How Long Do Water Heaters Last

How Long Do Water Heaters Last? Find Out What to Expect

How long do water heaters last? These units aren’t cheap so this is a very pertinent question as you shop around. 

It’s important to note that there are two major types of water heaters with different lifespans. These are tankless and tank storage water heaters. Their lifespans vary because they operate differently. Tank water heaters heat water continuously while the tankless ones only heat water when needed.

In this guide, we look at the durability of the two models of water heaters and the factors that can influence their longevity. Some of the topics we’ll cover in this article include:

  • How long should a water heater last
  • Factors that can affect your water heater’s lifespan
  • When to replace your water heater
  • How to replace a water heater

How Long Do Water Heaters Last?

All water heaters are designed to last more than ten years, whether tank or tankless. It all depends on how you take care of the heater, though. Identifying common problems and solving them promptly can dramatically extend your water heater’s lifespan.

Lifespan of Tank Water Heaters

Conventional tank water heaters can last for 8-12 years on average. However, when used and maintained appropriately, it can even last for 15+ years. The tank has an anode rod that attracts corrosive elements in water, protecting its interior lining from corrosion.

After using the tank water heater for long (about ten years), the rod gets eaten away and no longer works effectively. The corrosive particles settle on the tank’s interior lining, including its bottom, and destroy it. At that point, the tank may start leaking. Check out this post to learn how to deal with leaks.

Lifespan of Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless water heaters use advanced technology that makes them last longer than tank water heaters. These heaters have an average lifespan of 20 years. However, some can last for up to 30 years when maintained properly.

This type of heater’s ability to heat water when needed has earned it the name “on-demand water heater.” Unlike tank water heaters, they don’t have to run throughout to keep water hot, increasing their lifespan. Tankless water heaters can still corrode over time but this happens much more slowly.

How Long Should a Water Heater Last? Determining Age

Now that you know the estimated lifespan of each type of water heater, you can predict the year you need to replace it. However, that’s only possible when you know its age. What if you buy a home with a used water heater and you don’t know its age? 

How will you determine the age of the used water heater? In that case, you need to check out the machine’s serial number, which has a letter and a series of numbers. The letters and the first two numbers typically represent the month and the year of manufacture respectively.

The letters can only go up to ‘L’ to represent December. For instance, if you find a water heater with the serial number A110297340, the letter ‘A’ represents January, which is the first month of the year, while the first two numbers ‘11’ represent the year 2011.

Contact your water heater’s manufacturer to find out if they follow this convention. If not, they may have other means of pinpointing your heater’s age.

How Long Should a Water Heater Last? Factors to Consider

There are a few factors that can affect a water heater’s lifespan, both positively and negatively.

  • Quality of Water: If the water heater heats hard water more frequently, its lifespan will most likely reduce by about two years. Hard water contains minerals that can build up limescale in your water heater, reducing its efficiency. Water softeners can remove the minerals before they reach appliances like your water heater.
  • Maintenance Practices: If you fail to do repairs and maintenance frequently, your water heater may end up failing after a few years. However, well-maintained water heaters can even last longer than expected.
  • The material of the Water Heater: Water heaters made of high-end materials such as fiberglass tend to last longer than those made from materials like steel.
  • Source of Power: Water heaters can use electricity or natural gas, depending on the manufacturer’s specifications. Electric-powered water heaters tend to last longer than a gas-powered water heater by about 1-2 years.
  • Location of Installation: If you install your water heater in cold crawl spaces, the machine will work harder to maintain the desired temperature of the water. It will wear out fast and finally break down. Water heaters installed in temperature-controlled homes tend to last longer.

When Should You Replace Your Water Heater

If your water heater hits the age of 10, you can easily detect the signs that show it’s almost breaking down. However, some water heaters may fail a few years after purchase. Some of the reasons why your water heater may fail abruptly include:

  • Buildup of Sediments: As a tank water heater heats and reheats continuously, the contaminants may form sediment at the bottom of the tank and become harder with time, accelerating the damage and reducing the efficiency of the heater.
  • Over-pressurization: It occurs when the pressure of water in a tank water heater exceeds the limit, forcing the water heater to fail. Excessive heating is one of the primary factors that can cause over-pressurization in the tanks.

