Some homes in the UK have an immersion heater as a backup source of hot water for the central heating system.
An electric immersion heater heats the water in the storage cylinder and provides hot water when the central heating is switched off. Immersion heaters often come on during the off-peak hours to take advantage of lower electricity tariffs.
Depending on the size of the hot water cylinder you may have one, two or even three heating elements.
Heating elements will last a very long time depending on use, but eventually, you may need a replacement. This article will guide you through the world of immersion heaters, what to do when one packs in and whether you should do this type of job yourself.
We’ll be covering how much it costs to replace an immersion heater, what affects the cost of replacing an immersion heater, how you can save money on replacing an immersion heater, if you really need a replacement, what’s involved in replacing an immersion heater and how to find and hire a professional.
If you’re thinking your immersion heater has seen better days, keep reading to find out how you can have it replaced in the most cost-effective way possible.
How Much Does It Cost to Replace an Immersion Heater?
|Type of Immersion Heater||Estimated Supply Cost||Labour Costs||Time Required|
|Copper||£15 to £75 each||£30 to £80 per hour||2 to 4 hours|
|Titanium||£30 to £110 each||£30 to £80 per hour||2 to 4 hours|
For a copper immersion heater, you can look to spend between £15 to £75 on the supply cost of the item, with an additional £30 to £80 per hour for labour costs, generally for between two to four hours when being installed.
Looking at the titanium immersion heater option, you’ll be expected to pay between £30 to £110 for the heater itself, with the same £30 to £80 per hour for labour costs, also lasting between two to four hours when being installed by a professional.
When it comes to additional labour costs, heating engineers can charge anywhere from £30 to £60 per hour, and plumbers from £40 to £80 per hour. Most plumbers will charge half a day to replace your immersion heater for you.
How long the job will take from start to finish will depend on the accessibility of the hot water tank and the immersion heater. Also, the tank has to be drained, so depending on the size of your tank you have to take the time it takes to drain it down into account.
If it’s a three-element tank and the bottom one needs replacing, you will have to empty the tank. However, if it is just the top element, the plumber may get away with emptying the tank to below the immersion heater level.
Whatever the situation, you are looking at a couple of hours before the old comes out and the new goes in.
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What Affects the Cost of Replacing an Immersion Heater?
Here’s what to look out for when replacing your immersion heater:
Type and Size
The type and size of the immersion heater will affect the cost. As you can see from our comparison table above, copper is the cheapest and does the job just as well, but you can opt for more expensive materials like titanium if you want to, and have the budget which is better for those in hard water areas.
Where you live in the UK has an impact on pricing, as the London factor is always taken into account when pricing trade jobs, meaning you’ll always pay more in the capital for the same job.
Number of Heating Elements
While single are more affordable, dual heating elements are more efficient. This is a trade-off of having the money to afford dual at the beginning which will yield you energy benefits further down the line.
If limescale buildup is a problem, you may want to have a water softener installed into your system as a preventative measure. This will cost more upfront, but will likely save you money in the long run as you’re not being affected by limescale.
How Can I Save Money on a New Immersion Heater?
The cost of an immersion heater can rocket if you’re not careful – and sometimes it’s just parts of the heater that need replacing instead of the entire heater itself.
Replace Elements and Cylinders
You can opt to replace two or three elements at the same time for two or three-element cylinders – as the chances are, if one has failed then the others will soon fail.
You can save yourself labour costs and inconvenience by having all elements replaced in one go, rather than needing multiple call-outs to the same trader.
Whether it’s a call-out or a planned job will affect the price you pay.
You’ll probably find that you will pay a premium for an emergency callout, so if you know your heater is on its last legs, book the project in advance to save you and your wallet from having to fork out for emergency rates.
Add Preventative Measures
Adding in a water softener will help to reduce limescale buildup; while having a titanium immersion heater will be better for those in hard water areas. These are the kind of changes that will pay dividends further down the line when it comes to maintenance but will cost more upfront in the beginning.
Do You Really Need a Replacement?
As we’ve touched on, you should also consider if a full replacement is actually what you need. In the first instance, it’s best to try out some common troubleshooting methods to see if it’s entirely necessary to replace the entire unit.
Some common problems to look out for are:
- Circuit breaker tripped
- Faulty thermostat
- Limescale buildup
Over time, immersion heating elements will burn out leaving you with no hot water. If this is the case, you can hire a professional to take a look at your heater for you to tell you what’s going on.
