Q&A: Should I buy an extended warranty for my water heater?

Consumer Reports News: May 18, 2013 12:08 PM

Q: My electric water heater had a six-year warranty and is now nine years old. A plumber told me to replace it before I have a problem such as a leak because it may be a major one that floods my finished basement. Do you agree? —Michael Lah Portland, CT

A: Our experts say yes, given your basement and the fact that your water heater unit is three years past the warranty. For many, though, it's a tough call.

The warranty period is just an estimate of the heater's life span. How long it actually lasts depends on factors including water quality, the amount of hot water you use, and how well you have maintained it.

If you end up replacing your water heater, consider a hybrid electric model that uses a heat pump to preheat the water. Those units can save up to 60 percent in energy costs over a typical resistive heater. But they are more expensive up front and generally taller, and they require a floor drain.

For more information, see:

Send your questions to ConsumerReports.org/askourexperts.

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