Water Heater Repair Cost Guide: Don’t Pay Too Much!

Water Heater Repair Cost Guide: Don't Pay Too Much!

Anthony Barnes

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You’ve probably heard horror stories about water heaters breaking down at the worst possible time. The last thing you want is to spend hours or even days waiting for a plumber to arrive. If you’re looking for a reliable HVAC company, then you should consider these three things before hiring them.

Water heaters are a vital part of our homes. They provide hot water for showers, baths, laundry, cooking, and cleaning. Unfortunately, they also tend to break down over time. This means that you’ll need to call out a professional to fix it.

Here are some ways to save money on repairs.

Water Heater Repair Cost Guide

How Much Does Repairing A Water Heater Cost?

Around 95% of the time, the reason that people will call out a plumber for their water heater is due to a leakage. If the leak isn’t able to be repaired, then the whole water heater must be replaced. Replacing a water heater can be really costly.

It can cost between $1,300 to $5,500 to replace a water heater. Yet the average is around $1,700. These prices are for a gas replacement water heater.

For an electric system, to replace this type of heater, the price tag will be much lower. However, repairs for any kind of water heater normally average around $506. It isn’t cheap to hire a plumber when it comes to repairs on your water heater. 

It is very common for the majority of homeowners to not give their water heat much thought until something goes wrong. It’s only when the water heater is malfunctioning that we can’t seem to get it out of our minds.

However, if you look after your water heater to begin with and give it regular maintenance, you may come across fewer issues. Alas, when the water heater does start acting up, this can affect your quality of life in multiple ways. 

For example, without any hot water, you cannot have a hot shower or bath. Alongside that, you will struggle to get enough hot water to be able to do any washing up.

Also, when it comes to laundry, the water won’t reach the optimal temperatures that will clean, and remove any stains or bacteria from your clothes. With a faulty water system, it can feel as if life comes to a standstill. 

Yet, if you do notice that the quality or heat of your water has changed, normally there are some simple fixes to resolve the issues. The first thing you should do when you notice an issue is go and look over your water heater.

You should check if there are any leaks or is there another issue with another part of the water heater. If you are uncertain what is causing the issue, then it is wise to contact a plumber who can easily find and fix the problem. 

Although, it is then natural to wonder what the price will be. We have mentioned on average how much it is to replace and repair a water heater. These are big jobs, however, sometimes, it’s just a part that needs to be replaced, and you can pay for just the part and the labor time.

This will then bring the price down. We have gone into detail on this answer within this article so that you know how much you could possibly have to spend on your water heater repairs. 

Replacing Vs Repairing Water Heater

As we have just mentioned above, there are various things that can affect the price towards your water heater. The most critical problem is whether you need to replace or repair your water heater system. This will affect the price the most. 

A good way to know whether you may be looking at a water heater repair or replacement is by the lifespan of the water heater. Normally, a water heater has a 9 to 10 life expectancy before the efficiency of the water heater begins to decrease.

However, if you don’t drain your water heater frequently, then due to heavy use over a prolonged period of time, this can shorten the life expectancy of the appliance. 

As a result, if you know that your system is older than 9 years old, you’re aware that it may begin to falter, and you can begin saving for the inevitable day that it gives up the ghost. You’ll also be aware that a more cost-effective solution in the long run will be to replace the water heater.

You could repair the water heater that is over 9 years old, but this will be just a short term fix. Eventually, you will have to replace the water heater. 

However, if your system is under 7 years old, then you should be thinking about repairing the system over replacing it. It is when your water heater is between 7 and 9 years old when it can be difficult to know what to do. It can depend on the issue that your water heater has that determines whether you repair it or replace it. 

In this scenario, you should seek the advice of a plumber who will be able to tell you the best way to get your hot water back. Sometimes just the price to repair or replace the system will affect your choice as well. Time may be of the essence, too, and a fix is almost certainly going to be a quicker resolution than a full replacement.

Common Issues With Your Water Heater System

Common Issues With Your Water Heater System

The issue that is causing you to not have hot water can influence whether you replace or repair your system. However, there are several issues that are all quite common that can make your water heater stop functioning as normal. You may be able to see the issue yourself, but if you can’t then you should seek the help of an experienced plumber. 

Below are some of the most common problems that can cause your water heater to stop working. 

