Your water heater is probably one of those appliances that you rarely think of. While they are often out of sight out of mind, leaks and a lack of hot water are sometimes indications that there may be a problem with it. Water heaters are not designed to last a lifetime and will eventually start to wear down and not work as efficiently as they used to. Some issues that arise with them can be repaired; however, there are some issues that will require the water heater to be completely replaced. This guide will provide you with guidance on when you should replace your water heater.
How Long Does a Water Heater Last?
A water heater is not built to last your lifetime and you will likely need to replace it several times over the course of homeownership. If your current tank is more than 10 years old, it is time to consider replacing it. With the proper maintenance and care, your water heater should last for about 12 years. Tankless options can last as many as 20 years.
If you are unsure about when to replace yours, you can check the water heater’s warranty to get an accurate timeline on how long it should last.
To identify how old your water heater is, you can take a look at the serial number listed on the appliance. You will see a letter followed by a series of numbers. The letter at the beginning of the number is the code for the month of the year. For example, G is for the 7th month of the year because A to G is equal to 7. The first two numbers following the letter are the year the water heater was manufactured. Therefore, if the number is G15090090, it would mean that the water heater was manufactured in July of 2015.
Your Water Heater’s Care and Maintenance
Water heaters need to be maintained to help ensure they last their intended amount of time and possibly extend their life too. If you fail to keep up with your water heater’s maintenance, you may find that yours needs to be replaced or repaired much sooner than initially anticipated.
Proper maintenance requires that homeowners drain, flush, and clean their water heaters at least once a year. It is recommended that homeowners in areas with hard water perform this maintenance at least every 6 months.
Tankless water heaters do not require as much maintenance as a traditional water heater, but you do still need to pay attention to it. You should flush the system every year to make sure that there are no mineral deposits or build-up. To remove build-up in the tank, you will need to turn the water heater off and flush it out with vinegar and hot water for an hour.
Signs That the Water Heater Needs to Be Replaced
Below, we will discuss some of the most common signs that your water heater needs to be replaced.
Rust is pretty common, and you are likely going to find it all over as a homeowner. It happens. But, rust can be damaging to your appliances and can mean that you need to replace your water heater. While most water heaters are made from steel, they are not free from rust and it can weaken them quickly. Rust is your first indication that leaks will follow.
Sometimes, it can be hard to determine if rust is coming from the water heater itself or if it is the water. Identifying the difference is crucial to know what your next steps need to be.
Rusty Value or Inlet
Check out the water inlet or the pressure release valve on the water heater and see if rust is present. If it is, then it is likely that there is also rust within the tank itself. You will need to replace the heater quickly to avoid leaks. Once rust has made its way into the tank, there is no way to repair or save it.
Rust that is present in your hot water from the sink or faucet means that you likely have a rusty heater. If your water heater is past its expiration date, then rust is probably the cause. Any water heater can experience rust and just because a heater is not 10 years old does not mean that it is free and clear.
If you have noticed that rust is present in the tap water, it could mean that the pipes are rusty as well. If your system consists of galvanized pipes, rust can occur due to the age of the pipes themselves. Sometimes, when rusty pipes are present, you may notice rusty-colored water in your sink and bathtub.
To determine if rust is coming from your pipes or the water tank you will need to drain several buckets from the tank itself. If the water is coming out rusty after the third bucket or so, then it is a problem with the tank and not the pipes. You will need to replace the water heater if this is the case.
When a water heater starts to reach the end of its life, there is a chance that you will notice it starts to leak. The leak will typically appear as water on the floor near the tank. Depending on where the heater is located in your home, water damage could become a problem rather quickly for you.
There are different reasons why your tank will leak with the most common cause being the expansion of the metal. The expansion is natural and occurs over time inside the body of the tank. Typically, before a leak happens, a fracture will form first but is usually not too much to cause a leak right away. When the tank is idle, no leaks will occur; however, once the tank is in use, the metal expands and the water makes its way through the fracture.
Sometimes, leaks are not always due to the expansion of the tank and could be caused by other reasons. For example, issues with the pressure or temperature overflow pipe or connections and fittings that are not on tightly can all cause leaks.
A water heater that is leaking can become a serious problem in your home and it is important to take care of it ASAP. Some of the consequences of a leaking tank include:
- Mold from water damage
- Structural damage from the water
- Ruined carpeting or other types of flooring
- Destroyed personal belongings
A water heater in need of some TLC and most likely replacement is one that makes a lot of noise. As the heater starts to age, the noises will get louder and occur more often. There are several reasons for the noise you are hearing.
First, sediment build-up could be the cause of the noise. When sediment forms at the bottom of the tank, it can create noise due to getting thicker over the years. Sediment can lead to accelerated damage to your water heater and inefficiency.
Secondly, a noisy water heater could indicate that you need to perform maintenance on the heater itself. Flushing it out may be able to help stop the noise that you are hearing. By flushing it out, you can remove any build-up or sediment that is present.
Remember, a healthy water heater should never make any noise, so if yours is, there is something wrong with it.
4. No Hot Water
A common problem that homeowners complain about is that the water heater is not heating up or providing them with hot water. The loss of heat from your water supply could be linked to one of three main reasons.
The first reason is that the thermostat has not been set up properly or is at the incorrect setting. Fortunately, this is usually a quick fix and all you need to do is adjust the thermostat. Your thermostat on the water heater should read somewhere between 120 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Another cause is a broken heating element. When this happens, you will not receive hot water. Typically, this type of problem can be repaired, but it may not be worth it depending on the cost of the actual repair. You will need to determine what is going on and then get price estimates. If your tank was manufactured within the last 8 years, a loss of hot water should not be a serious cause for concern as most will not need to be replaced.
Lastly, poor hot water flow could be due to having a tank size that is too small for your home. This happens more often than you may think. There are recommended sizes of water heaters based on how many people live in the home. Therefore, you will need to check to make sure that your tank can accommodate your home’s size.
Are Water Heater Repairs Possible?
Yes and no. In some cases, water heater repairs are possible but in some cases, they are not. Some of the replaceable parts on your water heater include:
- Burner assembly
- Heating elements
Typically, a water heater has a higher chance of being able to be repaired IF:
- A replaceable part has failed
- the tank is less than 10 years old
You should replace your water heater IF:
- It is showing signs of the wear listed above
- It is more than 10 years old
- It has not been maintained properly
Does Your Water Heater Need to Be Replaced?
It depends. There are times when the water heater does need to be replaced and other times when it can be repaired. Following the general guidelines above, you will be able to determine whether your tank should be replaced.
Your water heater is essential for providing your household with hot water. Without a properly functioning tank, you may be short on hot water, or worse, the tank could leak and lead to water damage and mold.