Some minor issues with hot water heaters can be repaired. For instance, if you have a leaky valve, your contractor can simply replace that valve, a project that takes about an hour and requires about $20 worth of parts. However, water heaters do not last forever, and eventually, something will go wrong with your water heater that warrants replacing the unit. Here are three such issues that really warrant replacement rather than repairs.
1. Leaks in the tank itself
Many leaks in hot water tanks are due to problems with valves, which as mentioned above, are pretty easy to repair. However, if the leak is in the actual tank, you're generally better off just replacing the water heater. You might be able to have the tank patched, and that patch might hold for a few months, but it won't be a permanent fix, and there would be a lot of labor involved. Plus, once a tank has a leak, there is a potential for a sudden, big leak that would flood the area around the water heater. If you just replace the unit when the first leak appears, you will save yourself a lot of headaches.
2. Substantial mineral deposits
If you have hard water, minerals will slowly deposit themselves in the bottom of the water heater tank and on the heating element. You can keep this somewhat under control by draining the tank every year or so. Small amounts of buildup may be able to be removed by a plumber using a specialized cleaner. However, if you have not cleaned your tank in a long time and the mineral deposits are so extensive that they're interfering with the water heater's ability to heat, it is probably a lost cause. Get a new tank, and remember to drain it periodically so you don't end up with this same issue again. Alternatively, when replacing your water heater, install a water softener to remove minerals from your water preemptively.
3. Broken heating element
If your water heater suddenly stops heating altogether, one possibility is that the heating element has failed. While you could have the heating element replaced, a new element costs quite a lot and is not easy to install, so you might as well spend just a little more and get a newer, more efficient water heater.
If you are not sure whether you nee a water heater replacement or just some repairs, contact a plumber near you. They can take a look and offer their informed opinion.