Diagram of water heater in home

The Ultimate Guide to Water Heater Repair and Replacement

When you wake up in the morning and can’t get warm water, it’s frustrating.

When you go to take a shower and there is no hot water at all, it’s downright maddening! Your home may seem like a cold, stark place without something as basic as hot water.

So what do you do when your water heater goes out?

This post will give you everything that you need to know about if you need a hot water heater repair or help to choose a new gas or electric water heater replacement so that your family never has to suffer from this problem again.

Natural Gas Water Heater
water heater in modern boiler room

What are the signs of needing to replace a water heater?

1. The water heater tank is leaking.

A tank that is leaking needs replacement immediately. Water heaters have pressurized tanks and, over time, they can begin to leak from the seams of their structure.

A new one will need installation if this happens because a water heater repair on the old unit may make it worse.

2. The pilot light keeps going out

A pilot light that goes out is not an uncommon problem.

The gas control valve can get dirty with sediment, the thermocouple may be broken or corroded internally and need replacement. There could also just simply be a leak of some sort in your unit causing it to lose pressure.

These are common issues, but can usually be repaired without costing too much.

However, if you do not have a pilot light or the pilot keeps going out every couple of days, it may mean that your thermocouple is getting old.

Hot and cold water pipes coming from water heater

3. You can’t get warm water from the tap or shower head

If your water is running cold and you can’t get it to heat up, the problem could be with one of two things: either a broken water heater or faucet.

A new temperature setting part may need replacement if this happens to the faucet the process shouldn’t cost too much as these parts are relatively inexpensive.

If a new part doesn’t fix the problem, it may mean that your water heater is malfunctioning. A plumber can troubleshoot to see if it’s repairable.

4. You have a strong smell of gas coming from the area of the water heater

If you have a strong smell of gas near your gas water heater, it means there is a gas leak or buildup of gas in your unit.

In addition to being an unpleasant odor, this can also be extremely dangerous as well. This further emphasizes how important it is for you to contact a professional plumber ASAP to perform water heater maintenance.

5. Your hot water isn’t as hot as it used to be, and you don’t know why 

If you notice that your hot water isn’t as hot as it used to be and there aren’t any signs of a water heater repair, this could mean one of two things. 1. Either the unit is suffering from an internal problem (such as sediment buildup), or 2. corrosion may be an issue. The heating element may also be damaged.

6. There’s rust on your water heater that’s been there for a while now

Rust on your water heater isn’t usually a big deal. However, if you’re noticing excess rust in places other than the bottom of your unit (such as around your faucets or bathtub) then it could mean that there is sediment build-up and corrosion happening inside.

All Hot Water Heaters – How They Work

All hot water heaters have cold water lines and hot water pipes that feed into and out of the units.

What is the difference between gas water heaters and an electric hot water heater?

Electric Tankless Water Heater Diagram

Electric Water Heaters

Electric water heaters are designed to be more efficient and are also usually smaller than gas units.

They can save you money on the energy bill, but they don’t provide as much hot water and take longer to heat up. This means that if there is a large load of dishes or someone else in your home wants to take a shower after you do, you may not get enough hot water.

Electric water heaters come with the added benefit of not using a gas burner. They can also come as tankless water heaters but they can be pricey.

Electric Water Heater Safety

Certain safety mechanisms are built into electric hot water heaters. These include a switch to your circuit breaker, an inlet temperature sensor, and a flow sensor to ensure they work properly.

Diagram of electric and gas water heaters

Electric Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless water heaters are great for small homes. They are more efficient and provide endless hot water, but can often be very expensive.

A tankless water heater works by providing a steady stream of hot water to the shower, tub, or faucet rather than maintaining an internal heater that heats up cold water into boiling water – which means it will take several minutes before you get hot water. Some of the latest models can heat up more quickly but they come at a price.

Gas or Propane Water Heaters

A gas or propane water heater is not as efficient, but they do have faster recovery rates. They also prepare more hot water at a single moment.

These types of gas heaters provide a larger supply of hot water (and are what most people use in their homes), though they can be more expensive to maintain or repair compared to their electric counterparts.

A gas water heater works by using a gas line to heat up the inside tank or heating coils. This provides a steady stream of boiling hot water from the water supply, so your showers are hot.

Gas tankless water heater diagram

Gas Unit Safety

Gas hot water heaters have a safety device built into them such as a temperature and pressure relief valve, a flammable vapor sensor, a gas supply shutoff valve, and a vent pipe.

The pressure relief valve is important to prevent too much pressure from building up inside the tank. If too much pressure builds up, the tank itself can rupture or explode.

The flammable vapor sensor ensures if there are any flammable gases outside the water heater it will not ignite.

The gas supply shutoff is used in the event there is a gas leak. It also is helpful when you have a water heater repair or replacement for a gas fuel source.

A vent pipe removes gas exhaust from your home and vents it outdoors through the draft hood.

Is it worth doing a water heater repair?

It depends on what is wrong with your water heater on whether or not it needs to be repaired or if you need a water heater replacement.

Sediment Build-Up

Sometimes there is a build-up of sediment in your storage tank that needs to be flushed through the drain valve by attaching a section of garden hose and taking the cold water out through a drain.

