Water Heaters, what you need to know from a Plumber.
Can I repair it, and does that make sense?
Do I replace it? If so with what?
I am going to save your assets: Look, here is the deal: Water heaters are the big leak source, in my line of work. They are notorious for causing water damage in the garage. I don’t want my customers to have water damage, so I am going to begin my discussion with tips to avoid it.
Honestly! The reason water heater tanks leak, is usually due to high pressure. The way to prevent high pressure is to maintain your supply below 75 psi. To do this you should check and possibly need to change or adjust your pressure regulator valve (aka prv). I have a blog on the importance and function of prv’s, look for it here on my website ***Pressure Regulator Valves Blog*** if this is an issue you need more info on.
If your water heater is leaking I highly recommend you start by checking your pressure first. That way, when you get the problem solved, the chances of it happening again will be greatly reduced. This will also help you to prevent damage from excessive pressure, and prevent leaks on the entire plumbing system.
Repairing the safety mechanisms: Having addressed the issue of high pressure, water heaters themselves have a temperature and pressure relief valve installed, (aka a Watts 210, or a T&P). This is something you should swap out on your water heater if there is any sign of water in the relief valve drain line, or signs of high pressure on the tank itself. If your tank itself is not leaking, you can usually swap out a T&P, or a drain valve, or any other service part thereby prolonging the life of your water heater by keeping the safety mechanisms functioning correctly. You can also replace the thermocouple if that’s needed, more of this later.. read on!
How to tell if your tank is leaking: Want to know the big secret in deciding what to do? If your tank is leaking, you can tell this by looking into the heating chamber (where the pilot light is, the thermocouple, the main gas burner etc). If you see water inside there, 9 out of 10 times that water heater is a goner. If that is the case, the next thing to do is to check the date of manufacture. This can save you’re assets!
Want to save money on replacing your water heater? Most reputable water heater mfg’s have a minimum of a 6 year warranty. If your tank is still under warranty, then call the manufacturers phone number and tell them its leaking. They should set you up with an RMA and tell you where to go get a free new unit. If you need help picking up the new water heater and getting it installed, give me a call to set this up (951) 691-3649. Do not tell the manufacturer if you had high pressure. If your prv went bad, some manufacturers will void your warranty, so avoid the topic with them.
If your tank is leaking, and you are out of warranty, it’s time to replace your water heater. Sorry, but it is what it is. But hey give me a call (Link my phone number contact etc) and I will let you know all of the options you have,
If you live in southern California, and you want to replace an old water heater, you may be shocked by how much they cost now. We have some highly specialized sealed chamber water heaters out here in Riverside, San Bernadino, LA, and Orange county. San Diego still has the old style water heaters, but that’s another subject. There are some new options available called Tankless water heaters as well.
Tankless Water Heaters: I think you’ll agree with me when I say that everyone wants hot water instantly. But are tankless water heaters right for your applications. They only make sense for specific situations. If you need endless hot water, let’s say you need to fill a 500 gallon hot tub with hot water, that’s a good call for the tankless water heater.
But here is what is crazy about tankless water heaters. They cost more, about double the price of a traditional tank. They require bigger gas line feeds, bigger vent pipes, b metal (double lined) vents, and all of that costs more to install. The worst of it is the maintenance. Tankless water heaters need to be purged of metals, by cycling the heat exchange chamber with descaler about every 6 months. Don’t do this, and your tankless water heater will be worthless inside of 2 years. It is not plug and play, people! They need upkeep and maintenance that traditional water heaters simply don’t require. I have a couple of customers that pay me every six months to come out and descale their tankless water heaters. I have a few tankless water heaters out there that I have installed that I send reminder cards out to ensure that they descale them. I hope they are keeping it up..
I still think that tankless water heaters are the future, and I know that new models have come out in Denmark and Germany that are getting better. I think I will feel better about them in the next five years, but for now I encourage most customers to go with traditional tanks. I will gladly install a 12 year warranty traditional water heater tank, warranty my labor for five years, and beat the price of a tankless water heater installation by at least 500 dollars, if not usually $1000.
The traditional tank market is ever changing. A good rule of thumb to determine a good model, is to look for brass fittings. If the drain valve is plastic, that’s usually what private detectives refer to as “a clue”. I used to tell people to spend 50 to 100 dollars more on the tank and that should get them a better warranty (12 years vs 6 etc) but that’s not always the case anymore. If you need up to the date advice here don’t hesitate to call us (Link my phone number contact etc).
~Your water heater wont light: If your water heater is leaking on an external pipe, a fitting, or from a valve, most of that stuff is repairable. It’s almost always cheaper to repair, vs replace. If the water heater is over 12 years old, it may make sense to replace anyway. If the water heater won’t light, it’s going to be one of two things. It’s either the gas supply, or more likely an issue with the thermocoupler or control valve. The thermocouple and control valve are parts that any decent plumber should have on board. I keep my truck stocked and can usually get the water heater back up and running that same day if this is the only problem.
I hope this helps you in your decision making process. I am available 24/7 if you have any questions or need a plumber. Don’t hesitate to call! General Plumbing Services (951)691-3649