Why DIY Water Heater Repair Projects Fail and What You Can Do

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Why DIY Water Heater Repair Projects Fail and What You Can Do

DIY water heater repair is an excellent way to save a little money if you know what you are doing. That simply isn’t the case for most homeowners.

A poor job may damage your heater, leading to a costly replacement. If you aren’t sure, don’t even try. The challenges to pulling off a successful water heater repair job are many.

Diagnosis Is an Uphill Task

Water heaters - santa cruz caA lot of the time homeowners fail to diagnose the real problem. Suspecting an issue, they simply do a quick Internet search which brings up dozens of helpful resources. Browsing and reading, most settle on a solution that seems to make the most sense and is the easiest to perform.

Draining Doesn’t Always Fix Tank Noise

Tankless heaters - santa cruz caFor instance, if someone spots an unnatural sound coming out of their tank, they will promptly drain it because a lot of ill-informed water heater repair guides suggest rattling sediment in your tank is the most plausible cause and the easiest way to fix it is to flush out the tank. Few consider other possibilities, such as non-uniform pressure on valves or damaged pipes.

Replacing Anode Rods Doesn’t Always Result in Clear Water

Heater repaired santa cruz caDitto with rust-colored water. A quick search on the Internet recommends readers change the anode rod as if that were some panacea. It is not.

Gas (propane or LPG) and oil-powered storage heaters don’t even have an anode rod. It’s only found in electric hot water heaters. Even in electric heaters, most systems are fitted with two elements: one a third of the way down from the top and the second a third of the way down from the bottom. Only one element works at any time, and it’s usually the one on the top that does the most work. For a layperson, it can be difficult to gauge which one of the elements is more corroded, let alone fix it.

It takes an expert technician to consider other possibilities, such as corrosion in the tank or pipes.

Water May Be Cold for Many Reasons

Water heater replacement - santa cruz caIt’s a common problem: cold water coming out of the faucet. Look around on the Internet, and you may be convinced your hot-water heater needs a replacement. Although it is the case sometimes, a visit by a competent professional can shed light on other plausible reasons: condensation, loose-fitting, damaged piping, old valves, and non-uniform pressure release. A professional may find a simpler solution than cumbersome replacement.

Repair Is as Difficult as Diagnosis

Tank - santa cruz caLet’s assume for a minute that you can diagnose the problem correctly. How will you fix it?

Repairing pipes required a deep understanding of fuel source (electricity, oil, or gas), connection techniques (welding, anyone?), and supply line materials. Do you have the expertise? If not, you are (at best) risking a basement full of gas or (at worse) jeopardizing your and your family’s safety.

Things can be messier still if your water heater is nearing its end, which is 10–15 years for most and needs a replacement. It can be tempting to run down to a supermarket, throw a water heater in the cart, and install it. It’s complicated and risky, to say the least. Even those electric water heaters aren’t easy to install. Let alone managing venting and other requirements of gas and oil heaters. A safer and quicker way forward is to hire a professional.

Professionals Are Better Prepared

Repair - santa cruz caThink about it. Won’t it be difficult to compete against a professional who has been in the field for a couple of decades and has invested in industry-standard equipment with a few screws? Outside of Hollywood and a few star DIYers, that’s virtually impossible.

In fact, without an experienced eye and the right equipment, you cannot even be certain that you have diagnosed the problem correctly and are taking the right course of action.

In a majority of situations, professional water heater technicians will simply have more experience and expertise with water heater repair, and they will be better equipped.


If you have a problem with your hot-water heater, forget DIY and call an expert.

We have good news to share if you live in Santa Cruz, Aptos, Rio Del Mar, Scotts Valley, or Soquel. You can call us at (831) 476-1712 anytime, any day, and we will be glad to help you with all of your residential or commercial plumbing service needs.

First Published on: Sep 8, 2017

Updated: May 19, 2022

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