Should A Leaky Water Heater Be Replaced Or Repaired?

While leaking pipes may take months to cause serious problems like rot and mold, leaks from your water heater are quite a bit more serious. Thanks to combination of pilot lights and wiring for electric models, inappropriate water can lead to a gas leak, fire, or worse. Yet trying to decide between having the water heater repaired or replaced can delay the necessary fixes. Make your decision quickly by considering the following points.

Location of Leak 

Figuring out where the moisture is coming from is the first step in making the right decision. If you notice the drips are coming from the pipes coming in and out at the top, or the small valve located near the bottom of the tank, repairs are likely a good choice. If there's water dripping from the bottom of the tank and not from a pipe, the water heater is likely so corroded that it's better replaced. Welding a new bottom on a metal tank usually costs more than even a brand new unit, making it a poor choice for a repair.

Amount of Moisture

Aside from the source of the leak, you should also try to figure out how much water the appliance is losing. This is tricky due to the combination of evaporation and the fact that some leaks come and go due to changes in operation. A water heater that loses all of its water and leaves your basement flooded is likely so damaged it's better replaced than repaired. Small and intermittent leaks are often just a sign of a pressure problem or a loose safety value. These problems can still be potentially dangerous and need immediate attention, but they're often easily solved with a repair rather than a full replacement.

Age of Appliance

A home water heater is only expected to last 10 years on average, depending on the type with electric appliances outlasting gas models. If your model has already been doing its duty for that long or longer, a replacement is likely a better choice than a repair. Even if the leak is relatively minor, you'll save money in the long run with a new water heater thanks to increased energy efficiency. New water heaters aren't just more efficient by design. Water heaters accumulate a lot of sediment over the years of use, and those mineral deposits increase the energy required to heat the water. A brand new model is free from sediment and will take years to start slowly increasing in energy use.