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House & Home

How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Water Heater?

Posted October 29, 2014

Have you ever had one of those mornings? It's hard enough to drag yourself out of bed, but you think a steaming hot shower just might help to get you in shape for the long commute to work. You head, bleary-eyed, to the bathroom and turn on the tap. Oops! Only cold water is coming out. Twisting the faucet every which way doesn't help. Eventually you have to pull yourself together and face the chilling truth … your current hot water heater has had it. Well, that news is enough to wake you up. But now what? How much does it cost to replace a water heater, anyway?

Tank Style vs Tankless Water Heaters

The first factor in determining water heater prices is the type of unit you purchase. Water heaters can be divided into tank style and tankless. When it is turned on, the tank style heats and then stores water, reheating it at intervals as it cools below a certain temperature. The storage tanks for these water heaters come in a range of sizes. This type of heater tends to last for about 12 years. Tankless models heat water on demand. They are more economical to run and have a lifespan of approximately 20 years. They have one distinct disadvantage, though -- the limited amount of hot water they can produce at one time. In a busy household, this will hold up the routine of morning showers and make it difficult to operate the dishwasher and washing machine at the same time (unless, of course, you do your laundry in cold water -- a commendably eco-friendly practice). In addition, annual professional maintenance is recommended.

Types of Water Heater Power

A water heater may be powered by either electricity or natural gas. The latter kind of hot water heaters became very popular when their fuel supply cost quite a bit less than electricity. However, the price of natural gas has risen to the point where there is little significant difference. Solar water heaters are being used more and more, as a green alternative form of power. Because they rely on sunshine to warm your water, these heaters are not practical to run all year round. However, you can install a second water heater powered by natural gas or electricity as a backup for cloudy days. Solar water heater installation cost is more expensive than other types, but after that, they can save you a great deal.

What is Included in the Cost to Replace a Water Heater?

Water heater prices include both the initial charge to purchase the unit and the installation labor cost. The length of warranty that you opt for will make a difference in the total price. You may also need to pay to have your old heater removed. An additional cost might be installing or upgrading the gas line for a water heater powered by natural gas, whether tank style or tankless. The cost may be mitigated by a tax credit for installing a more efficient model. Total cost to replace a water heater, tank style, mid-size and average quality, is about $700, including the heater, related materials, labor, and disposal of the old unit. The cost to install a tankless water heater is closer to $1000, not including any gas line upgrades that may be required.

Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.

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