Water Heater Repair Vs. Replacement
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One of the questions we get on a regular basis when we are onsite for a water heater repair concerns whether we will be repairing the water heater or if it will need replacing. However, it’s not so simple since we need to look at a number of factors before we can decide what may need to be done. First, we need to know a little bit about the backstory of the water heater including: How old is the water heater; what condition the water heater is in and what is the current issue that you’re having with the water heater?
There are exceptions, but generally if a storage-type water heater is over 10 years old, regardless of what the problem may be, we will most likely recommend replacement. Modern water heaters typically last around 8-10 years depending on the usage and water quality. So anything over 10 years old will likely find us recommending replacing the water heater as opposed to throwing money at a water heater that may not last much longer. On a side note, there are certain water heater brands we may recommend replacing when the tank is less than 10 years of age. This is often due to either manufacturer’s defects or the tanks being recalled.
One of the reasons that water heaters fail within ten years has to do with the anode rod, which is inside every gas storage-type water heater suspended within the tank. This also known as a sacrificial anode rod and is designed to attract the corrosive minerals in the water. This helps to prevent the corrosive minerals from eating away at the tank itself. However, these minerals will literally eat away at the anode rod until it’s completely dissolved. When the anode rod is gone, the minerals begin corroding the tank itself and this will eventually cause it to leak. These anode rods typically last about 4 to 6 years and there was a time when you could replace the anode rod fairly easily to extend the life of the water heater. Now, however, they are factory sealed by the manufacturer, thus making it harder to extend the life of your water heater.
So now let’s go over two scenarios that we see that will help you understand how we decide whether to repair or replace a water heater:
Scenario 1: THE WATER HEATER IS LEAKING
The first thing we’ll try to determine is where the leak is originating. Is it coming from the top or the bottom of the water heater? If there’s water below the water heater but no signs of moisture above the water heater, the tank itself is most likely leaking and will likely need to be replaced. If you are able to determine the water is originating above or on top of the water heater, it may be a plumbing leak or one of the peripheral components leaking and that may be repairable. Any leaks should be addressed immediately regardless of the severity of the leak. Once a leak starts, there is no telling how long it will take to go from a minor leak to a major leak and begin causing damage.
Scenario 2: THE WATER HEATER IS NOT PRODUCING ANY HOT WATER
This may be a repairable situation so long as the tank is in good condition and not too old. This tells us at least one of the components has failed or is about to fail. It might be the pilot assembly, the gas control, burner assembly, one of the safety components, or a clogged air intake screen. All of these may be repairable situations.
Bottom line for most situations: If we can determine the tank itself is leaking, it will probably need to be replaced. If there’s a leak originating anywhere other than the tank itself, it may be repairable. If the water heater is not producing hot water, is in good condition and not too old, it may be repairable as well.
If you have any questions about the information in this blog or you have a question about your water heater in general, just call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-866-WHO-QUICK. You can also learn more about your water heater and how to spot any potential problems – and even learn some basic maintenance – by looking at our Common Problems section at the bottom of our website. There are a lot of instructional blogs and videos covering a whole host of issues and concerns. We even have a video helping you to figure out the age of your water heater, which can give you a good idea about whether it can be repaired or should be replaced (you can watch it by clicking here). If it’s a water heater issue, we have seen it and we believe that the more people know about using and maintaining their water heater, the better off they are.