Little Hot Water

A clear problem is that you just aren’t getting enough hot water to meet your needs. Sometimes, the water heater itself is too small for the water needs of the household. You may not realize, but there are different size tanks that can help to accommodate different sizes of households. 

If you find yourself with constantly little hot water left, then the issue may be that your water tank is too small for the house’s needs. You will then need to replace the tank for a much bigger one. 

However, if the size of your tank is fine. The issue may be that you need to adjust the temperature on the thermostat. Your thermostat may be on the wrong setting, so adjusting the temperature is a great easy fix.

Also, it is important to note that once the temperature outside begins to drop, you should be increasing the temperature on the thermostat. This is because the hot water is likely to cool when it travels through the colder pipes.

Although, when you are adjusting the thermostat, you should only make slight adjustments. Otherwise, you could turn the temperature up too high and this could cause you to burn yourself. 

Also, always check the pressure and temperature relief valve. This valve makes sure that the pressure doesn’t build up within the boiler. Try lifting or lowering the handle, and this will allow more water to drain out of the tank.

However, if this doesn’t work, then the issue may be that you need to replace your pressure and temperature value. However, this repair needs to be done by a professional.

Finally, you should look at the dip tube. This is the part that provides the cold water to be heated up. Over time, the dip tube can become broken and cracked. If you do find that the tube is broken, then you will need to hire a plumber to replace it. Although, if the entire heater is over 9 years old, then it’s worth replacing the whole thing instead.

No Hot Water

You need to be aware of whether your water heater is an electric or gas system. This issue is much more associated with gas water heaters. Typically, the pilot light has gone out or has become faulty. In this case, the pilot light will have to be replaced. 

However, for an electric system, this issue does occur, yet it’s a really easy fix. The heating element of the system will have to be replaced.

Water Quality Decreases

Sometimes you may notice that your water heater has produced water that has a strange smell or an odd color. Both are causes for concern and are really clear examples that something is wrong with your heater. 

The water source may be to blame for the color or smell of the water. If you notice this issue with your cold water, then you can be certain that it is a water source issue. The best way to combat this is to install a water filter. 

However, if this issue only happens with your hot water, then it is an issue with your water tank. Sediment has begun to build up and corrosion has begun to take place. A reaction between sulfur and the anode rod has started to occur in the water. To combat this, try the following tips:

  • Turn the water supply off for 15 minutes, then switch it back on.
  • Draining the tank.
  • Replace the anode rod.

If turning the water supply on and off and draining the tank doesn’t help, then hire a plumber to change your anode rod. This should then solve this issue. However, if your water has a garlic-like smell, then this is an issue with your pilot light.

In this scenario, turn off the gas and relight the pilot light. If this doesn’t work, then switch off the gas supply and call a plumber immediately. 

Tank Making Noise

Your water heater shouldn’t naturally make lots of noise. If you notice lots of noise coming from the tank, then this is a sign that something is going on. Depending on the noise, you could be dealing with one or more problems. 

Hard water and minerals may have built up sediment in the tank. Or parts in the tank could have expanded or contracted. Either way, there are ways to remedy this. You should get into the habit of draining your tank at least once a year. Also, place an aluminum or magnesium rod at the one of your tanks.

If you ever hear your tank making a boiling noise, similar to a kettle. Then this is a sign that your water heater is overheating. If this is the case, you need a plumber to look over the unit right away. 

Water Heater Has A Leak

It is common for a water heater to spring a leak. Also, it is very easy to notice the issue as well, as the floor will be covered in water. If you do notice a leak, then you should turn off the water supply and call a plumber immediately 

A leaky water heater is much more common with systems that are quite old and ready to be replaced. For the majority of the time, if you have a leak, the issue can’t be repaired, or it is more cost-effective to replace the water heater. 

Cost Of Repairing Water Heater

Now we know some common issues with a water heater, we need to look at whether you should replace or repair it. Look at our guide at the start of this article, to give you some more insight.

If you have decided that you want to repair your water heater, then you need to think about how much it is going to cost you. There are a couple of factors you need to consider. 

The cost of labor is the first. This is because repairs of a water heater can vary in price, but you will always have to pay the plumber for their time. Some plumbers can charge $40 an hour, while others may be $150 an hour.

