How Much Does Water Heater Repair Cost?
Water heater repair cost has a typical range of $221 to $964. The type of repair needed strongly influences the final price, though the national average repair cost is $591.
- Typical Range: $221 to $964
- National Average: $591
A water heater does exactly what its name suggests: It heats water. This water can be used in a home for showering, cooking, and cleaning. A home’s water supply pipe brings cold water into the home. The water enters the water heater, where it is heated and stored before being summoned by a faucet in the kitchen or bathroom. A home without a functioning water heater can be quite uncomfortable—and even dangerous.
That’s why when a water heater needs repair, it’s best not to put it off. According to Angi and HomeAdvisor, water heater repair costs $591 on average, and it can range from a low of $221 to a high of $964. The exact repair cost will depend on the type of water heater, the necessary repairs, any required parts, and labor.
This guide will cover how different repairs affect the final price, whether a homeowner can tackle their own water heater repair, and how to know when a water heater replacement is the better choice when facing a high repair cost.
Factors in Calculating Water Heater Repair Cost
The total cost of water heater repair depends on a variety of factors, including the repair type, heater type, cost of parts, labor fees, and even geographic location. Homeowners will want to consider the following most influential factors that impact water heater repair cost when working with a contractor for an estimate.
There are different types of water heaters, all with their own unique components. The total cost to repair a water heater is heavily dependent on what type of repair is needed. In some cases, more than one repair may be necessary.
Some types of repairs can be handled by the homeowner, and in these cases, parts typically cost between $10 and $20. Other types of repairs must be handled by a professional who fixes water heaters, and labor costs alone can cost hundreds of dollars.
These pricing variations are what give the average cost of water heater repair such a wide range.
There are two main types of water heaters, with a storage water tank being the most common. The tank typically holds between 20 and 80 gallons of water, and it’s filled to capacity and heated so hot water is ready on demand. Since this type is continuously heated, associated energy costs can be high. Repairs on a storage water tank have an average range between $150 and $700.
A tankless water heater works differently as it doesn’t rely on a tank. Instead, water is heated as it’s needed. This type of heater is more efficient than a storage water tank but has limits on how much water it can heat at once. It’s also more expensive to purchase, install, and repair. A tankless water heater costs between $300 and $1,300 to repair.
Water heaters have over a dozen components that can require repairs or replacement parts over the years. Units consist of storage tanks, gas valves, heating elements, anode rods, flue pipes, blowers, dip tubes, gas burners, thermostats, mixing valves, and recirculating pumps. As can be expected, each part of a water heater has distinctive pricing. The number and type of replacement parts needed to repair a water heater greatly influence the total repair cost. Small parts can cost $50 or less. But when multiple parts are needed or an entire replacement is necessary, homeowners can expect to pay between $750 and $1,300.
When calculating the cost of water heater repair, homeowners often find that parts are fairly affordable. Some replacement parts can cost as little as $10, but this shouldn’t lead a homeowner to assume a water heater repair cost will be less than the cost of a meal out. While some jobs can be tackled by a homeowner, others require the experience of a professional, which comes at a cost. Labor charges can significantly raise the cost of water heater repair, as most plumbers charge between $45 and $150 per hour. Some repairs or replacements could require the service of an electrician as well; electricians tend to charge between $50 and $100 per hour for water heater repair.
Due to cost variations in parts and labor, geographic location affects the total cost of water heater repair. Repair is the most affordable in Tampa, Florida, where repairs average $539. Chicago, Illinois, also has a fairly affordable average water heater repair cost of $552.
Repairs get a bit more expensive in Los Angeles, California; Houston, Texas; and Denver, Colorado; these areas have an average repair cost range between $618 and $627. Boston, Massachusetts, has among the highest water heater repair costs in the country with an average of $762.
