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The Most Commonly Asked Questions About Water Heaters

If you’ve ever taken a hot shower or kept your home warm in the winter with a radiator, you have your water heater to thank. Like any appliance in your home, your water heater needs regular maintenance to ensure it stays in good working condition. If it fails, you could end up with damage, an outrageous water bill, and—worst of all—no hot water. 

If you’re not a professional plumber, we don’t expect you to know everything there is to know about water heater maintenance. That’s why we’ve compiled this guide on the questions we most commonly get asked about water heaters and their answers.

When should I replace my water heater?

Is it time to replace your water heater? The answer depends on what type of heater you have and how well you have maintained it. By bringing in a professional to maintain your water heater once or twice a year, you can ensure that your heater lasts longer. Tankless water heaters tend to last longer than tank water heaters. With proper maintenance, a tankless water heater can continue to heat your home’s water supply for 20 years or more. 

Because a tank will hold large quantities of standing water for long periods, water heater tanks will need to be replaced more frequently. Standing water is more likely to rust the metal interior of the water tank, leaving it more vulnerable to cracks. The average tank water heater will last between six to 12 years. By the time you’ve had the same water heater tank for around ten years, you should be looking to replace it. Four Seasons Plumbing installs both tankless and tank water heaters, and a member of our team would be happy to discuss your options with you.

Should I flush my water heater regularly?

Flushing your water heater is an important maintenance activity that can help you extend the lifespan of your heater. It is especially important if you don’t have a water filter on your incoming line. Without a filter, the water in the incoming line will also carry dirt and sediment. Since the sediment is heavier than the water, it will sink to the bottom of the tank and collect there. 

Sediment buildup can make your water heater less energy efficient and cause damage. Instead of just heating water, your heater also has to heat the sediment to bring all of the tank’s contents up to temperature. If you have a gas water heater, a layer of sediment on the bottom may even act to insulate the water from the heat source and slow down the rate of heat transfer. This may cause your tank to overheat, weakening the metal and making it more susceptible to cracks and leaks. In electric water heaters, sediment buildup around the lower heating element may result in the element burning out. If you are having issues with your water heater that you believe may be related to sediment buildup, contact Four Seasons Plumbing for an evaluation.

What is the average cost of installing a water heater?

There is a great range of variables that affect the cost of a water heater and its installation. Factors that affect the cost of a water heater include the type of water heater you are installing and the tank size, if applicable. In general, tankless water heaters are more expensive than tank water heaters. However, the bigger the tank, the more you can expect to pay. Electric heaters are also less expensive than gas heaters, while more energy-efficient options like solar-powered water or indirect heaters are much more expensive. Another factor is if your existing water heater plumbing is up to code.  If not, you’ll want to bring things up to the current code during the installation. Remember, you’re paying not only for the water heater but also for the labor to install it. 

You should also consider other factors when choosing the right water heater for your budget, including yearly operating costs and expected lifespan. The team at Four Seasons Plumbing will be happy to discuss your options and help you find the right water heater for you.

Where should I install a tankless water heater?

There are two types of tankless water heaters: whole-house systems and point-of-use systems. A whole-house system needs to be located near the existing water and gas lines and where it can be properly vented. The best location for a point-of-use tankless water heater is close to the faucets or appliances to which it will supply hot water. The farther the water travels from the heater to the tap, the more it will cool off before use. You must also be careful not to place the heater directly below any pipes or air conditioning lines that could drip onto it or above an electrical box it could drip onto. Both are potential fire hazards. When you bring in the Four Seasons Plumbing team to install your new tankless water heater, our expert plumbing technicians will be able to advise you on the best location for your heater.

How do I light the pilot light on my water heater?

A gas-powered water heater uses a small flame called a pilot light as an ignition source for the gas burner that heats your water. This flame should always be present to ensure consistent access to hot water. However, if it does go out for any reason, you have a few options. 

First, determine whether your heater is automatic or manual. Look for a silver box on the side of the heater and a dial labeled ‘pilot.’ If there is a button labeled ‘ignition,’ you have an automatic water heater. If not, you have a manual water heater. 

If you have an automatic water heater, all you have to do is hold down the pilot knob and the ignition simultaneously, and the pilot light will relight. However, if you have a manual heater, you will need a long lighter. First, remove the metal plate covering the pilot button and locate the pipes that lead to the burner. Next, turn the pilot dial off and let any gas dissipate for 5 to 10 minutes. Then, turn the dial to ‘pilot’ and set the temperature knob to ‘low.’ Finally, hold the pilot dial down for 30 seconds while you light the burner with your lighter. 

It’s important to note that these are generalized instructions, and you should always follow your water heater’s specific instructions as supplied by the manufacturer. If you can’t locate the pilot dial or have any other questions about relighting the pilot light, call the professionals at Four Seasons Plumbing

Need your water heater replaced, serviced, or repaired? Schedule services online today!

Max Rose - Owner of Four Seasons Plumbing


Max Rose

Max Rose is the owner of Four Seasons Plumbing, a plumbing company in Asheville, North Carolina.