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Water Heaters 101

Water Heaters 101

Not sure if it’s time to replace your water heater? Don’t wait for it to start leaking to get a new one. If your water heater is over 12 years old, it’d probably be a good time to replace it – but that can cost you hundreds if not thousands of dollars. It may be easier, and more affordable, to extend the life of your water heater with a few repairs first. Here is some general water heater 101 information to help you decide what’s best for you.

Replace It

If it’s been a while since you’ve looked at water heaters, you’ll soon notice that there are three main types: storage tank, tankless (on-demand) and a heat pump. This is just one of several things you’ll need to decide when purchasing a new water heater:

  • What type? A storage tank is a good, solid choice, but not always energy efficient. Tankless water heaters are efficient, but can have a more limited water flow. Heat pumps are cost-effective, but work best in warmer climates.
  • What size? First, take a mental inventory of all the sinks, toilets, bath tubs, showers, hot water appliances and people there are in your home. Base your water heater tank on the totals.
  • What fuel type? This depends on the area you live in. But your choices are: electric, oil, geothermal, natural gas, propane and solar.  

Repair It

These are a few common water heater parts that may need replacing:

  • Dip tube
    If the water heating isn’t heating, the dip tube may be broken or cracked. The dip tube is what sends water to the bottom of the tank so it can be heated.
  • Thermocouple
    If your water heater is gas and isn’t heating, it could be the thermocouple, which detects the pilot flame. If it’s malfunctioning, it won’t detect a flame and will prevent the gas valve from opening.  
  • Heating element
    This is what heats up the water in an electric water heater. Test the heating element with a multimeter to check continuity. If there’s no continuity, you’ll need to replace it.  
  • Gas valve
    A gas valve controls gas going into the burner. If it’s not opening, the burner won’t light and your water won’t heat up. If the ignition source is okay and there’s gas pressure in the valve inlet, it may be time to replace it.
  • Temperature and pressure relief valve
    If your water heater is leaking, this could be the reason why. The temperature and pressure relief valve (T&P valve) is a safety device that keeps the tank from either overheating or building up too much pressure. If water is coming out of the valve's discharge tube - either the water is getting too hot or the T&P valve is bad and needs to be replaced.

Our Water Heater Repair Help page  has great troubleshooting information, maintenance tips, FAQs and even videos that show you how a water heater works. And remember, Repair Clinic has millions of heating and cooling parts available for same-day shipping and we offer a 365 return policy guarantee.

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