Plumbing Tips from an Avid DIY-er

Is It Worth Repairing Your Water Heater?

Water heaters don't last forever. If you get 10–12 years out of yours, then you've done pretty well. But when your water heater is younger than this and it starts malfunctioning, you may wonder whether it's a good idea to replace it, or whether you should just have it repaired. Here are a few questions to ask yourself — and quandaries to investigate — as you make the decision.

How much does a new unit of your size cost?

How large of a hot water heater you have and need plays a role in determining whether you should replace or repair. Smaller, 50-gallon units, which are usually used for homes with 2–3 residents, only cost an average of $1200 to replace (including installation). Larger, 75-gallon tanks, which are the size you need for a family of 4 or more, come at a steeper average price of $1900. If you don't have that kind of money in the bank, you might lean towards repairs.

Is your current unit pretty efficient?

These days, hot water heaters are generally very efficient. But even just a few years ago when your current unit was made, efficiency was more variable. If your hot water heater is already pretty efficient, then it may be worth repairing. On the other hand, if you have a less efficient unit, then perhaps this malfunction has presented you with a convenient opportunity to upgrade to a more efficient product!

Is the problem likely to reoccur after you make the repairs?

To get a better idea of the answer to this question, you'll need to talk to your hot water heater repair technician. Some problems, like leakiness through a weak spot in the tank wall, are likely to happen again and again, even if the technician makes the repairs. Others, like valve issues, can be resolved easily by replacing the valve, and then the chance of them recurring is very low. If you're dealing with a problem that's likely to reappear again and again, then repair costs will add up, and you might be better off replacing the unit. On the other hand, if you can spend $50 or $100 replacing the valve and know you won't have trouble with it again, then repair is a good choice.

Sometimes you're better off replacing, and sometimes repairing is worthwhile. Few situations are cut-and-dry, so weigh your options and the advice above as you decide.