Every year, more and more American homeowners switch to tankless water heaters. After all, who doesn’t want to use less energy and have as much hot water as they want? Also, the cost of running a tankless water heater is less than that of a traditional water heater with a storage tank. So, if you’ve been thinking about switching, read on to find out if a tankless water heater is the right choice for your household.
The Benefits of Tankless Water Heater Maintenance
A tankless water heater needs a little more care than a standard water heater with a storage tank because it needs to be cleaned regularly to get rid of mineral deposits. Most of the time, how often you need to do this maintenance depends on how hard or soft the water is where you live. Since hard water causes more sediment buildup, your tankless water heater may need cleaning once a year to improve its longevity. In areas with softer water, you may be able to get away with cleaning it once every couple of years.
The primary maintenance for most tankless water heaters includes cleaning the system in a couple of ways. First, if minerals have caked onto the components of the water heater, extensive descaling is required. However, if there is a little accumulation of silt in the tankless water heater, frequent flushing of the system is recommended.
Frequent water heater maintenance yields the following benefits:
- Durability: Tankless water heaters typically last between 20 and 25 years. However, with proper maintenance, you can keep your water heater running for a few more years than it otherwise would. Thus, the money you spend on maintenance will have been well worth it.
- Energy efficiency: A tankless water heater that is clogged with mineral sediments will use more energy to maintain preset water temperatures. Proper maintenance of your tankless water heater ensures the heating elements are free of mineral deposits and water energy bills will remain low while flow rates remain high.
- Avoid further damage to the heater: Tankless water heaters may be damaged beyond repair by calcium and magnesium deposits, which might necessitate the unit’s replacement. Preventative maintenance may help you avoid this kind of damage, which isn’t covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.
When Should You Schedule Tankless Water Heater Maintenance?
Regular maintenance should prevent your tankless water heater from malfunctioning. However, it is still prudent to keep an eye out for signs that suggest your tankless unit needs maintenance. Here are a few potential problems that you should look out for:
Sudden change in water quality
If your water suddenly appears rusty or has excessive sediment, there may be a problem with your tankless water heater. Typically, rusty water is caused by a failing anode. In addition to sediment buildup, faulty piping is another typical cause of rusty water.
Rusty water does not always indicate that your tankless water heater is malfunctioning. Sometimes, the cause of the problem is a water quality issue. You should refrain from jumping to conclusions until you’ve had your water tested. A great way of testing water quality is by installing a water treatment system. If the issue persists, you need to get the tankless water heater flushed.
If your water heater is making sounds like banging, popping, or crackling, sediment accumulation may be to blame. This is an urgent situation that requires prompt action. Ignoring the problem may cause the water heater elements to fail prematurely, leading to the unit’s eventual failure. In order to fix the issue, your plumber must perform a system flush.
Sediment is coming out of your faucets
When sediment builds up in your water heater, it might eventually make its way into your pipes and clog your fixtures. These particles may accumulate in pipes and cause blockages or even pipe breakage. In addition, bathing in this water may lead to dry, itchy skin and dry, brittle hair. The good news is that these issues may be avoided with the use of a water softener, which will filter out any extra rock in the water.
The tankless water heater is leaking
Tankless water heaters are not designed to store the water they heat. Therefore, if water ever leaks from your water heater, you know something is wrong. Usually, this indicates a major structural malfunction. Your water heater will need extensive repairs at a minimum. However, in some extreme instances, users are required to overhaul their entire tankless system.
Factors That Affect Tankless Water Heater Maintenance Cost
There are three factors that determine how much you’re going to pay to get your tankless water heater serviced:
What the plumber checks for during a maintenance visit
Most plumbing contracting firms have a list of tasks a licensed plumber must accomplish during a tankless water heater maintenance visit. On average, the more extensive and meticulous the checklist is, the more expensive the service will be. Some common tasks that plumbers perform during such visits include the following:
- Flush the tankless water heater to remove any accumulated sediment.
- Inspect the pressure release valve to ensure it is functioning properly.
- Inspect the tankless water heater for leaks, loose connections, or rust.
- Examine the burners and ignition system.
- Check the heating element for rust, and replace it if corroded.
- Make sure all of the electrical parts are functioning properly.
- Check to see if the water pressure is safe.
Before hiring a plumber, find out what they will inspect during a maintenance visit. If they do not carry out the tasks listed above, find another plumber.
Annual maintenance plan vs single visit
The type of tankless water heater maintenance visit might also affect the service cost. There are two types of service visits that most plumbing contractors perform:
- A single visit
- An annual maintenance service plan
In the case of a single visit, the plumber will charge a flat rate for the whole maintenance job. Established plumbing contractors, on the other hand, often provide clients with an annual maintenance plan.
