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Replacing vs. Repairing a Water Heater: the 3 Deciding Factors

Posted on October 24, 2013

So your water heater is ailing. Should you repair it and hope for the best, or should you bite the bullet and replace it? That’s going to depend on three things – how old the unit is, what condition it’s in, and what your budget looks like.

Standard storage-style water heaters have a lifespan of 10 to 13 years. If yours is near the end of its days, it makes financial sense to replace the water heater. If it’s that old, chances are good that it will need another repair in the not-too-distant future. New water heaters are up to 20 percent more efficient than older ones. So you’ll begin to see a payback as soon as the water-heating bills start to arrive.

Age is an obvious reason to replace a water heater. Younger water water heaters can also have problems, but generally a repair is preferable to replacement. Some things that can go wrong with a water heater include a failure of the heating element or burner, a circuit breaker failure, sticky valves and a thermostat issue. Most of these repairs can be done for under $300. This is a strong argument for repair. The only time repair doesn’t make sense is if a unit has had previous issues, or multiple problems have presented simultaneously.

Bigger issues include tank leaks. This is a sign that the interior of the tank has rusted. Patching the leak won’t provide a long-term fix, because it’s likely that another leak will develop. This problem usually necessitates a replacement.

Budget is only a concern if you have the option of a repair instead of a full replacement. In addition to replacing the unit, you may have to replace the heater mount, the drain pipes or pan, the supply pipes and the ventilation system, depending on local codes. These costs are in addition to what you’ll be spending on the purchase and installation of a unit.

For more tips on water heater repair and replacement, call the experts at Comfort Systems. We’ve been Wichita’s trusted name for HVAC and plumbing services since 1953.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Wichita, Kansas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).  For more information about water heaters and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.

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