The time it takes your plumber to repair the water heater can vary depending on what is wrong with it. However, on average it should take no more than 2 hours. 

Although, you shouldn’t exactly cheap out. You need a quality plumber who meets your budget. You don’t want to pay for a cheap plumber who makes the issue worse. Sometimes it’s worth paying a little more for a better quality performance. 

The model and make of your water heater can also affect the price. This is just because some systems and replacement parts are much more expensive than others. This is why repairs can fluctuate in price. 

Cost To Replace Or Repair A Part For An Electric System

Cost To Replace Or Repair A Part For An Electric System

We have spoken on a couple of factors that will affect the price of replacing or repairing a certain part. Different parts have different price points. 

Normally, if there is an issue with your water heater, it will be due to one of these parts:

  • Dip Tube.
  • Thermostat.
  • Heating Element.
  • Pressure Relief Valve.
  • Anode Rod.

Heating Element

For the majority of electric water heaters, they have two heating elements. One is positioned at the top of the tank and the other is at the bottom. An electrical current runs through both elements, which causes them to heat up and heat the water up. 

There are a couple of things that can cause the heating elements to stop working. It could just be due to age and the heating elements have burnt themselves out, or perhaps even shortened themselves. If the heating elements are bad, they can cause your circuit breaker to trip. 

However, it is really easy to fix the heating elements. They typically only cost $20, but it takes time to replace them. Therefore, the cost of labor is higher. As a result, you could be spending anywhere between $200 to $300 to fix this issue. Yet, this is a long lasting repair, so you won’t have to do it that often. 

Thermostat

As we have mentioned, you may come across an issue with your thermostat. For most people, they will have two in their tank. Each of the thermostats relates to one of the elements. Unfortunately, if either of the thermostats become faulty, then the water won’t heat up as it should. 

Typically, the thermostat that is lower in your tank will deal with most of the heating of the water. However, if there is a large volume of water to be heated, then the upper thermostat will work as well. However, once one stops working, then your shower won’t stay hot for long. 

Thermostats aren’t that expensive, they may be around $20 to $30 each. However, once you take into consideration the labor time, then you may be looking around $150 to $200 to replace a thermostat.

Anode Rod

Water heaters can stop working due to mechanical issues, yet other times it’s wear and tear that happens over time. With prolonged use, the water heater will start to become corroded. 

Anode rods are used to prevent corrosion from occurring. They help to increase the service life of your water heater. On average, an anode rod should last around 5 years in your water heater. As a result, you need to replace them every 5 years to help prevent corrosion from taking hold of your heater. 

You can replace an anode rod yourself, which will decrease the price of the overall job. An anode rod will cost you around $50, but if you do hire a plumber to replace it, then the overall price including labor can cost you between $250 to $300.

Dip Tube

The dip tube is the pipe that carries the cold water from the top of your heater to the bottom to be heated. However, like the anode rod, over time it can suffer wear and tear. It is common for a dip tube to leak over time. This then causes cold and hot water to be mixed together, which then reduces the overall temperature of the water. 

This is another repair which you can perform yourself, that will keep costs down. A dip tube is only $10. Although, if you hire a plumber to install it, this then bumps the price up to $150.

Pressure Relieving Valve

The pressure valve does as its name suggests. It helps to stop any pressure building up the tank. However, if this value does break, then your water heater will begin to leak. 

There are multiple reasons why your value may have broken. It could have just become worn down, or there may have been too much sediment buildup. Whatever the cause, it’s best for a professional to deal with this issue. 

The part itself only costs $20, but with labor, the price of repairing a pressure valve can be up to $200.

Cost To Repair And Replace Parts For Gas Systems

Cost To Repair And Replace Parts For Gas Systems

Above, we focused on issues and repairs on an electric water heater. However, gas systems have their own problems. Generally, when a gas water heater has an issue, it is due to the power source. 

Normally, if there is an issue with your gas water heater, it will be due to one of these parts:

  • Pilot Light.
  • Thermocouple. 
  • Gas Control Valve. 

When it comes to a gas system, you need to be careful. Therefore, it is safer to hire a professional when dealing with issues with your gas system for safety. 

Relighting A Pilot Light

It is actually quite common for the pilot light to go out. Normally, this is due to a disconnection between the gas, or it can just blow out. A plumber can relight your light for around $40 to $150, and should only take an hour. 

