How many years does a hot water heater usually last?

water heater installed

What are the signs of a failing water heater?      

A good water heater that has been professionally installed and had proper maintenance should last the average home a maximum of 15 years, maybe 20 years if the water quality is good. Like roofing shingles, manufacturers offer warranties for a lifespan that likely because they do not count the normal wear and tear of the product. So, if you wake up one morning to find your 12 year old water heater not working, it isn’t going to be on the manufacturer to replace it. 

There are seven things that can tell you tell you that the water heater in your home is about to quit working. By paying attention and remember some of what you’re about to read, you can get a replacement unit before the old water heater quits and never miss a hot shower.

  • Discolored or Gritty Water: When the anode rod rusts or wears out, it can no longer do its job of keeping the chemicals out of your water. So the water becomes discolored or has a gritty feel. When the anode rod quits working, this tells you that the tank has corrosion inside. You can replace the anode rod and flush the tank, hopefully get a little bit longer lifespan before you have to buy a new water heater. 
  • Odor: If the hot water has an odor like rotten egg or an odd taste, like metallic, it could be from iron pipes the water goes through is leaching metal in the water, common with old plumbing. Again, this could be from the anode road also, so replacing it, flushing the tank should fix this problem.
  • Leaking Water: When the water heater is leaking in the floor, it could be as easy as flushing out the tank to remove the sediment. If the leaking is coming from the seams of the tank, you probably need a new water heater. If the TPS (temperature/pressure relief) is dripping, that could be dangerous pressures developing and needs professional service. 
  • Strange Sounds: A water heater  will make reasonable sounds while heating water, however, if the noises are loud and getting louder, that means there is a lot of sediment inside the tank. It also means that flushing it out isn’t going to do any good at this point and you need to proceed with a replacement unit. 
  • Hot Water Runs Out: A water heater that says 40 gallon capacity shouldn’t run out after a load of clothes, dishes, or a shower. However, if the tank is filling with sediment, it will begin running out of hot water sooner with each use, and if flushing the tank doesn’t help, it is time to get a new water heater. 
  • Not Hot Enough: If the water isn’t getting hot enough, try bumping the thermostat 1 or 2 degrees warmer. If that doesn’t solve the problem, it may be the dip tube which sends fresh cold water to the tank bottom to be heated. If it has cracked, then it isn’t doing its job. Your plumber may be able to replace the dip tube. 
  • No Hot Water: No hot water! Probably the most aggravating and ill-timing thing that can happen. Check the circuit breaker first and make sure the electric water heater is getting power or check the pilot light of a gas powered water heater. If all of these check out, then you have a water heater with thermostat or heating element problem. 

Should you flush an old water heater?

Some water heater manufacturers recommend draining once gallon off once a year, others recommend once a month. Then there are those homeowners that never drain theirs. So, should you drain an old water heater?  If it is older than 12 to 15 years, leave it alone. 

If you have installed a new water heater, it is hard to say if you need to on a regular basis until you’ve drained it once. If it has built up a lot of sediment, then yes, you probably should drain and flush it monthly. 

Should I replace my 15 year old water heater?

If you are experiencing any of the issues we’ve covered in this piece earlier, than yes, better to replace it now than have your water heater quit in mid-shower one morning. If you’re not budget ready right now for a new on, you can drain and flush it to see if that improves the service you get from the unit. 

Can an old water heater make you sick?

Definitely!  As a water heater ages, they develop issues that can be a health risk for your family. The buildup of sediment is full of bacteria, germs, and more that cause stomach issues. 

white system

Will my water heater explode?

This isn’t an everyday occurrence, but yes, water heaters can explode for a number of reasons. The main cause of a water heater exploding is excess pressure. A water heater is under pressure already, and when the anode rod goes bad or the sediment builds up extensively, it cause it to explode if the TPR valve isn’t functioning. Other issues for exploding water heaters is a gas leak. If you smell gas and the pilot light is functioning then evacuate and call the gas company. 

Is there a water heater and pump setup?  Yes, with the hybrid style water heater, it does have an electric heat pump installed top of the tank. A compact compressor and evaporator coil capture heat from the room and transfer it to incoming cold water, heating it a needed. Working along the lines a heat pump HVAC system except it is pulling heat from the air instead of the ground.  Just one more environmental way of getting the comforts we’ve become accustom by doing less damage to the earth. Call 707-229-0482 today.