Signs to Watch for to Replace Water Heaters

Now, let’s take a look at some of the things to watch for when using water heaters. When you see the following signs, you should start planning to buy a new water heater.

  1. Rumbling Noises

As your water heater ages, you will start to hear some strange noises emanating from the machine whenever it heats the water. The banging sound may even become louder when you always utilize a lot of hot water in your house.

The primary reason this happens is because sediment builds up at the bottom of the tank. This is especially common if you live in a place like Arizona and don’t have a water softener. 

Most manufacturers suggest that you flush the water heater each year to reduce sediment buildup at the bottom of the tank.

  1. Buildup of Rust

If the water heater begins to rust, that may be a sign that it’s almost breaking down. While most tank water heaters are made from stainless steel, they can eventually rust. The rust may corrode the tank slowly until the water heater becomes entirely inefficient.

You can get rust or corrosion around the pressure relief valve, water inlet connection, and water outlet connection. Unfortunately, you cannot repair a water heater that has begun to rust or corrode. Replacing it is your only option.

  1. Leaking Hot Water Tank

When your water heater leaks, it’s a clear sign that you need to replace it. Water heaters usually leak when they begin to corrode from the inside. If untreated, the leakage may destroy some of your property or even cause bodily harm in the case of an explosion.

To avoid leakages, you can opt for tankless water heaters. Alternatively, you can install a leakage detector beneath the water heater tank to alert you whenever a leakage occurs. Thankfully, many water sensor alarms are available in the market.

  1. Supplying Cold or Lukewarm Water

If the water heater begins to provide cold or lukewarm water instead of hot water, you need to start looking into replacing it. That may be as a result of a broken heating element.

The good news is that you can replace the water heater’s heating element and thermostat when broken down. However, if your water heater produces cold water because your demand has exceeded its size restrictions, you’ll need to replace it with a bigger one.

How to Replace a Water Heater

If your water heater has all the signs that indicate it’s almost breaking down, it’s time to buy a new one. But if it’s a few years old and still under warranty, you can contact the manufacturer to have it looked at before purchasing a new one.

Once you’ve bought a new water heater, you can install it by yourself or hire a professional plumber to help you do the task. Thankfully, when you purchase water heaters in Phoenix from American Home Water and Air, you also get our trusted expertise to help you with installation.

Final Words

Knowing when to replace your water heater requires keeping a keen eye on it. If your water heater begins to leak, rust, or produce strange noises, start saving money to buy a new one. You don’t have to wait till it breaks down entirely. When searching for a new water heater, you need to buy a model that’s energy-efficient to help you save on heating costs. With Energy Star-certified water heaters, you can save thousands of dollars. However, they can be a bit more costly than the standard models.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do water heaters leak?

Leakage from your water heater is among the telltale signs of aging. This type of leaking typically occurs at the unit’s base, inside the burner compartment. Years of sediment buildup at the bottom of the tank causes rusting and deterioration.

Water heaters can leak for other reasons as well, however. A common non-age-related reason for leakage is a loose drain valve. You can remedy this by simply tightening the valve.

How do you know when a hot water heater needs to be replaced?

If your water has reached the 8-12 year mark, you can count on having to purchase a replacement soon. Issues you’ll notice around this time include rusty water, leakage, odd noises, and poor heating consistency.

Can a water heater last 20 years?

If you maintain your water heater very dutifully (including replacing parts as needed), it’s not inconceivable that it might last 20 years.

How much does it cost to replace a hot water heater?

Water heaters cost, on average between $400 and $1,600 for standard tank units and $250-$2,500 for the tankless variety, according to Home Advisor.

Should I replace my 15-year-old water heater?

You don’t have to automatically replace your water heater once it reaches “X” number of years if that’s the only indication you’re seeing. Just be aware that you’ll likely have to purchase a replacement soon. If your water heater passing the 15-year mark is accompanied by leaking, rusty water, or other issues, however, you may want to take this opportunity to have it replaced rather than continuing to sink money into a unit that may suffer catastrophic failures soon.

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