However, you may not want to pay that, and if you’re capable of doing it yourself, nor should you. That said, you should only try to relight the light yourself if you can follow the safety manual for your water heater. You must be careful when it comes to gas and water heaters, and you should always take all the precautions necessary. 

If you do manage to relight the pilot light, but you are still dealing with issues. Then the chances are there is another problem with your gas water heater, which will be one of the two elements we have mentioned below. 

Thermocouple

The thermocouple in a gas system detects if the pilot light is still alight. This then releases the gas control value. Therefore, it is a device for switching the gas on. 

However, if the thermocouple isn’t working, then it won’t be able to detect the light and turn the gas on. Thus, with a faulty thermocouple, you will never be able to relight the pilot light. 

If you try this repair yourself, make sure the gas is turned off before you start. The part will only cost around $20 to $30. Although, if you hire a plumber, then you may be looking to spend around $200 for this replacement. 

Gas Control Valve

When it comes to replacing a gas control valve, it’s one of the most expensive repairs for a gas water heater. This is also a difficult repair/replacement to do yourself, so you will be looking to hire a plumber for this task.

Also, if the valve is faulty, then you need to switch off the gas supply and hire someone who knows what they are doing and will be safe. 

Overall, the price for replacing a gas valve including labor can be anywhere between $300 to $500.

Considerations For Your Water Heater Maintenance

A water heater goes to the back of most people’s mind. Yet, you should keep it well maintained to reduce any issues or damages happening over time. As your water heater gets older, it will naturally run into more problems. However, there are a couple of considerations to help prolong the life and quality of your water heater.

Flush Your Water Heater

Your water heater is used daily, therefore, over time, it builds up a lot of sediment and debris that is naturally in the water. This will then affect your unit and stop it running efficiently. Noise is the first sign that there is too much sediment building up in your water heater.

To avoid this issue, you should drain your tank frequently. This is a really simple task, as the majority of tanks have a release valve. However, always check the manual for your unit. 

At a minimum, you should flush your water heater once a year. However, if you notice that the performance of the water heater decreases, Then you may want to flush your water heater more often. However, it is a real task to do, but you can hire a plumber to do the job if you aren’t comfortable doing the job.

Replacement Water Heater

In some cases, it doesn’t make sense to repair the water heater. Once your water heater passes 9 years old, you may just want to bite the bullet and get a new unit, as you’ll only end up paying out the nose for repair after repair.

There are a few things to consider when purchasing a new water heater. Nowadays, not all units are the same. You can choose between tank and tankless units, and the size. A heater that has a tank can store up to 40 and 50 gallons of water. While a tankless heater does not store any water. It just heats water on demand. 

On average, a tank system will cost around $1,100 when it comes to installation. Yet, a tankless system can cost around $3,500 to install. As a result, a system with a tank is much less expensive and quicker to install.

However, it isn’t as energy efficient, as it will heat water even when it isn’t needed. It also takes up a lot more space in your home as well. Finally, it is known that a tank-style uni doesn’t have as long a service life as a tankless system. 

It is quite favorable at the moment to have a tankless system. This is because it uses much less energy, and you even save around 25% on your water bill every year. You can be reassured that you will always have water when it is needed.

A tankless system takes up much less space and can also be put outside the home as well. They may have a longer service life, but it comes at a higher price point and longer installation time. 

It is your choice whether to go for a tank or tankless water heater system when it is time to replace your water heater unit. 

Conclusion

A water heater is an important part of any home. Without hot water, life can literally come to a standstill. If you are suffering from an issue with your water heater, then you need to fix it as soon as you can. Depending on the age and issue of the system, you may have to either replace or repair the unit. This can vary the price.

Some issues can be fixed by yourself which drops the price. However, sometimes you need a professional plumber to do the job right. We hope you have found this article informative about how to cut the costs on your water heater repairs.

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By Anthony Barnes

Anthony Barnes is the founder of Water Heater Hub and a second-generation plumber by profession. Before developing Water Heater Hub, Anthony Barnes was a full-time plumber, and he has undertaken a wide variety of projects over the decades. As a second-generation plumber, it was easy for Anthony to get used to the technicalities of all from a tender age