Customers who sign up for an annual or semi-annual maintenance plan often get a discounted rate on water heater service calls. Average yearly maintenance plan costs are $200 or more. Discounts on repairs, free diagnostic checks, and priority scheduling are common perks offered to customers who sign up for this type of service plan.
How good is the plumber?
Good plumbers often charge more for maintenance. On the other hand, a highly skilled plumber will do a better job, which will save you money in the long run.
As it turns out, keeping up with routine maintenance on your tankless water heater may help you save money on your utility costs as well as on the cost and severity of repairs. If you want to save money on maintenance costs, you should hire a qualified plumber.
Asking whether a plumber is licensed is one way to be sure you’re getting great service. If they are, you can be certain that the plumber you choose will adhere to all applicable state and local regulations and industry guidelines while servicing your tankless water heater.
You should also ensure that the plumber follows a predefined checklist, which includes the tasks specified above. Lastly, I recommend checking the plumber’s online customer ratings on websites like Home Advisor, Thumbtack, and Angi’s (formally known as Angie’s List).
Tankless Water Heater Maintenance Cost
According to Fixr, a website that provides hundreds of cost guides, articles, and illustrations on home remodeling projects, the US national average cost for tankless water heater maintenance is between $50 and $400 per visit. However, there are a number of issues to consider when assessing the cost of repairs and maintenance.
These costs are further broken down into the following categories:
- Fueling method
- Type of repair
- Type of replacement
The tables below show how much it costs to maintain a tankless water heater in the US on average for each category your repair or maintenance could fall under.
Tankless water heater maintenance cost by fueling method
Tankless water heaters may be fueled in a variety of ways. Some run on electricity, while others on gas. Other varieties, such as solar- and oil-powered heaters, have different maintenance costs resulting from more sophisticated and costly components.
|Fuel type||Average cost (labor included)|
Tankless water heater maintenance cost by type of repair
Problems such as blown fuses, malfunctioning pilot lights, and broken thermostats are among the many things that may go wrong with a tankless water heater. Your repair costs may vary depending on the nature of the issue, with some being far more quickly and inexpensively fixed than others. The common issues and associated costs are shown in the table below.
|Type of repair||Average cost (labor included)|
|Pressure relief valve||$75–$150|
Tankless water heater maintenance cost by type of replacement
Depending on the extent of the damage, it may not be possible to fix your tankless water heater. You might need to get new components instead. Some parts are smaller, simpler, and less expensive than others, therefore their replacement costs will vary. Parts and labor costs for the most commonly replaced parts of tankless water heaters are shown in the table below.
|Type of replacement||Average cost (labor included)|
|Pressure relief valve||$100–$250|
Tankless water heater maintenance cost by problem
Depending on the problem, the cost of your tankless water heater repairs might vary significantly. For instance, repairing a leak is very different from tackling rust or a low pressure issue in your tankless water heater unit. The table below outlines the typical repair costs for each of these heaters, as well as the most common problems.
|Problem||Average repair cost (labor included)|
|Tankless heater shuts off||$50–$500|
|Loud rumbling noise||$100–$650|
|Rotten eggs smell||$200–$600|
|Cold water sandwich||$300–$1,000|
Tankless water heater maintenance cost by brand
There are several tankless water heater manufacturers, including Rheem, Noritz, Bosch, and EcoSmart. The brand of your heater has a direct effect on the cost of repairs, since some models have more costly components and more intricate systems than others. The table below lists popular brands and their respective typical maintenance costs for tankless water heaters.
|Brand||Average cost (electric)||Average cost (gas)|
Labor cost to repair a tankless water heater
Plumbers and water heater repair technicians often charge between $50 and $150 per hour for their services. Some charge by the hour, while others offer flat rates. Your location, the level of competition among plumbers in the region, and the plumber’s expertise may all have an impact on the pricing. If you reside in a remote area and the plumber must drive a considerable distance to your house, you may be charged an additional price for emergency repairs.
The Bottom Line
Now that you understand the importance of tankless water heater maintenance, consider scheduling service with a plumbing contractor today. Your plumber will then advise you on the recommended frequency for future maintenance services on your tankless water heater.
If your tankless water heater fails, you may be forced to deal with the inconvenience of living without hot water until the unit is fixed. Furthermore, the cost of repair is usually always greater than the cost of preventative maintenance. While you won’t be able to avoid all problems, you’ll be far less likely to encounter one.