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The national average cost to repair a water heater is $526. The typical range for repairs is $206 and $846, though homeowners have spent as little as $100 and as much as $1,300.
There is nothing worse than waking up on a frigid winter morning to a cold shower because the water heater that is on the fritz, or worse, has completely died! Conventional water heaters are relatively simple and straightforward in the way that they operate, so there are only a few things that can malfunction. Cold water enters the tank and is heated by an electric element or gas burner. As the water heats, pressure builds inside the tank. When you turn on a tap, pressure sends hot water out of the faucet. Problems could be as simple as a pilot light that has gone out, a circuit breaker that has tripped, or a thermostat that is broken. The average thermostat replacement cost is between $100-$300. Most other repairs are equally affordable.
There are two main types: gas and electric. A gas unit works by way of a gas flame while an electric one works using electric elements, or coils. The two types have similar life spans and repair costs. A gas one will cost more to install and replace, though it won?t use as much energy over time as an electric unit. Here are a few things to consider when faced with the cost of repairing or replacing your water heater.
On This Page:
Gas Heater Repairs
Gas Control Valve
Fixing Hot Water Heater
Replacing Other Elements
Pressure Relief Valve
Replace Water Heater
Gas Water Heater Repairs
Gas models will have issues that are unique to their power source. The three most frequent problems are with the pilot light, the thermocouple, and the gas control valve. To figure out the root of your problem, a professional will need to troubleshoot each element as they go. Plumbers charge $45-$150 per hour and the most common issues with gas units cost between $150-$500 to fix.Some of these repairs can be done without a professional, but only if you follow instructions and secure your gas line. Before you relight a pilot light or perform repairs on your own, make sure that you are comfortable working with gas and that there aren?t strong gas smells around your unit. If there is a strong gas odor, call a professional and address the problem as soon as possible.
Pilot Light Assessment and Reignition – $45-$150 per hour
One of the most common problems with gas units is the pilot light going out. There may be no need for repairs, if this is the case. It could be that it was blown out or that your unit temporarily lost its gas connection. If you follow safe procedures, you can relight this component on your own. This would save you a service call fee, which could range from $45-$150 per hour. If it doesn?t light, you could have thermocouple or valve issues.
Thermocouple Replacement – $20-$150
Calling a professional plumber to install a new thermocouple should only be up to $150. If you do the work yourself, you will only pay the price of the part which is about $20.
The thermocouple is responsible for sensing that the pilot light is lit and triggering the gas control valve to continue providing gas. When this part fails, it won?t be able to accurately sense the presence of the flame and the control valve will stop releasing gas. As a result, you will not be able to relight the pilot or even the burner. Replacement is the only option, when your thermocouple stops working.
If you are considering this as a DIY job, be sure to shut off your gas connection and let the water cool before working with the unit.
Gas Control Valve Replacement – $300-$500
If your pilot light and thermocouple are in good shape, it may be that you need a new gas control valve. When this part has gone bad, replacing it is usually a more efficient and cost-effective option than repair. The control valve is responsible for releasing gas and turning it off when the pilot light is out. A bad valve can render your entire unit unsafe. A professional will diagnose this problem if your burner or pilot light won?t light or stay lit, and after issues with the thermocouple and pilot light themselves have been ruled out.
Installing New Gas Thermostat – $80
The thermostat is part of the valve unit and, therefore, fixing issues with it will involve replacing or repairing the entire valve. One common sign of a faulty thermostat is a burner that fails to ignite. A valve unit costs an average of $80.
Electric Water Heater Repairs
Tripped breakers and bad heating elements are the most common issues when it comes to these units. A tripped breaker can be resolved without the help of an electrician. If a breaker isn?t your issue, you?ll want to test both the thermostats and their heating elements.
Heater Element Replacement – $200-$300
Keep in mind that this equipment receives a very high voltage of electricity and can be very hazardous to work with. You must be sure to shut off the electricity to your unit before testing and repairing on your own.
The typical professional charge to repair your heating elements is $200-$300. There are two of these in each unit, one at the top and one at the bottom. The top element controls the bottom element and, if it goes bad, your unit won?t be able to generate hot water. You can test the function of these elements with continuity testers, which cost up to $10 at hardware stores.
Thermostat Replacement – $150-$200
Hiring a professional to remove a thermostat and install a new one averages $150-$200. On their own, the parts cost up to $20. Each heating element is connected to its own thermostat. If you or your plumber find that the elements are in working condition, your problem is likely one or two malfunctioning thermostats. These can be replaced easily and without removing the elements themselves.
