There are two main styles of water heaters: tank water heaters and tankless water heaters.
Like the name suggests, tank water heaters store a supply of cold water in a tank, then heat it using electricity, gas, fuel oil, propane, or solar power. Tank water heaters are the most common type of water heater in the United States.
A tankless water heater uses a heat exchanger and only heats up water when there is a demand for it.
There are also different types of water heaters, which can vary based on the type of fuel they use.
Storage water heaters (or conventional water heaters) are found in most homes in the United States. Depending on the size of the tank, storage water heaters can hold 20 to 80 gallons of hot water, and use natural gas, electricity, propane, and fuel oil to heat the water. These types of water heaters tend to be affordable, but because the water is constantly being heated in the tank, they also tend to be less energy efficient.
Heat pump water heaters are tank water heaters that work by capturing heat from the air or ground and transferring it to the water. This process is about 2 to 3 times more energy efficient than that which is used by storage water heaters, and can cut the cost of your electric bill by a few hundred dollars a year. One drawback, however, is that heat pump water heaters don’t operate very effectively in cold rooms.
Solar water heaters use solar panels to absorb the sun’s heat, and then transfer that heat to the water in a storage tank. Solar water heaters can generate free hot water for your home, but usually require a backup system for overcast days.
Tankless water heaters (or on-demand water heaters) supply hot water only when it is needed. When the hot water tap is turned on, water is heated with gas or electricity. Since there is no need for a tank, tankless water heaters tend to be energy efficient, but they can’t always match the flow of a tank water heater.
"How long do water heaters last?"
The average tank water heater lasts about 10 to 15 years, whereas tankless water heaters can last up to 20 years or more. You can extend the life span of both tank and tankless water heaters with regular maintenance, which can be performed by a licensed plumber.
"Can my water heater be repaired?"
If your water tank is more than 10 years old, it may be reaching the end of its lifespan and will likely need to be replaced soon. In that case, it can be more cost-efficient to buy a new water heater rather than continuing to pay for repairs.
If your water tank is only a few years old, a plumber may be able to repair it, though this will depend on what’s causing the problem. Water heater repairs cost an average of $575, though they can range from about $100 to $1,500, according to HomeAdvisor.com.
To repair your water heater, a plumber may:
Inspect a pilot light that won’t come on, replace or repair a faulty thermocouple, replace or repair a faulty gas control valve, or remove a broken thermostat and install a new one.
Other signs that your water heater may need to be repaired (or even replaced) include:
Clanking noises that occur when the water heats up, rust in the water, or lukewarm water or water that takes much longer to heat up.
To determine whether you need to repair or replace your water heater, call a licensed plumber or other water tank repair professional, who may also be able to provide you with a free estimate.
"What are the signs my water heater needs to be replaced?"
The average lifespan of a tank water heater ranges from 10 to 15 years, whereas that of a tankless water heater is 20 years or more. One reason why older water heaters need to be replaced is because they have become corroded over time by minerals from the water, which react with steel.
Another sign: If water is dripping out of the bottom of the water heater, the tank is likely too damaged to be repaired. In that case, it’s important to call a licensed plumber right away to minimize water damage (which can cost upwards of thousands of dollars to repair) and install a new water heater as soon as possible.
"How much does a new water heater cost?"
The cost of a new hot water heater will vary depending on the type of water heater you buy. Some types of water heaters, such as solar-powered models, are also more expensive to install than other types.
Here are the average costs of water heaters per type, according to HomeAdvisor.com:
Storage water heater: $400 to $1,600
Heat pump water heater: $700 to $3,000
Solar water heater: $1,000 to $6,000
Tankless water heater:: $700 to $3,000
The installation costs of standard and heat pump water heaters tend to cost between $150 to $600, according to HomeAdvisor.com, whereas those for a solar model can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000. The costs of installing a tankless water heater range from $400 to $1,500.