When your hot water isn’t working the first step is to determine if you need a new water heater or if the current unit can be repaired. A plumber can diagnose the problem and assess if the unit can be repaired.
A typical repair costs $500, but if the water heater is beyond repair and you need a new one, then expect to pay around $1,100 for the installation. Continue reading to learn the factors that impact the price.
Water Heater Repair Costs
According to technicians and inspectors at the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, the typical water heater has a ten-year lifespan. They go on to caution lifespans depend on several factors: “These factors include correct installation, usage volume, construction quality, and maintenance.”
Since the national average for repair is nearly half that of a new one, about $500, it pays to carefully troubleshoot the symptoms before replacement. The symptoms to look at depend on whether it is electric or gas.
Troubleshoot an Electric Heater
The first thing you should check is if the unit is plugged in and the circuit breaker or fuses are working. If the unit has power, take these steps:
- Turn the thermostat up. The default setting is 140°F, but the recommended setting is 120°F, so anywhere in there should be fine. Also, you can do a reset by turning it all the way down and then turn it back to 120-140°F.
- Flush the tank to remove any sediment.
- Insulate the hot water pipe coming out of the heater.
Call a plumber if none of these avenues work. A plumber might suggest replacing the thermostat or heating element. The thermostat will cost about $120, and the heating element is about $200.
Troubleshoot a Gas Heater
Troubleshooting a gas heater is a little different than electric; though flushing the tank, turning up the temperature, and insulating the pipes are probable fixes for either. For gas heaters, take these steps:
- Check to make sure the gas is turned on, and the pilot is lit.
- Clean the gas burner in a vinegar and hot water solution with a wire brush.
Once again, if these steps do not work, call a plumber. The plumber might suggest replacing the thermocouple, which is a device that detects if the pilot is lit. If it is not, this device will shut off the gas. A new thermocouple is about $400.
Plumbers charge between $50 – $150 per hour for labor. However, they might bundle it together and call it a service call, which is typically $300. If the cost of repair is more than $500, you might need to look at how old it is, and consider if it worth repairing. Learn more about the costs of a plumbing service call.
Water Heater Replacement Costs
The most common in-home water heater is an electric heater with tank, for about $900 installed. This technology has proven reliable, and typically lasts 10-15 years. The better you maintain it, the longer it will last. For a family of five or six, it is the most suitable choice.
Gas or Electric
The cost of water heated by electric is $100 per year more than gas. Plus, a gas heater costs less initially. The 40-50-gallon water heater with a tank is about $350 – $3,000; while the gas heater is $250 – $1,200.
Tankless Water Heater
These units do not store hot water but rather heat it as needed, which saves energy. In fact, you could save up to one-fourth of your overall energy costs by installing tankless technology. But the initial cost is around $3,000.
Solar Water Heater
A solar water heater can be a stand-alone device that only heats water when there is sunlight or tied into a backup system. Solar water heaters are significantly more expensive to install due to the complexity of the system and can cost from $5,000 to $10,000 for the installation.
If you’re interested in solar energy, check out our solar electric cost guide.
Cost of the Most Well-Known Brands
These are the most well-known water heater brands because they are affordable, reliable, and recommended by friends, relatives, and plumbers.
|Brand Name||Approximate Price Range|
|Kenmore||$350 – $500|
|Whirlpool||$375 – $450|
|Rheem||$400 – $500|
|AO Smith||$500 – $600|
These are the average in-store prices for a 50-gallon tank, before tax, installation parts, and labor.
Professional Plumbing Installation
A permit is usually required to replace a water heater, and they usually run $20 to $100 for this kind of work. Check with a plumber or the building inspector at City Hall before you begin.
A water heater is a significant investment, so before committing to a full replacement, we suggest getting several estimates from licensed plumbers for the project.
Check our other plumbing and HVAC resources before you start your project.
All pricing information on this page is based on average industry costs, and is subject to variance for project-specific materials, labor rates, and requirements.