Repair & Replacement
Every morning when you turn on the shower, your hot water heater is there for you. When you start the dishwasher, your water heater is working hard. And on Saturday when you do laundry, your water heater has you covered. Although we rarely think about them, water heaters are essential parts of our homes and – quite frankly – our lives.
When we do need to think about water heaters, it’s because something happened to mess up our day. Nobody thinks about a water heater on a good day, either. It’s always a bad one. A cold, wet, bad day.
We wrote this page to help homeowners who have water heater problems, but don’t know where to start. You’ll find basic information about how water heaters work, understand the differences between tankless water heaters and solar water heaters, and learn how to talk to your contractor and make a purchase decision.
Water Heater Basics
Water heater companies make several types of water heaters available. The differences are important. Don’t let slick marketing campaigns get you confused. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all water heater. Some water heaters will be more effective and efficient for your situation than others.
Water Heater Brands
While there are a large number of brands that sell or provide water heaters, there are a few brands that appear often. The most common water heater brands specialize in selling to wholesalers and installers. Because of their good reputations and their relationships with contractors, these few brands are installed in the majority of homes across the U.S. These brands, such as AO Smith or Bradford White, discourage DIY installations.
Water Heater Replacement
Costs & Considerations
You’ve determined which type of water heater will fit your needs, and you’ve identified a few options from different brands. Now it’s time to create a budget. Here are the main factors that will affect the cost of your new water heater.
Storage tank water heaters are the lowest price, while solar water heaters are the most expensive to purchase and install. The long-term costs of each type varies depending on the application. To learn more, read about different types of water heaters.
It’s important to get a water heater that can meet your hot water needs. Smaller isn’t always cheaper; some sizes are more available than others, so compare prices before you settle on a size.
The EF (or energy factor) rating, assigned by the US Department of Energy, rates the energy efficiency of the water heater. When comparing EF Ratings, higher numbers are better. The lowest possible EF Rating is 1.
As with any other shopping choice, take into consideration the price of the water heater. Ask about manufacturer special offers, federal or local rebates, or other incentives specific to your water heater. Keep in mind, though, that long-term energy savings may justify paying a higher price for a more efficient water heater.
Consumer Reports recommends buying the longest warranty you can find for your needs. Heaters with long warranties tend to be higher quality materials and construction, so they’re worth paying a little extra.
Water Heater Parts
Depending on when your water heater was installed, it may be wise to replace some of the parts associated with your water heating system.
Rebates & Incentives
Certain energy-saving water heaters are eligible for government-funded discounts or manufacturer incentives, which can reduce or even compensate you for the cost of purchasing and installing a water heater.
Direct Plumbing Solutions maintains a list of current water heater rebates and incentives, which you can use to make a purchasing decision. Not all rebates apply to everyone, but you may find something that could save you money!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: I’ve heard that switching to tankless water heater can save a lot of energy. Is that true?
A: Yes… partially. Tankless water heaters can work well in certain situations, but that doesn’t mean they work well for everyone. Tankless water heaters perform best for small households or in single-use applications.
Q: What’s the best water heater brand?
A: Although some brands are better than others, there is no one clear best water heater brand. It’s best to select a water heater based on the durability and specifications of your household. Learn more about water heater brands in Section 1.
Have a question about water heaters? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get you an answer!
Why not replace my own water heater?
Q: I’ve been told it’s expensive to hire a professional plumber for my water heater installation. Why not pick one up from Home Depot and DIY it?
A: Because you value your safety and the safety of those around you. Storage tank water heaters can build up immense pressure, leading to a highly dangerous explosion. If you’re skeptical, watch the MythBusters* episode about the exploding water heater. Proper installation is crucial to avoiding these types of disasters, as well as the more common water damage from incorrectly installed supply lines and drainage.
There are certainly some plumbing projects you can do yourself, but water heater repair is not one of them.
*We’re not affiliated with MythBusters, obviously. All trademarks property of their respective owners.