Repair vs. Replacement
Generally speaking, a water heater repair costs less than a full unit replacement. This may not be true for older units, though. The typical water heater lasts between 8 and 12 years. Repairing a water heater that’s less than 5 years old will most certainly make more financial sense than replacing the unit. But for a unit that’s 10 years or older, a repair might only buy time rather than resulting in a permanent fix.
When determining a budget, homeowners will need to consider whether the repairs will come close to, or exceed, the cost of water heater replacement. While repair costs may initially be less than a replacement, repairing a water heater over and over can end up costing more than the price to replace it.
Types of Water Heater Repair
There are many different components to a water heater. With so many parts, there are a variety of different repairs and repair combinations that a homeowner may be faced with. Some of the following repairs are common, while others are rare. Some are affordable fixes, while others require larger repair budgets. When it comes to water heaters, the one thing all the following repairs have in common is that they can’t be postponed for long.
Water heater leaks need to be handled right away. This is a type of water heater repair that homeowners can rarely handle on their own. A diagnosis from a professional can provide peace of mind and prevent more extensive and expensive repairs.
Sometimes a simple tightening of the leak valve is all it takes to fix a leaking water heater. In other cases, the valve may need to be cleaned and the issue will disappear. But a leak from a water heater can suggest a leak in the tank itself. If this is the diagnosis, the outlook can be quite grim.
A leak in the tank is often from corrosion or other types of damage that can’t be fixed, which means the entire unit will need to be replaced. The cost of a new water heater is between $750 and $1,300.
Pressure Relief Valve Replacement
A pressure relief valve in a water heater helps get rid of excess pressure in the tank. This prevents pressure buildup that can potentially cause a tank to burst and subsequently flood the home. It’s an essential safety mechanism for a water heater, so when it needs to be repaired, the homeowner will want to address it quickly rather than putting it off.
Replacing a pressure relief valve can cost on average between $200 and $300 if hiring a professional, A homeowner can replace their own pressure relief valve with a bit of plumbing experience and a couple of basic tools, and the part alone costs $20. DIYers will need to remember to always turn off the unit, shut off the gas, and let the water cool down before starting a repair.
Anode Rod Replacement
An anode rod is like a water tank’s bodyguard: It takes the hits from sediment and corrosive elements so that the tank can remain free of corrosion and in tip-top shape. Anode rods aren’t meant to last the entire lifespan of a water heater. With normal usage, an anode rod should be replaced at least once every 5 years.
In most cases, replacing an anode rod is a simple DIY maintenance job. The part itself costs between $20 and $50, but homeowners with minimal plumbing experience may want to call in a professional to help, keeping in mind that labor costs will be in addition to the part price.
Recirculating Pump Replacement
In homes without recirculating pumps, hundreds of gallons of water a year can go to waste. This is because a recirculating pump circulates hot water, ensuring faucets and showers provide hot water on demand. Otherwise, cool water runs until the hot water from the heater reaches the faucet. Depending on the distance between the faucet and the water heater, it can be several seconds of cool water going down the drain before hot water can logistically reach its destination.
A broken recirculating pump can lead to wasted resources. In fact, a recirculating pump can save a family of four up to 36,000 gallons of water in a year. Replacing a recirculating pump costs between $150 and $680, which can pay for itself in water savings over the years.
Dip Tube Replacement
A water heater dip tube is an internal pipe that directs cold water to the bottom of the tank where it can be heated. Once warm, the water rises to the top while the dip tube directs more cold water toward the bottom of the tank.
When a home’s water can’t seem to stay very hot throughout the day, a broken or corroded dip tube could be the culprit. The part itself costs only about $10, but if hiring a professional, homeowners can expect to pay about $150 for the part and labor combined.
Expansion Tank Replacement
An expansion tank is a small tank attached to the water supply pipe of a water heater. Its purpose is to handle the thermal expansion of water as it heats up. This prevents excessive water pressure, which can be dangerous.
However, expansion tanks can wear out, so at least one replacement during the lifespan of a water heater is usually inevitable. Expansion tank replacement costs between $100 and $400 for both parts and labor.
