How Long Does a Water Heater Last?

Hot water is a comfort that many people take for granted. You realize how important it is when your hot water heater stops working. It’s seemingly effortless to turn on the water taps and adjust the hot or warm water as needed. The supply of heated water in most homes comes from a traditional tank-style water heater. Some homes are equipped with tankless water heaters as well.

Regardless of the type of water heater installed in your home, it’s important to know its current age and what the average lifespan of the unit is. If you didn’t purchase and install the existing water heater in your home, you may be able to determine how old it is based on the serial number. Most manufacturers include the manufacture date and year of the water heater in its serial number or there may be an installation sticker in place.

The average lifespan for a tank style water heater is between 8 and 12 years. If you’ve determined your tank style water heater is between the 8-12 year range, you may want to have plans for a replacement in the near future in case it fails. A failed water can cause more damage to a home instead of just no hot water. If corrosion or rust has damaged the tank to the point where it leaks, it could result in water damage to the home. This is one of the biggest causes of major water damage to a home.

Tankless water heaters can last up to 20 years. It is important to understand that they too are susceptible to the same problems as tank style heaters. They can be damaged by corrosion caused by the thousands of gallons of water circulating through them.

As your water heater ages, there will be signs that it is deteriorating. Once you know there is a problem with your water heater, it may be time to call a trusted plumbing company to install a new water heater for you.

There are many other signs that a water heater is ailing. A few are listed below.

  • Water that smells foul or looks discolored when hot water is running could indicate a problem.
  • There is a pool of water around your water heater. This is an obvious sign of a leak.
  • Yellowish or red water could be a sign of rust.
  • Noise coming from the water heater could indicate the buildup of sediment in the bottom of the tank. When this occurs, the layer of sediment can harden and then causes the heater to become noisy when it’s in use.
  • If you notice you’re running out of hot water sooner, or water is not very warm, this is also an indicator the water heater is in trouble.

What shortens a water heater’s life span?

In today’s market, consumers are often concerned with functional obsolescence of products, as it seems like some things seem deliberately constructed to fail after a certain period of time. Tank-style water heaters aren’t necessarily designed to fail, they just begin to give out when there is build-up or corrosion on its components and on the inside of the water tank.

Many factors can shorten the life of a water heater. The interior lining of standard tank water heaters are protected by an anode rod. This is a metal core that attracts corrosive particles present in the water through electrolysis. When it becomes corroded, the tank of the water heater is no longer protected and the corrosion and rusting will then spread to the water tank itself. Corrosion will destroy a water heater tank and once it’s begun, the entire water heater must be replaced. Anode rods can be replaced in some models of water heaters to extend the life of the unit but not all of them have that option.

It’s possible to extend the life of your tank-style water heater by completing regular maintenance. The water heater can be flushed, meaning the water at the bottom of the heater (where most of the sediment and corrosive particles build up) is drained out. Naturally, this has to be done with great care since the water in the tank is hot. In areas where the water is very hard and full of minerals that cause buildup and lime scale, water heaters don’t last as long, so maintenance is important. Use of a lime-scale build-up inhibitor can also help protect the water heater. Not only does corrosion damage the water heater over time, it reduces its efficiency and costs you more in utility costs. So even if your water heater is still going strong, after ten years or so it may be running far less efficiently than it did when it was new and cost savings can be realized with a replacement.

Goldenwest Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning has replaced thousands of water heaters. We happily service anyone in the Denver metro area. Feel free to give us a call!

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