Written by Better Homes & Gardens
The cost of a water heater varies significantly based on the type you choose—and how well it works over time. Here’s what you need to know to make a plan.
A water heater is an important appliance that is just as essential as your stove or refrigerator. If you’ve never gone a cold winter’s day without hot water, trust me, now isn’t the season to start. When your water heater is on the fritz, you’ll be eager to install a new one, so make sure you’ve budgeted appropriately for a speedy repair.
According to HomeAdvisor, the typical price range is $822-$1,611 to install a new hot water heater. Depending on where you live and the tank you choose, the final price tag could be very different.
Determine if your current water heater is outdated.
If your current water heater is more than 10 years old but still kicking, you should start saving up for a replacement. The typical lifespan of a tank water heater is eight to 12 years, while a tankless heater usually lasts 15 to 18 years. When it starts to be unreliable or finicky, it’s likely on its last leg.
How will you know when it’s time to replace your water heater? You’ll notice that the water doesn’t get nearly as hot or the water pressure is odd. Some people notice a change in the smell or color of hot water in their tap. These are all signs that the appliance is nearing the end of its life expectancy. Of course, you could call a contractor out to do a repair. Maybe the tank needs to be cleaned or you need a new thermostat. But if the heater is already well beyond its reliable years, most people find that it is cheaper to replace the heater rather than repair it.
Find the right contractor.
Ask neighbors to recommend a reputable and reliable plumber or HVAC technician. Search online for a contractor in your zip code. Reach out to the available vendors and share a photo of the label on the outside of your heater.
The pros will be able to do some research before they even drop by your home; they’ll likely know if parts for your appliance have been discontinued or difficult to find. And they usually know if there’s been a recall or trends with faulty brands or models. This could be the easiest way to estimate costs and be prepared when the technician arrives.
Remember that your hot water heater could be faulty for a number of reasons: the water source, the appliance itself, or a plumbing issue behind the walls. If you’re seeing leaks or dripping around the shower or sinks, know that the problem might require more than one kind of fix. You might need both a plumber and an HVAC tech.
For that, again, disclose all the issues that you’ve been experiencing and take recommendations. It’s easy to check customer reviews on sites like Yelp and Better Business Bureau, so don’t skip this step if you want to get feedback from people outside your circle. Here are some basic questions to ask if you’re choosing between contractors:
How long have you been in business? How long has the person installing my heater been working there?
Is your company licensed, bonded, and insured?
What are your operational hours? If something goes wrong overnight or on weekends, is there an emergency line?
For my space, is there a more energy efficient tank available to replace this one?
Will you dispose of the old heater? Will I have to pay extra for that?
Would it be easier/ cheaper if you told me the model to purchase and I bought it myself and had it here for you to install? Are there any other parts or supplies I would have to buy?
Ask for a quote in writing to replace or repair the heater, separate from the cost of the new heater itself.
Decide if you’re going tankless.
When you inquire about water heater costs for a new unit, you must also factor in the long-term costs of energy. It is likely that the contractor will give you the option between a tank and a tankless water heater, so it is important to know the difference.
A tank water heater comes with a container that stores a limited volume of heated water, generally 30-120 gallons. Even when you’re not in the shower, the water is being heated and held in the tank until you need it. Most Americans use a tank water heater because it costs less, but these models may also drive up your energy bills.
On the other hand, the technology behind the tankless models allows for an endless supply of hot water. The U.S. Department of Energy website explains that “tankless water heaters, also known as demand-type or instantaneous water heaters, provide hot water only as it is needed… When a hot water faucet is turned on, cold water flows through a heat exchanger in the unit, and either a natural gas burner or an electric element heats the water. As a result, tankless water heaters deliver a constant supply of hot water.” This is ideal for big families and multi-unit residences.
For those living on solar, there are also two active solar water heating systems that might work well in your home. The cost of initial installation tends to be significantly higher than costs associated with a conventional tank heater but, over time, years of low energy bills make up the difference.
How to Save Money on This Big-Ticket Repair
There are three simple ways to get ahead of a costly and untimely bill.
Identify minor problems early and don’t put them off. Take note of signs of disintegration on the bottom of the tank, especially any leaking or rusting.
Have a professional service on speed dial. Perhaps the company that originally serviced or installed the appliance is still in business. Keep their number handy and remind them that the failing device was one they installed. After hours calls for emergency repairs are very costly and difficult to schedule, but some companies jump into action quickly for a loyal customer. (Pro tip: Ask if they can tell if your current heater is still under warranty. If so, follow up with the company to try to get the costs of the repair or replacement reimbursed.)
Last, ask your contractor if you have hard water. Mineral deposits can wreak havoc on your water heater and consistent treatment can prolong the life of your current (or new) device.
Shared from American Apartment Owners Association