Flue Pipe Replacement
Also known as a water heater vent, the flue pipe allows gas exhaust from the water heater to escape safely outside the home. When a flue pipe is damaged, toxic gas can be released inside the home, so repair shouldn’t be put off.
Replacing a water heater flue pipe costs between $100 and $350; the final cost will depend on the pipe’s configuration and length. Material is also important; some flue pipes are made from metal, while others are made from plastic.
Tank Cleaning and Flushing
It’s common for sediment, or settling matter, to collect at the bottom of a water heater tank. While natural, it’s not healthy for the unit. When sediment builds up too much, a water heater can take longer to heat up or be unable to properly heat the water inside. Popping or rumbling noises from deep inside the tank are also possible as bubbles of hot steam escape the sediment.
A water heater ideally needs to be flushed at least once per year. Failure to do so can lead to leaks, heating element failure, or even a complete loss of the unit. Calling in a professional to flush a hot water heater costs around $200.
A water heater thermostat controls the heating elements within a unit. Homeowners can think of it as a temperature-activated switch, just like the thermostat for a furnace. When a home’s temperature dips below a certain threshold, the thermostat registers and kicks on the furnace. In a water heater, the thermostat can sense when the water temperature goes below its set point. It then energizes the heating elements until the water reaches the set temperature.
Once a thermostat stops working, a replacement is likely necessary. While the part itself only costs around $20, homeowners can expect to pay around $150 to $200 for the part and installation.
A water heater’s thermocouple detects whether or not the pilot light is lit in a gas-powered water heater. When it detects the light is lit, a thermocouple signals the gas control valve to turn on the gas flow. This turns on the burner and heats the water. It should go without saying that the thermocouple is a critical component of a gas water heater, so when it starts to go bad, it needs to be replaced as soon as possible.
Despite the fact that a thermocouple is so vital to a hot water heater, it’s incredibly affordable to replace. Even with labor costs, replacing a thermocouple shouldn’t cost more than $150.
A water heater timer is a small electronic device that can be attached to either a gas or electric unit. It allows a homeowner the option to turn off the water heater at certain times of the day or night. This can help save on gas or electricity costs, especially if a unit isn’t very energy efficient. This is especially true for homes with outdoor water heaters. Cold temperatures make the unit work overtime, so a timer can offer significant savings.
But like any other component, a water heater timer can stop working. A new water heater timer costs between $40 and $140 for just the part. But for the part and labor combined, homeowners can expect to pay between $100 and $350.
Heating Element Replacement
Most electric water heaters have two heating elements: one heats from the top while the other heats from the bottom. When they go bad, a few different possibilities could be at play. One potential cause is damaged or slipped wiring, which can be dangerous if ignored.
A faulty heating element could also be caused by a power surge that burns it out, or by mineral buildup coating the element over time and preventing it from heating the water.
A heater element repair typically costs between $200 and $300.
Gas Control Valve Replacement
The gas control valve in a water heater is an important component. It manages the flow of gas to the water heater. Too little gas and the burner won’t light; too much gas, though, can create a very dangerous situation.
When a gas burner never turns off, it’s a sign a gas valve needs to be replaced. At the same time, cold water despite a lit pilot and correct thermostat settings can signal the burner can’t turn on, which is typically a result of a clogged or bad valve.
Replacement is often the financially wiser option over repair when it comes to a gas control valve and will cost between $300 and $500.
Tankless Heat Exchanger Replacement
A heat exchanger in a tankless water heater has the same function as a heater in a traditional tank water heater. A tankless water heater is activated by incoming water, where the heat exchanger quickly heats up the water before it heads to the appropriate faucet.
Tankless water heaters are more expensive in general, along with their parts. A tankless heat exchanger replacement costs between $600 and $700 for labor alone. Once the part is included, the price tag shoots up to between $1,200 and $1,300. The good news is that manufacturer warranties can cover a tankless heat exchanger for 5 to 12 years, depending on the brand. A year of labor is often covered as well.
