Whether your water heater has gone on the fritz or you’re trying to financially prepare for when it does, it’s necessary to have a ballpark idea of what you’ll be paying out of pocket. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t the same for everyone. There are a number of factors that go into determining the cost of replacing your individual water heater.
Tank vs. Tankless Replacement
There are two main styles of water heaters that are on the market today. These are tanked and tankless water heaters. Tanked water heaters are the traditional style that has a cylindrical tank that heats and stores hot water for your home. A tankless water heater is a fairly newer technology that creates hot water on demand. They’re much smaller units since they don’t store any hot water.
Tanked water heaters cost anywhere between $600 and $2,100 depending on their size, fuel type, and other features. It will last you between 10 and 12 years. On the other hand, tanked water heaters cost anywhere between $1,000 and $3,500. Their price also varies depending on individual features and fuel type. Tankless water heaters are known to last for over 20 years.
Type of Fuel
Each water heater is specifically designed to run on one fuel. The type of fuel that is widely available in your area will highly determine the style of water heater that you need. The most common fuels that water heaters can use include electricity, propane, natural gas, and fuel oil.
In general, electric water heaters are going to be slightly less expensive than gas, propane, or fuel oil. When it comes to the labor for replacement, you can expect to pay a bit more for the latter three installations as compared to an electric water heater. This is because it requires a little more in-depth work than an electric-only unit.
Tank Capacity / Flow Capability
The tank capacity or flow capability of your water heater is going to play a large role in its total replacement cost. Tanked water heaters range from 20 to 80-gallon storage capacities. The larger the tank’s storage capacity, the more expensive it is to purchase.
The size of your household is going to determine what storage capacity your water heater will need to have. The larger your household, the more hot water you’re going to want to have stored in your hot water tank. Otherwise, you can expect a lot of cold showers. The following are recommendations for gallon size based on household size.
- 20 to 30 Gallons – 1 to 2 Persons
- 30 to 50 Gallons – 3 to 4 Persons
- 50 to 80 Gallons – 5 or More Persons
Water heaters that have a storage capacity between 20 and 30 gallons will range from a low of $600 to a high of $1,200. Tanks with 30 to 50 gallons of storage capacity will cost between $1,200 and $2,100. The larger tank sizes of 50 to 80 gallons will run anywhere between $2,100 and $3,000.
When it comes to tankless water heaters, their size is measured based on their flow capability. You’ll have options of between 2 and 6 gallons per minute. The following chart shows the gallons per minute recommendations depending on household size:
- 2 to 3 GPM – 1 to 2 Persons
- 3 to 5 GPM – 3 to 4 Persons
- 6 or More GPM – 5 or More Persons
At the lower end of 2 to 3 gallons per minute, you can expect to pay around $1,000 per unit. For the typical household, a 3 to 5 gallons per minute tankless water heater will do and will cost around $2,000. The larger 6 gallons per minute units will cost around $3,000 or more to replace.
DIY vs. Professional Installation
Whether you not you choose to replace your water heater on your own will be a necessary factor when determining the overall replacement cost. Most professionals will charge between $200 and $1,000 to replace your existing tank or tankless water heater. The large gap in pricing is due to a number of factors, including:
- Location of your water heater
- Emergency vs. daytime call
- Changes in unit size or fuel
- Removal of existing unit
- Geographical location
If you’re thinking of trying to save yourself money on labor by replacing your own water heater, there are some things that you want to keep in mind. You’ll need a way to get the water heater from your local hardware store to your home and a method for disposing of the old unit. When professionals do a replacement, they typically remove the old unit as part of their overall service fee. Additionally, you’ll want to have knowledge of how to disconnect and reconnect fittings correctly and safely.
Expansive Tank Upgrade
Many local regulations have been put into place regarding expansive tanks. Whenever you need to replace or upgrade your existing tanked water heater, you’ll be required to add on an expansion tank. This tank’s sole purpose is to be a safety measure that helps to provide the necessary space for pressure inside of the water heater to be released.
Expansive tanks help to boost the safety of your new water heater, prolong its lifespan, and prevent unwanted damage. This expansive tank can cost you anywhere between $100 to $400. Even if local regulations in your area may not require the installation of an expansive tank when replacing your old water heater, its manufacturer might. Some water heater manufacturers will void the warranty coverage on your new water heater if it’s installed into a closed plumbing system without an expansive tank.
Since you’re going to be investing a good amount of money in your new water heater, it’s important that you consider your future operating costs and the lifespan of the heater. You may decide that it’s best to upgrade from a tanked water heater to a tankless one to cash in on better longevity and the benefit of continuous hot water whenever you want it.
Or, let’s say that propane supply in your area has dropped as natural gas has been introduced. You may want to convert from a propane water heater to a natural gas one to cash in on the fuel savings. Whenever you decide to change the existing setup of your water heater, it’s vital to note that you’ll end up paying extra for labor.
In some cases, you may need to hire a plumber and an electrician to put in the necessary piping and wiring for your new hot water heater. Conversion costs can vary drastically depending on the type of conversion that’s taking place. It’s best to consult a local plumbing expert to determine what a potential conversion is going to cost you.
Expert Water Heater services
Meade’s Heating and Air offer expert water heater services for the entire Northern Virginia region. We can also assist with all of your heating, air conditioning, whole-home air filtration, ductwork, duct sealing, indoor air quality, and gas line needs. Simply call us today to schedule an appointment with our expert technicians.