater Doesn’t Improve with Age
It seems like the blink of an eye, but most manufacturers give a traditional tank-style water heater a mere 8-12 years to live. Naturally, this may vary based on the design of your water heater, the quality of your unit and installation, and your water quality.
If your existing water heater is nearing the end of its life expectancy and you plan on remaining in your home for at least a few more years, it’s a no-brainer: it’s time to replace. Take the opportunity to find the style the fits your life. Modern tank style water heaters are up to 20% more efficient than their forebearers and will save you money in the long run. New tankless water heaters are super-efficient (they can chop up to 40% off your utility bill) and may last up to 25 years.
When the Flow is Slow and Low
Over time, you may have noticed that it’s taking a little longer for piping hot water to reach your taps and that there’s just not as much of it as there used to be. This may be caused by a faulty thermostat or heating element, which are relatively cheap and easy fixes for the dedicated DIYer or for your trusted residential plumber. Alternatively, your water woes may be the direct result of hot water consumption changes in your household. If your household has recently expanded to include new members, or toddlers have transitioned to teens, then it may be time for a bigger boat. A bigger tank, that is.
When You Wake Up to a Cold Shower
The coffee is hot, but the shower is cold. No good. Fortunately, water heaters are simple beasts and it’s pretty easy to determine whether repair or replacement is the answer. If your water heater is relatively new, troubleshooting is a prudent course of action. Here are a few simple fixes to be on the lookout for:
- The pilot light on your gas water heater has gone out
- The circuit breaker for your electric heater has been tripped
- Your burner or heating element has failed
- The thermostat has broken
- A valve has stuck
Repairing or replacing any of these parts is relatively inexpensive and a licensed plumbing contractor can make quick work of it for about $150-300.
Naturally, if your heater is nearing the end of its 8-12 year window, an entirely new unit is in the cards.
When Your Water Runs Red
Okay, red may be overstating it a bit, but it’s not uncommon for rust or sediment to appear in your water. Over time, sediment may sink to the bottom of your water heater which may cause the tank to overheat and break down the steel.
If you water heater is still young, drain the tank once a year -- this flushing will rid the tank of sediment which causes erosion and will increase efficiency. If your tank is middle-aged, call in a residential plumber to do the job for you, as there’s an off-chance that agitation caused by drainage may open up holes. And holes in water heaters are very, very bad.
When the Drips Become Leaks
There’s no way around this one. If your water heater is leaking, turn off the unit and seek professional plumbing help immediately. Leaks can quickly become floods; you’ll be surprised how much damage a 40-gallon flood can inflict on your basement.
In the glass half-full department, modern water heaters retain heat more efficiently and glass liners make tanks less prone to tank-eating corrosion. Typically, a new conventional hot water storage unit will cost $800-$1500 to purchase and install. High-efficiency models that meet Energy Star requirements save up to 20% in energy costs. If you’re looking for a big change, tankless, heat pump, and even solar water heaters offer huge savings over time and may qualify for a Federal tax credit.
Contact Kenny Pipe & Supply to find the best replacement water heater for you home.