Water Heater Repair and Replacement Costs
Whether you have a gas or electric water heater, you’ll know the importance it plays in your family’s happiness and well-being. Being able to take a warm shower on a cold morning is something you probably take for granted – right up until the moment that the heater breaks.
When the worst does happen, it’s time to either repair or replace the system. The natural instinct may be to repair, but a replacement may be a smarter financial decision. This guide will walk you through all of the specific costs involved in repairing and replacing a water heater. This will give you the ability to make an informed decision when the time comes to repair or replace.
THE OVERALL COST
The average cost to repair a water heater is $570, with the average range being $200 to $1,000. In extreme circumstances, you can pay as little as $100, and as much as $1,500, although generally, the price falls around the $500 range.
WHEN TO REPAIR AND WHEN TO REPLACE
The decision of when to repair and when to replace is a crucial one. In many cases, the cost of a total replacement is only slightly higher than the cost of repair.
Since the average price for repair is $200 to $1,000 and the average cost of a water heater is between $650 and $1,600 you should think seriously about a new water heater if your repair costs are higher than $700.
Most plumbers charge between $45 and $150 per hour, and many have minimum call-out charges of $75 to $250.
Although there are differences between gas and electric water heaters, there are some key features that are common to both. Some of these repairs you can complete yourself, although if you are in any doubt, hire a professional.
LOW WATER LEVEL
If you have a boiler system, one of the most common problems you’ll face is when the water level drops too low and therefore the pressure goes below the required level.
If this happens, you can add more water yourself, which means there is no cost to you.
If your hot water heater is leaking, there are several potential causes. Part of the price you pay a professional will be in diagnosing the leak – so if you can find the source yourself, you will save money.
However, the cost of repairing a leak can be up to $1,000.
PRESSURE RELIEF VALVE
Replacing a pressure relief valve yourself will cost $20 in parts, whereas calling a professional in will cost around $200. Doing so will ensure that you have the correct diagnosis, and you don’t have a more serious problem with your system.
However, removing and replacing the pressure valve is a safe project to do yourself.
The anode rod is inside your water heater and prevents the inside from corroding over the course of time.
You should replace the anode rod every five years. If you choose to do this yourself, a new anode rod will cost between $20 and $50.
A dip tube is what takes cold water from the top of your tank to the bottom, where it can be heated. If your dip tube is broken, then your water won’t be as hot as it can be.
As with the anode rod, you can replace this yourself – the tube itself costs $10. Hiring a professional to do it will cost around $150.
Flushing out your tank will remove sediment and help it to run more efficiently. You should aim to do this around once every year.
Although it will cost around $200 for a professional to do it, it will save you money on heating water, so you may even save money by doing it.
GAS WATER HEATER REPAIRS
Gas water heaters have a number of features that differ from those in an electric heater. If you do have a problem with a gas heater, it’s usually safer to call in a professional. Where electric heaters tend to be relatively simple – gas heaters are trickier.
If you hire a contractor to repair your gas heater, you can expect to spend between $150 and $500.
The pilot light is the ignition point for a gas burner; it is the most common problem in a gas water heater. In most cases, the problem with the pilot light is that it simply won’t light.
If this is the case, then you can light it yourself. If you do end up calling in a contractor, you will spend $45 to $150 (effectively a minimum call-out charge).
A thermocouple is what cuts the gas if the pilot light fails. If the thermocouple breaks, it will shut off the gas to the heater and even if you repair the pilot light, the heater will still not work. You can replace the thermocouple yourself for around $20. If you hire a contractor to do the work, it will cost $45 to $150.
A contractor fixing the thermocouple and the pilot light will usually be able to replace both in one hour, meaning it will be $45 to $150 for both.
The gas valve is what controls the flow of gas into the heater. If there is a problem with the valve, the entire unit can become dangerous very quickly. It is therefore recommended that you hire a professional to undertake this work.
It will cost $300 to $500 for a contractor to replace the valve (again, there is an economy of scale if they also need to fix the pilot light or thermocouple).
The thermostat is what regulates the temperature of the heater and is connected to the valve. A contractor replacing the valve may also have to replace the thermostat, which will cost around $80.
ELECTRIC WATER HEATER REPAIRS
Electric water heaters are much simpler than gas heaters. In fact, some electric water heaters you can install yourself without too much difficulty. If you do require a professional, you will spend between $620 and $1,020.
The heater element requires a high level of voltage in order to be able to get the water to the required temperature. It, therefore, can be dangerous to handle, and so it’s recommended that you don’t repair a heater element yourself unless you are absolutely sure in your ability to do the job safely.
If you are not confident, then hiring a contractor to do the work will be between $200 and $300.
If you want to check that the heater element is working, you can buy a heater element tester for $10 from a hardware store.
The thermostat is an important device within an electric heater – it shuts off the element when the water reaches the desired temperature and turns it back on when the water temperature drops. It, therefore, is a crucial part of the electric heater, both in terms of core function, as well as safety.
If you want to replace it yourself, you can expect to spend $20 on the parts for a new thermostat. If you hire a contractor to do the work, it will cost between $150 and $200.
TRIPPED BREAKER / BLOWN FUSE
Most of the time, a broken fuse or a tripped breaker will be something you can address yourself without the need for professional help. If the fuse breaks, you can replace it yourself with little difficulty, although you need to be sure you’re replacing it with an equivalent fuse.
Fuses cost less than a dollar individually, although if you buy a box of fuses in bulk, it will cost around $5 from a hardware store. For a breaker, you will usually pay between $5 and $15.
PERMIT: If you decide to totally replace, rather than repair, you will need to get a permit for your new system. You can expect to pay somewhere between $50 and $500 for this. If you’re unsure how to do this, your plumber or contractor can do this for you and add your fee to the total cost of the project.
CONVERSION: One final option is to convert a gas model into an electric water heater. To do this, you will pay $200 to $500. You will need a professional for this project because of the difficulties and potential dangers in working with gas.
The average water heater lasts 10-15 years before it requires replacement.
Once you start to get close to that 10-year mark, a replacement becomes an ever more viable option
As technology develops, newer models become cheaper to run, so you can subtract the money saved in utility bills to the cost of replacement. This equation becomes even easier if you are faced with a hefty repair charge. Be sure to get quotes from any contractors who are about to undertake repairs. That way, you can use the guide above to shape your decision-making.