When someone has a problem with a water heater, they are usually caught by surprise. All they want is to have the hot water working again. It’s easy to call a service provider and find out that a part like the thermostat needs to be replaced. However, it’s very important that whenever you’re going to start replacing parts that you first take the whole picture into account. (After all, a water heater can be as expensive as a car.) Here’s what you need to know in order to make an informed decision.
What is the life expectancy of your water heater? If you’re getting a certain part replaced, what caused the part to fail? (It might be an outside factor like water quality, for instance.) Was something not done correctly in the piping system or the gas line? These are some of the big picture considerations you need to discuss with a professional before you decide to get started with a repair. The worst thing that could happen would be to put hundreds of dollars into a water heater only for it to need repair all over again. If the water heater is near the end of its useful life, you might have to replace the whole thing a year down the road. There is the very real potential to waste money if these larger considerations aren’t taken into account.
On an electric water heater, there are normally two thermostats/elements doubled up to work non-simultaneously. If we’re replacing one of them because they failed, it makes most sense to replace both of those parts. After all, if one has failed and both parts are in the same water conditions and the same age, you probably wouldn’t want to make two separate service calls to replace the second one when it fails shortly after.
There are also items around the water heater that should be checked. On a gas water heater, the venting should be inspected to be free of obstruction. Don’t just assume that it’s clean and clear—there could be an item that caused the water heater to fail or for the particular part to go bad. Newer water heaters have a flame vapor ignition resistance on them, which is basically a safety device. If you have a combustible object (like a can of gas, paint can, paint thinner, etc.) nearby, this mechanism prevents it from flashing back into the home and causing a fire hazard. If the water heater is located beside a laundry area, it’s very important that you keep it clean so that lint or pet dander won’t interfere with the heater’s operation.
Water heaters can also be overly taxed if they are not sized properly. (We actually see most water heaters fail for this reason.) If your household has several teenagers and the whole family is constantly running out of hot water, that means that the water heater is working overtime. Because it’s undersized, you’ll probably be experiencing more repairs or problems with the heater.