Even if you don’t need a new hot water heater right now, odds are you will within the next few years. Most water heaters have a lifespan of 10-15 years. If your hot water heater is 10 years old or older, it may be time to start planning for a replacement.
Common signs that an existing hot water heater is beginning to fail include rusty water, tank corrosion, leaks or lukewarm water. Unfortunately, many homeowners don’t realize their tank is failing until they wake up one morning without any hot water. Recognizing warning signs before a complete failure allows you to evaluate your options rather than making an expensive purchase too quickly.
Common DIY Mistakes with Hot Water Heaters
Experienced DIY homeowners might be tempted to replace a hot water heater on their own to save on installation costs. However, the average homeowner is unlikely to possess the skills, knowledge and tools to properly install a hot water heater. Plumbing, electrical, and carpentry skills are all needed to ensure safe installation.
Local codes and ordinances sometimes don’t allow homeowners to install hot water heaters on their own. Other municipalities allow DIY installation but require that homeowners pull a permit and pass a safety inspection. Homeowners should consult with their local municipality regarding permits and code requirements before replacing a hot water heater.
There are also other problems that could arise from trying to install the hot water heater by yourself.
1. Financial Risk
Your homeowner’s insurance may cover plumbing damage if it is sudden and accidental like a frozen pipe that suddenly bursts. However, your homeowner’s insurance is unlikely to cover damage caused by faulty DIY repairs or inadequate maintenance.
Without a permit and a licensed contractor, many insurers consider the homeowner negligent, and won’t pay out claims resulting from negligence. It’s important to check with your insurance agent before attempting to repair or replace a hot water heater on your own.
2. Voided Warranties
A new hot water heater can be an expensive purchase for the average homeowner, so understanding the warranty is important. Installing a hot water heater yourself, failing to follow local plumbing codes, and modifying or altering any components yourself are three common causes of voided warranties.
When a licensed contractor registers the equipment, this tells the manufacturer the installation was done by a qualified professional. A licensed plumbing technician will also make sure that your installation is compliant with all local plumbing codes and is properly permitted.
3. Failure to Properly Secure the Heater and Power/Gas Lines
If a water heater is installed in a location where it might be easily bumped, the tank should be properly strapped and secured. Although one small bump is unlikely to tip a hot water heater over, repeated bumps can loosen fittings and cause leaks to develop.
People who live in areas of seismic activity are required to secure water heaters with special straps. Gas and electric lines should also be securely fastened to prevent problems. Professional plumbers will make sure this is done properly.
4. Improper Venting
Proper venting of gas water heaters is important for the safety of your family. Incorrectly vented gas hot water heaters can cause carbon monoxide and other toxic gases to build up inside a property.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning causes around 400 deaths each year and 50,000 emergency room visits. Improperly installed or poorly maintained gas hot water heaters are a common source of carbon monoxide poisoning.
5. Improper Installation of Safety Valves
Modern water heaters have safety devices included in their designs to prevent a catastrophe in the event of a failure. The pressure relief valve keeps a tank water heater from exploding in the event a thermometer becomes stuck. When pressure builds and the water gets too hot, the relief valve opens until the pressure equalizes.
An improperly installed or defective relief valve can lead to an eventual rupture which can cause major property damage as well as serious injuries.
Installing a hot water heater properly is a complex DIY project unless you have advanced skills in several areas. You must have good electrical, heating, and carpentry skills. DIY homeowners must also understand state and local building codes, obtain permits and arrange for required inspections. Failure to comply with plumbing codes can put you and your family at substantial physical, financial and legal risk.
Choosing the Right Water Heater for Your Home
Hot water heaters are a significant investment and there are a number of factors to consider when replacing a unit. There are two main types of residential hot water heaters - tankless and traditional storage tank models. Both types have advantages and disadvantages. Initial costs as well as the long-term cost of ownership should be factored into the purchasing decision.
When selecting the best water heater for your home, you’ll need to consider:
- Fuel type (gas, electric, solar)
- Configuration (storage, demand or combination)
- Energy efficiency
- Size or capacity
- Total cost (purchase price and installation)
Replacement costs can increase for a variety of reasons, including:
- Upgrading the water heater mount or size
- Changing the type of venting system
- Upgrading supply pipes
- Rerouting gas and electrical connections
Hire a Professional Plumber
Whether you need a hot water heater for a newly built home or to replace an old, inefficient unit, a licensed professional will be able to complete all aspects of the job. A professional plumber will ensure that the proper permits have been pulled, the old unit is safely removed and proper installation of the new unit is completed. Having a hot water heater installed by a licensed plumber is the best way to ensure your unit is safe and meets all local code requirements.
The team at Simply Green Plumbing, Sewer & Rooter can help you choose the right hot water heater for your home. Whether you are looking to repair an existing water heater or replace it with a new energy efficient model, we have a team of highly trained technicians who can help you make an informed decision.
We know that plumbing problems can happen day or night. That’s why Simply Green Plumbing, Sewer & Rooter offers emergency plumbing services at no extra cost.