Some water heaters use an igniter to ignite the gas. If an igniter fails, a water heater can’t heat up. In many cases, insufficient voltage is the cause of a faulty heater igniter. Sometimes an igniter can be defective, or it can simply wear out over time. Either way, a malfunctioning igniter needs to be repaired or replaced by a skilled technician. Water heater igniter replacement costs between $75 and $350.
Pilot Light Replacement
Pilot lights are small flames that ignite the gas burner on a water heater. If a pilot light goes out, water inside the tank cannot be heated up. If the water in a house suddenly goes cold, one of the first things a homeowner will want to check is the pilot light. A pilot light is typically located at the base of the unit, below the gas control valve. The flame should always be visible, so if it’s not, it could be an easy fix.
If they feel comfortable doing so, homeowners can try to light the pilot light again. But if there’s a concern about safety or several attempts to relight the pilot light are unsuccessful, a service call might be in order. The average cost for a plumber to inspect and repair a pilot light is between $45 and $150 per hour.
Blown Fuse or Tripped Breaker
Sometimes a water heater repair is a simple and affordable fix, such as a tripped breaker. When a circuit detects what’s known as a fault condition, it shuts itself off to prevent dangerous overheating. If multiple lights or other electrical devices are also not working in a small radius around the water heater, a tripped breaker is a possible cause.
Homeowners can diagnose a tripped breaker on their own and simply reset it by pushing it first to the “off” position and then back to the “on” position. Replacing a fuse is typically only necessary in homes with older electrical systems. If one does need to be replaced, the average cost is $20.
Regular water heater tune-ups are a great way to preserve a unit and extend its expected lifespan. A water heater tune-up costs between $100 and $500.
Though it varies by provider, tune-ups often include a professional checking for leaks and corrosion; draining and flushing the hot water tank; cleaning the burner assembly and intake filters; replacing the anode rod; testing water temperatures, pressure relief valves, and heating elements; and checking that each faucet in the home is getting hot water.
Do I Need Water Heater Repair?
A freezing-cold shower isn’t always the first sign a water heater is in need of repair. The following are some of the most common symptoms for homeowners to look out for in a malfunctioning water heater.
Lukewarm or Cold Water
A cold shower may be invigorating, but it’s certainly not the type of shower most people prefer to start their day with. So when a shower (or any other faucet in the house) runs cold, the issue needs to be promptly addressed.
Fluctuating water temperature could mean a water heater is starting to break down. The most common reason behind this issue is the buildup of mineral deposits inside the tank. It’s normal for mineral deposits to accumulate in a water heater, which is why routine maintenance that involves draining and flushing the tank is important. As these mineral deposits build up, they can cover water-heating elements and keep them from working as needed.
Excessively Hot Water
Just as cold water can signal an issue with a water heater, so can excessively hot water. When turning on the hot water in the sink or shower is painful, a water heater inspection is likely necessary.
The water heater’s thermostat could be set to the incorrect temperature. If the water is still too hot after checking the thermostat, the component may need to be replaced. Sometimes a water heater’s pressure release valve can get stuck in the open position. This allows the water to steadily get hotter and hotter as it flows through the system.
A water heater making unusual noises is calling for help. Loud cracks, whining tones, deep gurgles, and surprising pops are all signs that something is going on inside the tank. While it’s perfectly normal for a water heater to make a little noise, unusual noises like these usually mean there’s too much accumulation of mineral deposits inside the tank. Buildup could also be on the heating elements.
Another possibility is that the water heater’s dip tube has broken, causing cold and hot water to mix. A simple flush could be enough to fix the issue, but noises will need to be investigated as soon as possible to prevent damage to the unit’s structure.
