You don’t have the luxury of time when a water heater breaks. With
that first burst of cold water in the shower, it’s decision time:
repair or upgrade? Fortunately, you don’t need to decide on your
own. Follow this guide for help choosing whether to patch up your old
unit or move on to a better model.
What’s the Damage?
Most water heater failures are relatively minor and easy to diagnose. If
your unit quits, start small. First, look to see if the pilot light has
blown out. Simply relighting it could do the trick. If your unit is electric,
it’s possible that something as simple as a tripped circuit breaker
is the culprit. Also, check for broken thermostats, stuck valves, and
especially for any cracks or breaks in the water tank. If your tank has
cracked open and there’s a pool of water on your floor, you really
don’t have much of a choice—it’s replacement time.
How Old Is Your Water Heater?
Regardless of whether your water heater can be fixed, if it’s too
old it may not even be worth keeping around. Old water heaters eat up
energy, while new high-efficiency units consume anywhere from 10 to 50
percent less than standard models. Solar water heaters and
geothermal heat pumps are even better, and may even come with the added bonus of federal tax credits.
So when is it a good time to change your unit? The normal life expectancy
of a water heater is anywhere from 10 to 13 years, so if your unit is
approaching this milestone, consider upgrading to a newer model. An initial
investment of $500 to $2000 could end up saving you hundreds of dollars
more over the life of your water heater.
Do You Have a Maintenance Plan?
Water heaters stand the test of time a lot better if they’re well
looked after. If you own a conventional tank water heater, be sure to
rinse out sediment at least once a year. In addition to preventing corrosion, ridding your
tank of sediment buildup will boost its efficiency and free up more space
for extra-long hot showers. Scheduling annual checkups with a qualified
technician will give you yet another guarantee against unwelcome pools
of water on your basement floor.