How Long Does a Water Heater Last?

old water heater

A properly functioning water heater is integral to the proper running of any home. Though we rarely see or even have to worry about these appliances, their importance in the home cannot be overstated.

However, like any other home appliance, water heaters malfunction too, or breakdown over time, and they will need replacement. While you may have gotten into the groove of getting hot water whenever you need it, you may one day jump under the shower, only to be greeted by icy cold water.

Furthermore, faulty heaters can often result in other structural problems like large leaks and damages to your walls, floors, and other home equipment.

One way to avoid situations like this is to adhere to maintenance best practices in a bid to keep your heater functioning at its utmost. Furthermore, the ultimate preemptive measure is to replace your water heater before it breaks down completely.

However, since water heaters are long term use appliances, figuring out when yours is due for a replacement is not always straightforward. Hence, we created this article to provide you with all the information you need to know about time your water heater replacement.

How Long Does a Water Heater Last?

Water heaters can last a long time. Many water heaters are rated to last for up to a decade under typical use. For most models on the market today, the average lifespan of the appliance is between 5-12 years. Tanked heaters are typically on the lower end of the spectrum, while tankless models can often last between 10-12 years.

With proper maintenance, optimal working conditions, and a stroke of good luck, you can get as much as double the average lifespan of your heater. Furthermore, higher-end models are typical build better and often last way more than a decade.

However, it is not uncommon for water heaters to stop functioning after only a few years. In such cases, inexperienced users often make the mistake of replacing their heaters when the problem is easy to fix by changing some of the heater’s components. For tanked heaters, you may need to replace the tank or the anode rod, while for tankless models, it could just be the inlet valve.

Nevertheless, sooner or later, minor fixes won’t cut it, and you will have to replace the entire unit.

So, how can you tell when your water heater is due for replacement?

Signs that Your Water Heater is Due for Replacement

broken heating element

Eventually, you will start to see some of the following symptoms in your unit. Take them as a warning that your water heater is on the last lap. Consequently, you are safe to assume that the appliance is due for replacement. Especially as you enter the second half of the estimated lifespan of your water heater, watch out for these signs to avoid a situation where the appliance dies on you out of the blue.

Abnormal Rumbling Noise

One of the most common signs that your heater is near the end of its life is a loud banging noise whenever the appliance is operational.

Over the lifespan of your heater, calcium, and other minerals from hard water collect in the tank, and the layer of sediments starts to build up and harden. Over time, the deposits will form into a crust that will make your heater creak during use.

Once you get to the stage where your heater is loud enough to become an auditory nuisance in your home, you should start saving up for a new water heater.

Everyday maintenance actions that can slow down this sediment buildup include flushing your tank yearly and installing a whole-house water softening system in your home.

Poor Water Quality

Another typical sign that your water heater is nearing its end is when your hot water begins to have a reddish tint to it. If your faucet produces clean cold water, but the water becomes cloudy once you switch to warm, that is a clearcut sign that your water heater has rust.

As the heater starts to age, it is quite common that rust starts to spread within the tank and other components of the appliance. Rust is often quickly followed by leaking, and it is a clear sign that you should start looking towards getting a new heater.

Leaks

Leaks are one sign you can’t ignore. Once the water begins to pool underneath your heater, the chances are that you will need a replacement. However, ensure that you check for ill-fitting valves first.

Once you notice leaks from your heater, bring in a professional plumber to check if the problem is from a leaky valve or from the appliance itself. If the issue is with the water heater, it’s time for a new unit.

Inefficient Heating

If all of a sudden, your heater can no longer match your temperature requirements, the appliance may be approaching the end of its lifespan. However, have a professional check the device to be sure to avoid dropping the ball on an unnecessary new unit.

Conclusion

A typical tank-type heater will last for an average of 7-12 years. The component that is often responsible for the death of this type of heater is the anode rod. The anode rod helps to prevent corrosion and thus protects the interior lining of the tank. However, after extended use, the anode rod itself corrodes, leaving the reservoir unprotected and likely to erode shortly after.

Tankless water heaters, on the other hand, do not suffer from this corrosion problem, and they can often last for anywhere from 10 to 20 years. Since these heaters only work when you need water, their workload is also significantly lower than their tank-type counterparts, which helps to improve their lifespan further. However, in the end, tankless water heaters will suffer from corrosion, too, and then you will need to replace them.

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