It is common to take a hot water tank for granted until you’re faced with the specter of rinsing off your shampoo with ice-cold water.

Water heaters tend to begin failing after 8 to 10 years on the job. If a heater fails at that age, the best option may be quite apparent. However, what if your water heater fails at just 4 years of age?

How to Assess Which Will Be More Cost-Effective

The Energy-Star water heater models on the market today are up to 20% more energy-efficient than the models that were on the market 10 years ago. In fact, over the life of the unit, a newer energy-star rated model can save you up to $700 in energy costs.

Additionally, today’s water heaters, when carrying the WaterSense label, are 20% more water-efficient than standard models, also performing as well or better than them.

For this reason, replacing say a 7-year-old model with a new one may be more cost-effective than trying to repair it.

How Water Heaters Work

They work by heating cold water with either an electric element or a gas burner. A thermostat keeps the water temperature between 120 and 140° Fahrenheit. Pressure in the tank builds as the water gets hot. When you turn on a faucet in your home, pressure sends hot water out of the faucet.

Water Heater Anatomy

Water heaters are relatively simple appliances; because they have few moving parts, the number of things that can break is relatively short.

Malfunctions that Are an Easy Fix

  • A broken thermostat
  • A faulty element or burner
  • A tripped circuit breaker for electric heater
  • A pilot light that goes out on a gas heater

Repairing any of these elements will be quite cost-effective if your tank is less than 5 or 6 years old.

When to Repair a Heater

If your current heater is still under warranty, then the cost of repairs should be covered by the manufacturer.

If the warranty is expired, you’ll need to assess before deciding whether it’s worthwhile to repair a broken heater.

A rule of thumb is to fix a heater if: it’s just a few years old (and) the repairs will cost less than 50% of the price of a new appliance

When to Replace a Tank

If a water heater has a serious leak, regardless of its age, it will most likely need replacement. Tanks can corrode and spring leaks from the interaction of steel and minerals in the water. Repairing a leaking heater is not a minor fix because the problem often originates from an internal failure.

Cost-Benefit of Newer Models

The price of buying and installing a new heater is usually between $500 and $1,500. New models are both significantly more energy-efficient and less apt to fail from corrosion. In addition, if you choose certain types of heaters, such as tankless, heat pump, or solar, you may be eligible for federal tax credits.

How to Preserve its Lifespan

Once your heater is repaired or installed, you can extend its life with regular maintenance.

Flush the tank once a year to rid it of sediment. Not only will this help your heater last longer, but it can also make it more energy-efficient.
Check the anode rod (a.k.a. sacrificial rod) every three years. This is an aluminum or magnesium probe inside the tank that collects corrosive elements. It needs to be replaced when it gets caked or eaten away. A new one is usually just about $30.

Water Heater Repair & Installation Services in Portland, OR

Apollo Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning have years of experience repairing water heaters, and we have a wide inventory of new water heaters available, should you choose to go that route. Whether you already know exactly what you need or would like some advice in choosing the perfect option, our expert plumbers can help. Give us a call today!

Meet the Author
Brandon Bird
Brandon Bird

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