To Fix or To Replace: When to Fix Your Water Heater and When to Buy a New One

When something in your household is amiss or not working correctly, it almost feels like your system is not working correctly, either. Everything in our home — all the moving parts that make it a home — affect us, and this includes our trusty water heater.

When your water heater starts to malfunction, how do you know if it is still worth salvaging or if it’s time to get a replacement?

Factors to consider

Purchases big or small have an impact on our finances, so deciding to purchase a new water heater is not something one can do lightly or on the fly.

In the process of deciding when to repair or replace your hot water heater, here are some questions to think about::

How old is your water heater?

Plumbing Today cites a consumerreports.org article that states that “gas water heaters usually last ten years and tankless water heaters last 20+ years.”

If your water heater is approaching end-of-life, maybe it’s time to replace it and treat yourself to an upgrade (It should almost feel the same as getting yourself a new mobile phone to replace one that’s already broken — borne out of necessity, not want).

But if your hot water heater is less than ten years old, call the plumber so he can check and diagnose what’s wrong. You don’t have to replace it immediately.

How big is your electricity bill?

Observe your hot water heater and see if it is still performing as it should be giving you the water temperature you need for the same settings. If not — and if you are forced to increase the temperature just to get your minimum requirement — then it might be doing more damage, especially to your electricity budget.

Energy Star states that 14% of a household’s energy bill is from water heater use. This is a significant percentage, so be mindful of how much it costs you. An increase in the electricity bill could mean your water heater is using more energy just to function.

Would it cost more to repair rather than replace the unit?

Plumbing Today cites the 50% rule: “The 50% rule states that if any repair costs 50% of what it would cost to replace, then you should replace it, rather than repair it.” The repair cost could be the result of cumulative repairs (and then there are the first two factors we just listed for you to consider, too).

When do I repair my water heater?

Here are water heater problems that can be fixed easily and should only require a repair service, especially if your water heater is less than 10 years old:

  1. Broken thermostat
  2. Faulty element or burner
  3. Tripped circuit breaker for electric heater
  4. Pilot light that goes out on a gas heater
  5. Sticky valve

Check the warranty on your water heater. If the repairs needed are still covered by it, then put it to good use! If not, houselogic.com states that these repairs should only cost you between USD $150 to USD $300 (still a hefty price, but what can we do).

When do I replace my water heater?

Sometimes, life pushes us to make decisions that will be good for us in the long run. If your hot water heater is conking out, as we said, it may be an opportunity for you to invest in a replacement.

This replacement should be an upgrade that is more energy-efficient and has better, newer features suited to your needs today.

Replace your water heater when:

  1. The water pump is rusty, has noises, is leaking, and unable to heat water
  2. The water inlet valve is rusty, which is a sign of corrosion and future leaks
  3. The water heater is making loud noises that could signal sediment buildup
  4. The water heater is already leaking (check for water at the base of the tank)
  5. The water heater is not heating water which could mean there is a broken part

The silver lining: new water heater models are 20% more efficient and could save you hundreds in energy cost in the long run. Make sure you check the sticker on a new water heater that indicates the estimated yearly cost of usage.

You also have the chance to get one with a bigger water capacity (in gallons), a faster water heating cycle (or recovery rate), and a size that fits your space (or your family’s heated water requirement) better. There are upsides to the situation.

Everything in life costs money. The key is to know when a repair is necessary, or when a replacement is the solution. We’ve given you the tools to hopefully help you make the right decision — one that you (and your energy bill) will be happy about.