How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Hot Water Heater?
Tank Style Water Heater Replacement Cost Comparison
$290 – $540
Average Cost Estimate
$750 – $1,600
$2,500 – $10,000
|Tank Size||20 – 40 Gallons||40 Gallons||40 – 70 Gallons|
|Gas or Electric||Electric||Gas / LP / Electric||Gas / LP|
|Location Accessibility||Easy||Easy / Average||Average / Difficult|
|Code Updates||None||None / Few||Few / Many|
|Brand Rating||3-5 Star||3-5 Star||5 Star|
|Completed By||DIY / Plumber||Plumber||Plumber|
|Water Heater Cost||$215 – $325||$325 – $475||$325 – $750|
|Cost of Tools & Supplies||$25 – $100||None / Included||None / Included|
|Permits, If Required||$0 – $250||$0 – $250||$0 – $250|
Overview of Tank Style Water Heaters
Tank-style water heaters remain the most common type installed in homes. Standard gas and electric models are more affordable when compared with tankless water heaters, despite not being as efficient. That’s the trade-off; upfront vs. operating costs. Electric water heaters are the cheapest, but have the highest operating costs and don’t heat water as quickly. Gas water heaters cost a bit more for the unit and installation, but cost less to run and heat significantly more gallons of water per hour.
This Costimate details tank-style, or conventional hot water heater prices for gas (fuel source: natural gas and propane) and electric models for you to compare. The cost for the water heater only and for water heater installation cost are covered, so you can see the cost savings possible with DIY installation. Reader-submitted water heater costs are found below, and we invite you to return once you’ve installed a water heater to add your cost details for the benefit of other readers. We also discuss DIY vs. Pro installation for those considering doing the work themselves, and provide a table of costs from other leading home improvement cost comparison websites.
Breakdown of Water Heater Costs
Water Heater Retail Price Factors
The type of water heater you select is the top factor in the total cost you pay. Most residents still install standard electric or NG/LP gas water heaters. However, ultra-high efficiency gas water heaters and heat pump/hybrid electric water heaters are available, both with much higher equipment costs but lower operating costs. One of these types might be worth considering if you use a large volume of hot water, but you should realize that it will take most homeowners 8-12 years to recoup the higher equipment cost through lower utility bills. Here are the cost factors for tank-style water heaters:
- Water Heater Type – Electric and standard-gas models are competitively priced. Ultra-efficient gas models and/or LP conversion units cost two to three times more.
- Efficiency – If you purchase a new gas or lp water heater, you’ll have efficiency choice. Higher AFUE energy efficiency models cost more than lower, standard efficiency units.
- Size of Unit (Gallons) – Residential water heaters start at about 30 gallons and range to 100+ gallon storage tanks, though most homeowners install units from 40 to 80 gallons. A 50 gallon tank is perfectly sized for a family of 3-5, with 3 or less bathrooms.
- Replacement vs. New Construction – When installing a water heater in new construction, you’ll have the additional costs of running power and/or a gas line to it and, for gas water heaters, the cost of venting the unit.
- Location of Water Heater – Where your existing water is installed will have an effect on the replacement cost. For example, if it’s located on the first floor with easy access, it will be less than if the water heater is installed in your attic or crawl space.
- Code Changes / Updates – It’s not uncommon when replacing older water heaters, that you’ll need to update plumbing to current code standards. Expansion tanks, pressure relief valve plumbing, venting, etc may need to be upgraded at the same time.
Cost of Installation Supplies
Here’s the cost ranges for the various 40 to 80-gallon tank water heater types:
- $350-$1,175 | Electric water heaters (heat with electric coils)
- $425-$1,225 | Gas water heaters (heat with gas burners)
- $1,350-$2,385| Ultra-efficient gas water heaters (heat with gas burners and condensing technology)
- $1,175-$2,650 | Heat pump water heaters (heat with air-to-water heat pump technology with electric coil backup)
Water heater installation supply costs:
- $35 – $100 | Copper, Pex or Poly Pipe
- $15 – $50 | Misc Pipe Fittings, Valves, Supplies, and Connectors
- $40 – $200 | PVC or Concentric Venting Kit (gas water heaters)
- $40 – $250 | Electrical Wire and Circuit Breaker (If needed)
Permits, Inspection, Related Costs and Installation Time
Once you’ve purchased your water heater and installation supplies, you might have additional costs related to installation. Even if you’re planning DIY installation, you might want to consult a licensed plumber for tips and to learn of potential pitfalls. For example, electric units that require 240V power, present the risk of serious injury or electric shock. Gas units create the risk of gas leaks and explosion or exhaust leaks that contain deadly carbon monoxide. In short, it is important that installation be done safely and correctly, and the best way to ensure that is with professional installation.
Permits and Inspection Cost
Replacing a water heater may not require a permit in most areas unless its location is different or you’re changing types, for example replacing an electric water heater with a gas model. Additionally, many states allow homeowners to get a permit or inspection themselves if they did the work. If you’re unsure whether you need a permit, ask your local building code official. Installing a water heater in a new home will need one or more permits – plumbing, electrical, mechanical – depending on the type of unit being installed.
- $35-$250 | Plumbing, electrical and/or mechanical permits and inspections
Related Costs and Installation Time
Flat fees are common when replacing a water heater with the same type of unit. When changing types or installing a water heater in a new construction, the estimates you receive will vary based on the time and materials the installer believes will be required. Use these cost and time figures to get a ballpark estimate for your installation.
- $60 – $90 per-hour | Licensed and Insured Plumber
- $40 – $75 per-hour | Plumbers Apprentice and Helper
Water Heater Installation Time Schedule
- 1-2 hours | Simple installation when replacing an electric water heater by shutting off and disconnecting water and power to the old unit, removing it and hooking up the new unit.
- 2-4 hours | Simple Installation when replacing an existing gas unit when the vent can be used for the new unit.
- 4-8 hours | Most common installation of a new unit in a first-floor or basement location. New 240V line run for electric, and new gas line and vent for gas. Venting through wood.
- 8-12 hours | Difficult Installation of new gas or electric unit in an attic or crawlspace, venting of a gas unit through the roof or a block/concrete foundation wall.
DIY or Hire a Pro?
This is really a choice for you to make yourself. I’ve installed my own water heaters, both gas and electric. I do have friends in both plumbing and HVAC who have helped to assure it was done properly. The last time I installed a gas water heater, I called my local town for a permit and they told me I didn’t need a permit (Since DIY) but did need to have it inspected, which I did a week later.
- If you’re a skilled handyman, this could be a simple DIY project. If not, call a plumber or HVAC company and make sure it’s done right.
- Heavy lifting required. Make sure you have a friend to help out, and a truck to get the new one to your home.
- You’ll need a way to dispose of the old water heater. Dumps usually charge a fee.
- You’ll need a good supply of hand tools for electric, and copper or pex tools for the plumbing.
The main reason I installed my own heater last time, was due to a remodel of the laundry-room where it’s located. It was already removed and only made sense to replace. If the water heater failed separately, I’d likely use a pro to do the job. It’s not hard, but still a pain and inconvenience.