Rusty or Discolored Water
Water from the tap, shower, or washing machine should always be clear. While high pressure can sometimes cause tap water to appear hazy, it should turn colorless again once the pressure is even. So when water throughout a home is consistently rusty, discolored, or filled with little dark particles, a faulty water heater is usually to blame. Once again signaling an issue with sediment, water color changes should be addressed quickly as they pose a serious health hazard. Draining and flushing could be enough to fix the issue. But if the inside of a tank is rusty, a replacement could be necessary.
Unpleasant Odor From Hot Water
Just as water should be colorless, it should also be odorless. So when a home’s hot water starts to emit strange smells, usually reminiscent of rotten eggs, it’s a strong sign that something is going on with the unit.
Smelly hot water often signals a broken anode rod. An anode rod attracts sediment and corrosive elements, taking on the damage from minerals rather than the tank. Once an anode rod becomes so corroded it can no longer do its job, a tank can start to rust. But if the rod is replaced before it fails (every 5 years, on average), the lifespan of a water heater can be doubled.
Low Water Pressure
When water comes out of faucets and shower heads in weak dribbles instead of strong sprays, low water pressure is to blame. Low water pressure can make it difficult to rinse out hair products in the shower or seriously extend the amount of time it takes to wash a sink full of dishes.
Low water pressure can be caused by corroded plumbing, clogged water pipes, or outdated fixtures (including water heaters). Sediment buildup can also be a cause of low water pressure. This isn’t a warning sign to ignore. Homeowners are advised to call a plumber to diagnose the cause of low water pressure as soon as possible.
Water dripping from a hot water heater or pooling around the bottom of the tank is an emergency. A serious internal failure is usually to blame, and it needs to be addressed by a professional immediately. To minimize potential damage and repair costs, the homeowner will want to quickly (and safely) disconnect the unit’s power supply and turn off the water.
Unfortunately, most leaks require a heater to be replaced rather than repaired. If the unit is older, though, a replacement can make more financial sense, as newer models help reduce energy costs. However, there are some instances where a water leak is the result of a loose screw or connector. Tightening loose parts is a simple and affordable repair.
Water Heater Repair: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
When a hot water heater starts to act up, homeowners are often tempted to tackle repairs on their own instead of calling in a professional. Although there are some minor repairs that a homeowner can DIY, it’s often worth the extra cost to hire one of the best plumbing services to make sure the issue is addressed promptly and correctly.
Homeowners with a bit of plumbing experience may be able to tackle replacing a faulty dip tube or pressure relief valve. Anode rods and thermocouples are other water heater parts that a homeowner may be able to replace on their own, provided they are comfortable with these parts.
But when a water heater is rumbling, creaking, or popping, the expertise of a professional is likely needed. These symptoms are usually a result of sediment buildup. A homeowner may be able to flush the unit on their own, but this doesn’t always solve the problem. Without proper repairs, a rumbling, creaking, or popping water heater is likely to crack or leak.
Leaks are another water heater issue that needs to be handled by a professional. While a homeowner can turn off the water heater’s power supply and close the main shut-off valve to prevent water flow, these actions just stop the leak from getting worse. A professional needs to evaluate the unit to see if the issue can be solved by just tightening a loose fitting or if a more extensive repair is needed.
Homeowners with plumbing experience can try to troubleshoot their own water heaters or even tackle simple repairs. But calling in an experienced professional ensures a water heater is repaired quickly, correctly, and safely. Even when it comes to an easy repair, the cost of service is worthwhile since it gives a homeowner peace of mind.
How to Save Money on Water Heater Repair Cost
With the average water heater repair cost coming in at $591, it only makes sense that homeowners would want to reduce the cost without compromising their water heater’s functions or safety. Luckily, there are a few ways homeowners can save on water heater resources, repairs, and replacements.
- Slow down wear and tear on a water heater by insulating exposed hot water pipes, wrapping the heater in an insulating blanket, and installing low-flow fixtures throughout the home. By reducing water and energy usage, it may be possible to extend the life of the unit.
