Is the shower getting cold? Maybe it’s time to buy a new water heater

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Most people don’t think about their water heater until they’re running out of hot – or should I say cold – water.

Like most home appliances or systems, water heaters can and do break down. But since most water heaters are stored in basements or utility closets, they are often out of sight of homeowners. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t need attention and maintenance.

And for those homeowners who conclude they need it New water heater It can be a good idea – whether expected or not – to know what you should look out for, how long they will last, and how much you’ll end up paying.

When to replace a water heater

If you don’t know when to replace your water heater, experts say there are usually a few signs to look for. What are the most common signs? Water pooling at the bottom of the heater, and particles in the water when you turn on a faucet.

“If you see water pooling at the bottom and if you start to see some sediment,” says Brandon Thompson, owner of Circle T Handyman, a handyman service in Chicago, Illinois. While Thompson says sediment is more or less natural (though not ideal), water heaters can rust, causing water to leak and collect at the top or bottom.

“Slow leaks become big leaks, and big leaks become big problems,” said Scott Cohen, senior manager of channel marketing at Rheem, a maker of water heaters, boilers and HVAC equipment. “If the tank shows any signs of leaking or if it’s old and can’t keep up with demand — if it runs out of hot water during times of peak use — consider replacing it.”

In other words, if you’re losing hot water, this could be another sign that it’s time to consider a replacement.

In addition, you should take the water heater’s age into account. If the water heater is decades old, you should probably consider replacing it, even if it shows no signs of deterioration. Thompson said 20 years is probably “the maximum amount of time you want” with a water heater.

How long should a water heater last?

Thompson says water heaters can last over 20 years, but the typical lifespan of a water heater is mostly 10 years. But again, if you’re seeing signs that the tank is on its last legs, you should replace it before it breaks down.

“If it’s properly maintained, the average water heater can last 10 to 15 years,” Cohen said. “It will depend on maintenance, the water quality in your area, and you can also look at the warranty to get an idea of ​​the minimum lifespan.” But as a general rule, homeowners may want to plan for their water heater to last up to 10 years.

But keep in mind that there are many different types of water heaters, each with their own lifespan and maintenance requirements. Here are some of the most common types:

Storage, or tank-style water heaters

These are the most common type of water heater, and look like a large tank that might be hidden in your basement or closet. They last 10 to 15 years and are probably the most durable. The cheapest types of water heaters right out of the gate. They can also run on electricity or gas, but they aren’t as efficient. They can cost between $600 and $2,500, according to Engie’s data.

tankless water heater

Tankless water heaters are smaller than their tank-style counterparts, and more efficient because they use a coil system to heat the water. product And in most cases, the cost of installation starts at $1,000 and can go up to $3,500. They also run on electricity or gas, but consumers can reduce their utility bills due to improved efficiency. Tankless water heaters also typically have a longer lifespan, up to 20 years.

Heat pump or hybrid water heater

Heat pumps are on the rise, and heat pump technology is being combined with water heaters to create heat pump or hybrid water heaters. These are the most efficient types of water heaters, but also the most expensive — These can cost thousands to buy and install. But they’re also eligible for tax incentives (more on that below), which can help bring the price down, and they can last about 15 years.

“Heat pump water heaters are currently growing rapidly on the market,” Cohen said. “There are a number of incentives that can drive the price down.”

How much does it cost to replace a water heater?

The cost of replacing a water heater depends on a number of factors, but mostly, it will depend on the cost of the specific water heater you choose for replacement and the cost of labor in your area. Roughly speaking, though, the average cost of a new water heater is a little over $1,300, with a typical range between $881 and nearly $1,800, according to data from Engie.

The size and type of water heater you purchase will be the primary factors that determine the cost of the heater.

But even then, several factors come into play – whether you’re buying a new hybrid water heater or a standard water heater, and how much the plumber is charging for the job of replacing it, chief among them. You may also want to consider whether additional work will be required in your home. This could involve a bit of demolition to take out the old water heater or install the new one (and repairs later), or some hacking into your existing plumbing to properly install the new water heater. Also keep in mind that this may require a permit as well.

Another thing to think about is government incentives. For specific types of new water heaters, Cohen said, homeowners can take advantage of federal tax credits that can be up to $2,000 or 30% of the cost of the project. In fact, you may be able to get a new, more efficient water heater, and even get a tax rebate in some circumstances.

How to Keep Your Water Heater Running

Maintenance is important, and if you want your water heater to keep running after 10 years, some basic maintenance done once or twice a year can help keep things in order.

Cohen says doing a quick visual inspection of the connections and valves for leaks can be the easiest task. You can also flush the heater once a year, which can help get rid of sediment. “The whole process can take about a half hour each year,” he says.

However, both Thompson and Cohen say that for most homeowners, if anything seems amiss, there’s only one thing to do: call a plumber.

“If someone suspects there’s a problem with their water heater, there’s not a lot of work for a DIYer or homeowner that they can do themselves,” Thompson said. “It’s not something that requires you to clean out the trap in your sink.”

So what should you do if you’re concerned whether your water heater is ready or needs to be checked?

“Call a plumber,” Thompson said.

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