Hot Water Heater Repairs
Your home may be outfitted with a hot water heater, or boiler, instead of the conventional gas or electric model. Boiler repairs cost an average of $350 and have similar issues to conventional systems. Most likely, you have an indirect system that allows your gas or electric boiler to also heat the water in your home. These systems are more efficient and are considered a ?green? solution. The following are common issues and repairs for these units.
Tripped breaker or blown fuse (electric) – $20 per fuse – Most homeowners can diagnose a tripped breaker or damaged fuse on their own by checking the fuse box.
Pilot light out (gas) – $45-$150 per hour for repairs – As with conventional gas systems, plumbers find that the pilot light is one of the most frequent culprits. You can often diagnose this yourself but, if you aren’t sure or you are uncomfortable, it is worth calling a professional with experience handling gas.
Thermostat replacement ? $50-$100 per hour of labor – The thermostat which controls the temperature in these systems is also known as an Aquastat ($70-$150). These are very easy to access and replace. Just make sure to turn the breaker off before you begin.
Low water level ? One of the top issues with boiler systems is that the water level in the expansion tank is low. The proper fill is halfway with a pressure of 12-15 psi. Homeowners can fill the expansion tank themselves.
Leaking ? up to $1,000 for fixes – Most leaks should be handled by a professional. They could be caused by a malfunctioning pump, a bad seal, sediment, faulty valves, or compromised pipe connections.
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Replacing Other Heating Elements
Replacement might not be as simple as hooking up the new system. Many local building codes now require you upgrade other items like, the water heater mount, venting system, supply pipes, and the drain pan under the heater. Ask your installer to address these issues before installation, so you don’t have any surprises!
Pressure Relief Valve – $20-$200
A replacement valve costs around $20 and calling in a professional could bring your cost up to $200. This isn?t a steep cost to ensure proper diagnosis and installation. The pressure relief valve is there as a safety measure in case the pressure inside the tank gets too high. If moisture is seeping out of this valve at a ?leaking? rate, there are several potential problems. You may have sediment built up in the valve, the pressure in your tank may be too high, or you may need a new part entirely.
Removing this valve to install a new one is one of the safer repairs to attempt on your own. If you plan to diagnose this yourself, be sure to turn off your unit, turn off the gas (if applicable) and let the water cool before you inspect the valve.
Anode Rod – $20-$50
Plumbers suggest getting a new anode rod every five years. The rod itself is only $20-$50 and, with proper instructions and precautions, you can perform this maintenance on your own. The anode rod keeps the inside of your tank from corroding. It does so by drawing the corrosion to itself. If your rod has corroded extensively, your water will likely be a rusty color and may even have an odor and/or taste.
If you replace the anode rod before the corrosion enters the interior of your tank, you can extend the life of your water heater. If the interior of your tank is severely corroded, you?ll want to consider replacing it entirely.
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Dip Tube – $10-$150
Dip tubes are usually $10. Replacing them professionally averages $150. Both electric and gas styles have these elements, which carry cold water from the top of your tank to the bottom. When your dip tube is disintegrated or broken off in the tank, your water will not get very hot.
Flush/Clean the Tank – $200
A plumber can refresh your tank for up to $200. Whether you repair or replace, these systems will perform better and last longer if you flush the tank once a year to remove sediment. Your unit will operate more efficiently, saving you money. This is true for both gas and electric systems.
One sure sign that you need to flush the tank is noise, which is caused by the sediment on the bottom. This sediment could cause a heating element to go bad, leaks, or unit failure.
When to Repair & When to Replace
Getting a new unit all-together will be $750-$1,300. A conventional storage tank water heater has a life of about 10-15 years, so if your unit is in that age range, it may be worth footing the cost to replace a water heater it rather than constantly fixing problems as they arise with age. However, if your water heater is only a few years old, repair may be the best way to go.
Over time, water minerals react with steel, corroding tanks. When it springs a leak, repair isn’t an option. Leaks from valves, pipes, and vents may simply require tightening and cleaning. If the leak is coming directly from the heater and pooling under it, you likely have serious damage to the tank itself, which cannot be remedied. Hire an experienced plumber if you think that this is the solution for you. They will help you to find the right equipment for your home and their skills will lend to an accurate and timely installation.
Will a new system lower my bills?
A professional will likely have great recommendations to improve your home?s efficiency. Today’s high-efficiency heaters can warm your water better and faster and save money on your energy bills. Manufacturers now inject foam insulation between the tank and its outer shell, resulting in higher heat retention. New glass liners make tanks less prone to corrosion.
You may need to pay to install a new conventional storage unit. But on the bright side, homeowners experience up to a 20% decrease in their bills with a more efficient system. If you do end up having to pay for a new water heater it may be more cost effective than your old one ever was.