If they decide your heating elements need changing, they’ll likely take the following steps to perform the replacement:
- First, they will check and confirm the source of the problem is not in the fuse board. If the MCBs check out, they will go ahead and isolate the circuit in the consumer unit and turn the switch off next to the cylinder, as it is vital to make sure the immersion heater is electrically safe before proceeding.
- The next step is would be for them to test the heating element and to test there is no power, for which they’ll need an electrical test meter for this. The professional will disconnect the electrical wiring and check the thermostat first by setting it to its maximum temperature and measuring across the terminals on the resistance setting. If there is continuity then that thermostat is ok, if not, you need a new thermostat.
- If the thermostat is ok, the trader will now need to test the element for continuity to confirm it is faulty. If the meter shows a very high resistance reading, then the heater is broken, and you will need a replacement.
- They’ll then need to purchase the correct replacement part and use a box spanner to loosen the immersion heater element, remembering to drain the tank before removing the broken parts to avoid a manmade flood in your home.
- Finally, they’ll then wire in the new immersion heater and ensure all electrical connections are tight before restoring power. Then they’ll refill the storage tank with water, and you will be able to tell within a short time whether the heating element is functioning correctly or not.
In all cases, you should have a professional look into the problems for you as there is a high risk of problems with opting to do this yourself.
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What’s Involved in Replacing an Immersion Heater?
It isn’t suggested that you replace an immersion heater yourself unless you’re a professional with considerable knowledge of what you’re doing. In most cases, you may end up causing more trouble than it’s worth and undertaking work you’re not capable of, leading to leaks and all kinds of other trouble.
You should get a professional in to do the job safely and correctly while saving you the hassle of having to get to grips with a variety of different tools and equipment.
According to Plumber Parts, your professional will likely start with turning off the immersion, removing wires and fuses. The cold water supply will then be turned off, and draining will begin.
Once fully drained, the professional will then unwind the existing immersion heater, and insert the new heater. The new appliance will then be filled and tested for leaks, and finally, the electricity will be connected back once the professional is sure everything is in good working order and is safe.
How Do I Find and Hire a Professional?
Your first port of call should be with friends, family and neighbours to see if they’ve had similar work done recently and if they’d recommend their traders. If they do, this will save you hours of searching online and will give you a professional who has been pre-vetted for you, which is priceless.
If no one near to you has had work done, then you can look online at HouseholdQuotes to find hundreds of professional traders who are ready and able to get the job done for you. They can even help to save you up to 40% off your project fee.
Finally, searching the Gas Safe Register can be a great way of finding a professional who is suitably qualified to get the job done for you, safely and efficiently.
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Ensuring the Professional Is the Right Fit
It’s always best to treat hiring a professional much like a job interview – you want to know about their experience and previous jobs to make sure they’re a good match for you. You should see if they:
- Have a proven track record for performing similar jobs
- Are registered with a trade body
- Have a checkable work history with reviews from past customers
- Are insured, and offer a guarantee for their work
It is best practice to ask for a written quote to ensure what you are pitched becomes reality, leaving no room for confusion or potential miscommunication between parties once the work starts.
Similarly, you should check if there’s a manufacturer’s guarantee on the immersion heater, as if there are problems in the future with the product, it’s good to know whether or not you’ll be covered by a warranty, or if you’ll need to fork out for replacement parts yourself.
If your immersion heater has seen better days and you’re sick and tired of having inconsistent hot water, then getting it replaced could be the best thing you’ve done in years.
Here’s our final checklist to make sure everything is taken care of:
- Ensure you need your entire unit replaced before booking someone in – can you troubleshoot to find other solutions first?
- Seek out referrals from friends, family and neighbours who have had similar work done recently
- Use HouseholdQuotes to find a reputable trader
- Get a written quote, and ensure your trader is registered with a trade body and carries insurance for their work
- Find out if there’s a manufacturer’s guarantee on the product and the work
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Frequently Asked Questions
Should a Plumber or Electrician Replace an Immersion Heater?
In most cases, it’s best to get it checked out by a professional so they can let you know exactly who to call in for help.
Can I Replace an Immersion Heater Myself?
In most cases, it’s best to get a professional in to save you the hassle of learning how to do it yourself, while also benefiting you with fast and efficient service.