Get To Know Your Water Heater Before It’s Too Late

Under-appreciated, but a priceless ally in the war against cold showers, water heaters rarely get the love they deserve.

And unfortunately, time is not on the side of aging, tired and worn water heaters. Alas, unlike a fine wine, most water heaters don’t get better with age.

And if you’re noticing water welling up near your water heater or carpet in the room next door, it’s already too late: Your water heater can’t be saved.

But for homeowners with older, but still functional water heaters, when is the time to make the tough call to replace? The answer is clear cut: Before you get blasted with that first icy shower or giant mini river in the basement.

Know Your Water Heater

Deciding whether to repair or replace an aging water starts with knowing its birthday. If your home has a conventional storage tank water heater nearing the end of its 10-13 year life cycle, the answer is a definitive yes.

New water heaters are up to 20 percent more efficient and can save up to $700 in energy costs over their lifetimes. If your water heater is just a few years old, repair may be the cost-efficient way to go.

How To Determine If It’s Time To Repair or Replace Your Water Heater┬áRepair Issues:

  • Pilot light on gas water heater flickers out
  • Circuit breaker for an electric heater trips
  • Burner or heating element fails
  • Thermostat breaks
  • Valve sticks

Repairing or replacing these issues is relatively cheap. A plumber can get the job done for between $150-$300.

Replacement Issues:

  • A tank more than 10 years old
  • A leaking tank

The bad news: This summer, new water heaters are running nearly $2,000 on average.

The good news: Today’s new water heaters run like Cadillacs, offering greater energy efficiency. Today’s water heaters boast foam insulation between the tank and its outer shell, providing higher heat retention. Today’s water heaters are also armed with glass liners, making them less prone to corrosion.

Tankless, heat pump, and solar water heaters provide even greater savings and qualify for federal tax credits. But they also come with a price tag three to five times more than what it costs to buy and install a traditional water heater, so decide carefully.

A Sedimentary Issue

Most water heater woes are an issue of chemistry. Over time water minerals react with steel, corroding water heater tanks. When water heaters spring a leak, it’s last rites time. Repair isn’t possible.

Water heaters perform better and last longer if their tanks are flushed annually to remove sediment.

The old saying If it ain’t broke don’t fix it should never be applied to older water heaters. Staying on top of your aging water heater’s maintenance and repair needs can save you a small fortune in the long run, and, ultimately, one of your home’s best allies in the war against cold water.

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