Anode Rod

To also help prevent corrosion you should have your plumber check the anode rod with a pipe wrench which will help keep the inside of your water heater tank from corroding.

The anode rod works by adding a small amount of metal to prevent the water from corroding your tank. It makes the water heater tank last longer.

Heating Elements

There are many types of water heater elements. In tankless water heaters, you have heat exchangers that heat the hot water. Some point of use electric water heaters have special electrified rods that work as heating elements.

For a water heater powered by gas, you have a burner system that heats the water. On electric tank water heaters, heating elements actually heat the water. Basically, the heating element is a special rod that slides horizontally into the tank and uses electricity to heat the water in the tank.

You need to have your malfunctioning water heater repaired by a professional plumber in order for it to work correctly again. If you try to repair your water heater yourself, you could risk your safety by causing a gas leak or maybe you could get electrified.

Diagram of water heater in home

How much is a new water heater?

If your existing water heater is beyond repair and is leaking, it’s time to replace the unit.

A new water heater can range in cost. There are so many factors involved in pricing out a water heater That is why we will send out a plumber to your property for free to give you an in-person verbal estimate.

When do I know when it’s time to replace my water heater?

If you have been dealing with more frequent water heater repairs, chances are it’s time for a water heater replacement.

You may have had to replace the elements on your electric unit more than once in the past few years, then it might be worth considering purchasing an entirely new unit.

Also, if your water heater is leaking from the tank it needs to be replaced.

How much does it cost to replace and install a water heater?

There are many factors to consider when figuring the cost of a water heater replacement that a plumber has to take into account. That is why we send a plumber out to your property to provide you with a free verbal estimate.

Factors to consider:

  • Water heater unit size. What jacket diameter size and height is your water heater. Water heater efficiency codes have changed and new water heaters are bigger by law will the new water heater fit?
  • Water heater size in gallons. Depending on your water fixture count is what determines what gallon water you require in your property to provide enough hot water and pressure to the hot water.
  • Properly venting combustion gases for water heater. Electric water heaters do not need venting. Gas water heaters must adhere to strict building codes to avoid humans being poisoned by gas combustion exhaust.

Accessible water heater for removal and new installation. Sometimes water heaters a recessed in hard-to-access areas. If we have to remove walls and other material this can add to the costs of replacement.

How old is too old?

If your system is over 15 years old and has never been serviced, you should be getting ready to replace your unit.

Temperature settings on a tankless water heater
hand rotate temperature adjuster of water heater.High temp

What about tankless?

If your family is growing or if you have long showers that require more water than your storage system can provide through its recovery rate, then it may be time to consider installing a tankless heater.

Tanks usually hold 40-75 gallons of water, while the smaller units only hold enough to provide for one or two showers.

A tankless system can provide limitless hot water and save you money because it is only on when hot water is being used. A tank water heater has to constantly be heating a tank.

Tankless water heater in 3 different sizes

Do you need a professional to replace a water heater?

Yes, you should always contact a plumber to replace your water heater. Our plumbers know the local building codes to install your water heater correctly. If you hire a handyman man you get what you pay for.

We have seen many customers hire a handyman man and they improperly vent the combustible exhaust air from the unit. This can cause detrimental health effects for humans. Hire us the plumbers that know how to do it the right way the first time.

To DIY or Not DIY

Many homeowners think a DIY installation of your hot water tank will save money over hiring out professionals but if you don’t have experience with these types of projects it may be difficult following local codes in addition to the installation itself.

Manufacturers’ instructions are also often incomplete and do not offer the experience that O’Bannon plumbers offer in terms of getting a system working properly.

Our plumbers can also set up your home correctly, the first time, like creating an access panel to provide easy access to a shut-off valve, drain, or other essential plumbing access points in addition to adjusting venting options like a direct vent water heater that brings air in from outside your home instead of using circulated air.

In addition, if you have an electrical problem as well you may need help from our team depending on the power source of your water heater. Manufacturers’ directions offer guidance but O’Bannon’s plumbers offer peace of mind.

However, if you have a gas heater that is leaking or causing damage to flooring or walls, then call out a professional plumber for water heater replacement.

O'Bannon Plumbing and Sewer Truck Coming to Install a Water Heater

The O’Bannon Licensed Plumber Difference

An O’Bannon licensed plumber will have experience with hot water heater repair or replacement and can ensure your unit is installed to local code.

Our plumber will also have experience working with your gas company in the event you have a gas leak.

Our trucks carry all of the necessary replacement parts needed such as fittings, installation kits, an upper thermostat, etc. so there shouldn’t be any need to place a special order.

How Long Does Water Heater Installation Take?

Water heater installations can take as little as two hours to half a day, depending on your needs. We also offer free haul-away of your old water heater system.

Our installation costs are quite reasonable and we are sure that you will be 100% satisfied with our work. We guarantee it!

Your Next Step

We know that O’Bannon Plumbing & Sewer offers a variety of water heaters for your needs.

Whether you need an electric water heater, gas water heater, or tankless, we have the right products at the right prices to suit any budget.

If you are looking for a company with expertise in plumbing repair and replacement services as well as other plumbing services, contact us today (773) 862-5112!

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