- Drain the tank at least once a year to remove sediment. This helps prevent buildup (which can lead to costly repairs) and reduce energy costs
- Repair leaks right away. Unattended leaks won’t get better on their own. They can lead to more extensive and expensive water heater repairs or damage to flooring, drywall, and other materials around the tank.
- Consider a replacement over a repair if a water heater is old. While it may cost more money up front to replace rather than repair, energy savings can quickly absorb the extra cost and save money in the end.
- Consult with three contractors for a water heater repair. Rather than simply choosing the lowest price, consider what each quote includes and what experience each contractor has. Choosing a contractor based on the value they bring can prevent additional repairs and costly mistakes.
Questions to Ask About Water Heater Repair
While some water heater repairs can be handled by a homeowner, most will require the experience of a professional. The following are suggested qualifying questions a homeowner will want to ask a contractor before hiring for a water heater repair job.
- How long have you been in business?
- Are you licensed and insured?
- How experienced are you with water heater installation and repairs?
- Do you have experience with my exact water heater model?
- How do your prices compare with other water heater repair companies near me?
- Do you recommend a repair or a replacement?
- How much longer do you think my water heater will last after this repair?
- When can the repair start?
- How long will the job take?
- Will you complete the repair yourself or send an employee?
- Does your insurance cover your employees and my property?
- Do I need to prep the area before the job starts?
- How will you protect the area of my home surrounding the water heater during repair?
- Do you remove any old components from a repair, or the old tank from a replacement?
- What is included in the repair cost?
- Do you offer a warranty on any parts or the repair itself?
- Do you offer maintenance services?
- What do I do if this repair still doesn’t fix the issue?
The average water heater repair cost is $591, though more expensive repairs can push the final price as high as $964; simple repairs can cost as little as $221. But whether a water heater repair is on the high or low end of the typical price range, the repair should never be put off. The following frequently asked questions can help homeowners who are wondering about water heater repairs, replacements, and routine maintenance.
Q. Is it worth it to repair a hot water heater?
Homeowners facing this question will want to consider the 50 percent rule, which states that if any repair costs 50 percent of what the water heater would cost to replace, a replacement makes more sense than a repair.
But if the repair total is less than 50 percent of a new unit, a repair can make more sense, as long as a series of repetitive repairs won’t be required. When making the final decision to repair or replace, homeowners will also want to consider the age of the unit.
Q. What causes a water heater to stop working?
There can be several reasons a water heater isn’t working. One simple reason could be that the unit isn’t receiving power or gas. A broken thermostat could be to blame, along with pilot light issues. Loss of water pressure may also be the culprit, as can loose or damaged parts and components.
Q. Is it normal for a pilot light to go out on a water heater?
As long as a pilot light is surrounded by combustible air, it should stay lit. When a pilot light is continuously going out, clutter or debris blocking airflow could be to blame. The area surrounding a water heater, especially near the pilot light, will need to be kept as clean as possible.
Q. Is it cheaper to repair or replace a water heater?
It depends. A simple repair on a relatively young water heater is usually more affordable than a replacement. But the same repair on a unit nearing the end of its life may not provide much of a return. Homeowners will want to keep in mind that when deciding to repair or replace an old water heater, new models are much more efficient and provide energy savings that may help offset the cost of a new unit.
Q. How do you know a water heater is going bad?
There are many signs that a water heater is going bad, but one of the most common is a metallic odor coming out of a home’s hot water. This suggests rusty pipes or rust inside the water heater, which can lead to corrosion and inevitable leaks. Cloudy water from the tap can also be a sign of a soon-to-fail water heater. If homeowners notice any of these warning signs, they will want to look into replacing their water heater before it fails.
Q. What is the life expectancy of a water heater?
A traditional storage tank water heater can last between 8 and 12 years. A tankless model can last up to two decades. Routine maintenance can ensure a water heater remains operational for as long as possible. There are some signs homeowners can watch out for that signal when to replace a water heater rather than repair it.
Sources: Angi, HomeAdvisor, HomeGuide