At least once in our lives, most of us will have to have the hot water system in our home replaced.
This can land up becoming quite a costly exercise because the process consists of taking the old one out, buying a brand new unit, and then, finally, having that new unit installed by licensed professionals.
Needless to say, it’s crucial to do your research so that you don’t end up wasting money on rash decisions.
When it reaches time for an upgrade, here are some questions to think carefully about before going ahead:
- Is your hot water heater showing any signs that something is not right?
- Is your hot water system over 10 years old?
- Have your household needs outgrown your current system? Or, has your family become smaller as kids have moved out the house?
- What are the costs involved?
Let’s dive into these questions to help you come up with the answers to determine the best way forward.
1. What are the signs to look out for that indicate something’s wrong with your hot water system?
Even if your system has done a certain thing for as long as you can remember, that “thing” isn’t necessarily “normal.” This is why it’s important to be able to recognise the signs, as they indicate a problem.
Does your hot water stay hot enough for long enough?
Hot water heaters deteriorate with age. Your unit probably used to make enough hot water for the family to have a steamy shower in the morning, but it might have reached the point where the last person gets a medium temperature if they’re lucky.
Maybe your hot water system no longer produces water as hot as it once was, and there isn’t a need to cool down the hot water by opening the cold tap when showering.
Another sign of age is your hot water taking much longer than before to heat up, so it takes an extra few minutes to get ready in the morning.
Does your unit make unusual sounds?
Hot water systems make certain sounds as they begin to heat up the water, so you need to be able to identify which sounds are unusual.
Sounds that indicate that something could be wrong, include:
Is the water coming from your taps discoloured?
Luckily, noticing water that’s discoloured is very easy.
If your water is red, brown or rust-coloured it may indicate that there’s corrosion in the tank, sediment that’s built up, or the inside of the pipes or tank rusting.
Is your hot water unit leaking?
Leaving leaks unresolved can lead to problems that are expensive. Leaks can result in water damage to walls, cabinets and floors, and rectifying those is not something any of us want to deal with - or pay for.
A hot water system can have leaks from:
- corrosion around the fittings,
- pressure relief valve,
- inlet or outlet connections, or
- a crack in the tank.
2. How old is your hot water heater?
Hot water systems can generally function without major problems until the age of 10 to 12 years old. A well maintained system can even last up to 15 years of age.
When your hot water system is nearing the age of 10, you can start thinking about replacing it and begin saving and making financial arrangements in order to do so.
Rather try your best to be prepared to replace your system than there be an emergency situation and you’re forced to fork out of your pocket.
3. How do you choose a replacement hot water system?
Most people choose to just buy a new version of the hot water heater they had originally. They probably didn’t have any problems with their system before, so they’re happy to just upgrade. But, buying the same thing the second time around isn’t necessarily the best choice, especially if your household circumstances have changed.
Maybe you had a smallish tank, and for as long as anyone can remember, the family has divided their showering times between morning and night so that everyone receives their fair share of hot water. If this works for you, that’s great, but you don’t have to do it that way. Once your small unit gives up, you can replace it with an instant water heater or a bigger storage tank.
Another scenario is if your kids have moved out, you can downgrade to a smaller hot water unit and save money. Or, if you’ve had three kids and your inlaws have moved in to help look after them, a larger unit could be necessary.
An experienced plumber will be able to give you the appropriate advice on the right size and type of system suitable for your household.
4. What are the costs to install a new unit?
When you start budgeting for a new unit, keep in mind that you will also have to pay for its installation.
Different hot water systems have different requirements for installation, so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
The total costs involved will depend on:
- how complex the job is - for example, your old system may have been indoors and the new one must be installed outdoors;
- whether the new system requires a tempering valve,
- how much it costs to have the unit delivered,
- the disposal costs of your previous unit.
Knowing when it’s time for a hot water system replacement can save you money, time, and a whole lot of effort and stress.
A good starting point is knowing the signs that indicate that something might be wrong:
- hot water not being hot enough,
- water taking too long to warm up,
- funny noises from your tank, and
- discoloured water.
When your system starts nearing 10 years of age, you should start looking for and saving towards a replacement.
Before you go ahead and buy a replacement, be sure to discuss the situation with a qualified plumber.
A plumbing professional will do an assessment to determine whether you need to buy a new one or if your system merely needs some repairs and maintenance. They can also advise on which type and size of hot water system is the best fit for your household.