A water heater is an essential fixture for any household. However, it can be distressing when your water heater breaks down. Having to go without hot water for days is something that no one wants. When it comes to dealing with your water heater, a plumber will recommend the best options, such as water heater repair or total replacement. In the end, the right choice will depend on whether or not the cost is worth the repair. 

In this article, we’ll go over some of the signs to look for when you’re deciding on a repair vs replace alternative. 

The Lifespan

One of the first things you should consider is the age of the water heater. On average, water heaters will last you anywhere from ten to fifteen years. On the other hand, tankless water heaters will last you a bit longer ranging from 15 and up to 20 years in age. You can also take into the account the frequency of repairs. 

If you need water heater repairs on a consistent basis, you’re better off investing in a new one. Finding the age of the water heater is simple. Most water heaters have the manufacture date on the water heater usually to the right of the model and serial number. Some brands have the date hidden in the serial number. You can do an online search to find the dates on these water heaters.   

Rusty Water

Water heaters are made from strong steel materials. However, rust is one of the effects that can compromise the steel material along with the way your water heater works. When it comes to a rusted water heater, it is always best to replace it. Even though you may be able to keep your water heater in the beginning stages, with time, leaks will develop.

You will know your water heater is rusting out because you’ll notice rust tinted water when you use hot water. One sure way to find out if your water heater tank is rusting is to drain off a gallon or two of water from the drain at the bottom of the tank. Connect a garden hose to the drain valve, open the drain valve and fill a bucket with water. If it’s rusty, you need to replace the water heater.

Which Water Heater Components Can Be Replaced?

  1. There is an inlet fitting where cold water enters the water heater and an outlet where heater water is distributed to the various fixtures in your plumbing system.
  2. There is a temperature and pressure relief valve usually located on the side near the top, or on the top of the water heater.
  3. Last, there is the drain valve.

Water heaters can rust and leak at any of these connections.

Water heaters can also develop leaks on the tank itself and you will never see these leaks because the tank is covered with insulation and a metal jacket, which is the outside of the water heater.  Once your water heater begins to leak, it cannot be repaired. It must be replaced.


As the water heater ages, you will notice an array of strange noises coming from the tank. These noises can come in the form of hissing sounds, popping sounds and loud rumbles. These sounds indicate sediment build up on the bottom of the tank. Other symptoms of sediment are running out of hot water faster than usual. The way to prevent sediment buildup is to drain 5 to 10 gallons of water from the tank every six months to a year. You want to keep sediment from building up in the tank because it makes your water heater work harder to heat water and is therefore less efficient.

Tankless Water Heaters 

Tankless water heaters, no matter what brand, require yearly documented maintenance to keep from voiding the warranty. The water travels through a heat exchanger and the pipes must be flushed with a cleaning solution yearly to keep minerals from building up on the inside of the pipes. It takes about an hour to clean out the mineral deposits from a tankless water heater. 

Is it Possible to Repair Tankless Water Heaters?

If your tankless water heater quits working, the display panel will give you codes for what the problem is. You can look up these codes in your owner’s manual and follow the troubleshooting suggestions. You can also call the technical support phone number listed in your owner’s manual, or look it up online. 

 There are a lot of technical parts on a tankless water heater so most people will want to hire a professional to service and replace parts when necessary.  As with traditional tank water heaters, you should consider replacing the tankless system if there is considerable mineral buildup because of lack of maintenance or if the system is more than 15 years old.

Water not Heating

Finally, whether you have a gas, electric or tankless water heater, if you find yourself with no hot water, but the water heater is not leaking, it probably only needs a few parts to get it working again.

Whether to spend money on water heater repair or consider replacing really depends on how old the water heater is. If the water heater is over 15 years old, it would be money well spent to go ahead and replace it. And remember, the better you maintain your water heater, the longer it will last. 

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