How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Water Heater?

    Photo: roger_mommaerts/flickrHave you ever had one of those mornings? It's hard enough to drag yourself out of bed, but a steaming hot shower just might help get you in shape for the long commute to work. You head, bleary-eyed, to the bathroom and turn on the tap. Oops! Only cold water comes out, and twisting the faucet every which way doesn't help. Eventually you pull yourself together and face the chilling truth … your current hot water heater has had it. Now what? How much does it cost to replace a water heater, anyway?

    Tank vs Tankless Water Heaters

    The first factor in determining water heater prices is the type of unit -- tank or tankless.

    Tank water heaters heat and then store water, reheating it at intervals as it cools below a certain temperature. The storage tanks for these water heaters come in a range of sizes, usually from 40 to 75 gallons. This type of heater tends to last for about 12 years.

    Tankless water heaters heat water on demand. They're more economical to run and have a lifespan of approximately 20 years. There's one distinct disadvantage, though -- the limited amount of hot water they can produce at a time. In a busy household, this holds up the routine of morning showers and makes it difficult to operate the dishwasher and washing machine at the same time (unless, of course, you do your laundry in cold water -- a commendably eco-friendly practice). In addition, annual professional maintenance is recommended.

    Types of Water Heater Power

    A water heater may be powered by either electricity or natural gas. The latter became very popular when natural gas cost quite a bit less than electricity. However, the price of natural gas has risen to the point where there is little significant difference. Solar water heaters are being used more and more, as a green alternative form of power. Because they rely on sunshine to warm your water, these heaters are not practical to run all year round. However, you can install a second water heater powered by natural gas or electricity as a backup for cloudy days. Solar water heater installation cost is more expensive than other types, but after that, they can save you a great deal.

    What is Included in the Cost to Replace a Water Heater?

    Water heater prices include both the initial charge to purchase the unit and the installation labor cost. The length of warranty that you opt for will make a difference in the total price. You may also need to pay to have your old heater removed. Total cost to replace a tank-style water heater of  40-50 gallons is about $1,000, including the heater, related materials, labor, and disposal of the old unit. Cost to purchase and install a tankless water heater is approximately $1,800, not including any gas line installation or upgrades that may be required.

    Laura Firszt writes for

    Updated May 16, 2018.

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