It seems that most folks only have their water heater replaced in a so-called emergency situation; that is, when they all of a sudden, don’t have hot water.  This situation can be easily avoided.  You may think you don’t need a new water heater right now. But chances are you will within the next few years.  Tank type water heaters tend to last somewhere between 7 and 15 years.  If yours is in this age range, it’s time to start thinking about replacing it. This is mainly so that you don’t wake up one morning without any hot water.

A telltale sign that your water heater needs to be replaced is a slow drip underneath. This usually shows up as a trail of rusty water.  This means that the steel tank has rusted through.  If you spot a drip, plan to replace the water heater right away.  Don’t wait until the leak gets worse putting you in that “emergency situation”.

Most residential water heaters cost between $150 and $400 for gas or electric. Then add an additional $200 to $450 to have a professional plumber install it for you.  This installation money is well spent though unless you are handy with tools.  You’ll need to know how to use a pipe cutter to make the cuts on the copper tubing water lines cleanly.  Also, you’ll need to know how to heat the new copper tubing joints and solder them together.

New water heaters do come with installation instructions. But if you don’t feel comfortable in doing these things along with handling gas and/or electrical connections safely, then you should have a professional do the installation.  He/she should also understand your local building codes so as to not violate any safety regulations.

Choosing a New Water Heater

Picking a more efficient water heater large enough to handle your needs is the key, and will save on energy.  Make sure, when shopping for a new unit, you check its annual cost of operation.  This should be listed on a sticker on the side of the water heater.  An average family of four with two showers may now use up to a 65-gallon unit.  Most existing family home units typically only have a 40-gallon capacity.

When shopping around for a new water heater, your local home center/hardware store can help you come up with the best water heater size for your usage.  Also, know that new water heaters, even though the same capacity as your existing one, may now be larger due to increased insulation requirements.

A new hot water tank will also require an expansion tank.  A standard hot water tank can stress your plumbing pipes by the normal thermal expansion that happens during the heating process.  A safety device is known as a water heater expansion tank (sometimes called a thermal expansion tank) can help minimize the risk of pressure damage to your plumbing system.  This is typically required now for all local plumbing codes.  Your older tank may not have had this.  You’ll need to make sure you have the room for this new now proper installation.


Note that this is normally not a problem on the more modern hot water on-demand, tankless water heaters; only tank-style heaters are subject to this. To supply your home with hot water, you can choose between the conventional hot water tank or a typically more efficient tankless water heater.  The main advantage of the tankless is that they eliminate the extra cost of keeping 40 to 50 gallons of water hot in a storage tank. Meaning they can save you a lot of energy.

They are also more compact and allow for more possible storage room. They can also be mounted on an adjacent wall, rather than “sitting” on the floor.  A tankless water heater uses 30 to 50 percent less energy than units with tanks. As a result, making it more energy efficient. A tankless water heater saves a typical family roughly $100 or more per year.  They also offer a continuous, reliable supply of hot water.

As we write this post. a lot of tankless water heaters come with a federal tax rebate of up to $300.  And they typically last 5 to 10 years longer than storage tank heaters, some up to 20 years. An on-demand tankless water heater also scores high in safety.  There’s no possibility of flooding due to a ruptured tank.  And a lot of models are equipped with safety features to prevent scalding water from reaching your faucet depending on how much money you want to spend.

The Downside…

A downside though is that although tankless water heaters can save energy, they typically have a higher equipment and installation cost, more so than a conventional storage tank heater.  And because tankless units have high-powered burners, they also have special venting requirements which usually will require a professional installation.  But an upside is that you can fill your jetted tube up to the top and soak to your hearts delight.

Tankless water heater or conventional?

The choice is yours.  All in all, the advantages of a tankless water heater (vs. a typical hot water tank) do appear to outweigh its disadvantages. 

Doing a water heater installation yourself may be difficult, so be sure to hire an installer like Proudfoot Plumbing, Heating and Air that is familiar with all these products and their installation.  Proudfoot has the necessary experience installing and servicing them.  Please give us a call at 1-412-461-2198. or contact us. We will be glad to help out and/or make recommendations for you on the installation and maintenance of a new tankless water heating system or a more conventional hot water tank.

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