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6 Expert Tips on Water Heater Repair: An Interview with Steve McNally of Burnett Plumbing

By Steve McNally

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

We provide plumbing and water conditioning services to homes, cabins, businesses and industrial clients in Burnett, Polk and Washburn Counties.

What's one of the biggest challenges that Wisconsin homeowners face when it comes to their water heaters?

Most of the homes in our area have hard water. If this hard water is not treated with a water softener, large mineral deposits form inside of the water heater. These deposits can harm the functionality and efficiency of the heater.

What are some important things homeowners should consider before hiring someone to repair or install their water heater?

In Wisconsin, a contractor is required by law to have a plumbing license to install a water heater. There are many unlicensed handymen and heating contractors out there who are doing water heater installations illegally. Many times these unlicensed individuals fail to follow basic plumbing codes. This can result in an unsafe installation that puts the home or its occupants at risk.

Are there any circumstances where it's better to replace a water heater rather than repair it?

If you have untreated hard or corrosive water, it is usually best to replace rather than repair if the heater is more than 7 years old. If you have a power-vented gas water heater, it is often best to replace rather than repair if the heater is more than 8 years old. We would usually recommend replacing any heater that is over 15 years old rather than repairing. In situations where the replacement would be exceptionally difficult or expensive, we will sometimes agree to repair a heater that is older than these guidelines.

How do tankless water heaters compare with regular water heaters?

Tankless water heaters use less energy than regular heaters, but they are more complicated machines and typically require more maintenance. Tankless heaters should NOT be used on hard water. Many of the less expensive tankless models are prone to freeze-damage in our cold Wisconsin winters. In replacement situations, the initial installed cost of a good quality tankless heater installed to code is usually at least twice the cost and often 4 or 5 times the cost of a conventional heater installation. It is often difficult to justify the additional installation cost of a tankless model based on fuel savings alone.

What advice would you give someone who needs an emergency water heater repair?

Determine the make, model #, serial #, size and fuel type before calling for help. Also the age if possible.

Is there anything people should do for water heater maintenance that also might help them avoid future repairs?

The best thing you can do to lengthen the life of your water heater is to make sure your water softener is working properly. Flushing out the drain valve at the bottom of the heater is recommended annually. At the same time, check all piping, fittings and connections for sign of leaks. For power-vented gas heaters, periodically check the vent outlet for possible leaves, insects or other debris. Make sure the screen is intact to prevent critters from crawling in.

What's the best way for people to reach you and your comp

715-463-3499 or visit our website at www.burnettplumbing.com

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