If you woke up to find a portion of your home underwater, there could very well be a problem with your water heater. Unfortunately, you might need an entirely new one. It might be hard to know where to start when it comes to choosing a reputable company to repair or replace your water heater, but we talked with Steve Cassel of JSC Enterprises to see what his advice was for choosing a water heater repair company. Steve has been involved with refrigeration from a young age, and he’s been in the refrigeration and water heater repair business for eight years now. He even teaches future technicians at a technical college, sharing his knowledge of AC and HVAC systems with them.
We started out by asking Steve about important things to look for in a water heater repair company.
He responded with these five points:
Why is appearance so important?
After all, you just need a new water heater, right?
Steve had a few things that really mattered to him when it came to the appearance of the employees.
- Do the workers look like clean people?
- Are they wearing old, dirty pants and boots?
- Do they use profanity?
- Do they show respect for the cleanliness of your home?
Steve explained, “All of these things reflect their personality, their work ethic, and their ability to do the work in your home. ” Steve said that he drills into his students that appearance does matter. “I tell them they need to clean up their mouth and they need to clean up their act if you’re going to make it in this business.”
But alas, this work ethic isn’t practiced by all companies.
What kind of reputation does the company have?
Take the time to do some research. Read some online reviews and see what kind of experiences other people have had with the company. This will help you gain a picture of what kind of a company it is and how they work. Then trust your gut—what do your instincts tell you about the company?
Steve often gets 5-star reviews without doing any work.
How is this possible, you may ask? It’s simple—he’s honest.
“Many times we go out to look at a job and tell people they don’t need to replace their unit or their hot water tank. In other words, we do not install a new one and we don’t make any money. Yet the person takes the time to leave us a nice review thanking us for our honesty and saving them tons of money. We believe this is the best form of advertising in the world!”
Do you get the sense that the company you’re considering is honest and trustworthy?
Is the company insured?
It’s surprising, but many homeowners don’t ask a water heater repair company if they have proof of insurance. Be sure that you will be protected from any mishaps that could happen while having your water heater repaired or replaced.
Steve recommends that your installer has at least a $1 million general liability insurance policy. He added, “There are tons of guys out there that do work on the side and do not have proper insurance.”
How do they get away with this? No one asks to see proof of insurance. Unfortunately, it’s very easy for someone to lie and say that they are insured when in fact they are not. So do yourself a favor and ask to see a copy of the insurance policy—do your due diligence.
Are they licensed?
Many people install water heaters without a license. Sure, they may work for someone with a license during the day, but what if they work on your home in the evening or on the weekends for themselves as a side job? Make sure that your installer is licensed and understands the code and requirements. Ask for proof of licensing.
There are advantages of working with a smaller water heater installation company.
Steve told us, “Many of the big companies hire kids right out of tech school without any work experience. They usually last for five months before they’re put in the truck to do service calls on your home.”
So the $99,000 question is, do you want someone practicing on your home?
When you work with a smaller company, you might get the owner him or herself at your house working on your water heater, or a member of their family. The owner will work hard to make sure that you’re 100% satisfied with their service—happy customers are their lifeblood. Fun fact—about half of Steve’s business comes from referrals from his company’s reputation.
How much experience does the company have?
Like we said, lots of bigger companies hire kids right out of tech school. This ought to concern you because there are a lot of things that could go wrong when it comes to your water heater. What are some possible disasters, you may ask? Well, there are challenges to every type of water heater, and the more experience the installer has, the better they’ll be able to help you with your specific system.
If you have an older home, your water heater might not have an expansion tank. Steve told us that adding expansion tanks to water heaters is part of code now, but your older water heater probably doesn’t have one. This is a major concern because as water heats, it expands. This expansion causes powerful water pressure, which can cause premature wear and tear to your plumbing pipes, water heater, and plumbing fixture. Remember you want the air tank to act as a shock absorber for your water heater. Otherwise excessive hydraulic pressure will result in you having to replace your hot water tank a lot sooner than the 15-year warranty that it may come with.
If you have a gas water heater, you really don’t want someone practicing on your gas lines. Leaking natural gas pipes can cause explosions, which is terrifying. You really have to have an experienced installer to fix your gas water heater because natural gas is not something to play around with.
If you have an electric water heater that needs to be replaced, there’s an important step that the installer has to take to make sure that the entire heater doesn’t burn out. The water heater has to be filled with water before ever being turned on. The heater element gets extremely hot, so without water inside the tank it would overheat and the entire heater would have to be replaced. An inexperienced installer might not know this important trick to water heaters, or they might forget to add the cold water. Don’t put yourself in that position.
You might have heard talk of tankless water heaters, which sound appealing at first. Steve said, “What people do not know is that tankless instant hot water heaters cost up to 3 times the cost of a standard water tank. On top of that, many times you have to upgrade the electrical wiring not just for the water heater but for the entire electrical service. This could cost thousands of dollars. It would take many, many years for the electricity savings of an instant hot water heater to pay for itself.”
An improper installation can also cause water leaks and damage. You don’t want to find your basement flooded, right? That would not be fun to deal with, so make sure that your installer knows what they’re doing and won’t make a mistake on your system.
We hope that this article about how to choose a contractor to install, replace, or repair your water heater was helpful. Special thanks to Steve for sharing his expertise about water heaters with us. You can visit his company’s website here.
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