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How Long Does a Water Heater Last?

The lifespan of your water heater depends on a number of factors. Whether you are purchasing a new water heater or repairing one, here's what you need to know.

Plumbing
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December 8, 2020

A common question when purchasing a new water heater or when considering the replacement of an existing unit is, how long should a water heater last? The answer to this question is a bit more complex because it depends on a variety of factors.

In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about:

  • The average life span of different types of water heaters.
  • Factors that affect the lifespan of your water heater.
  • What causes water heaters to fail.
  • Common warning signs that it’s time for a new water heater.

5 Factors That Affect Water Heater Lifespan

The longevity of your water heater depends on these factors:

Storage or Tankless. Whether you decide on a traditional storage water heater or a tankless water heater can affect how long you can expect to keep it in service before needing a replacement. Traditional storage water heaters and hybrid water heaters can start to show signs of aging at about 10 years, requiring repair or replacement. Tankless water heater models, on the other hand, can far exceed that with an estimated lifespan of about 20 years.

Source of Power. Water heaters can be powered by electricity or natural gas. Electric-powered water heaters tend to last longer than gas-powered heaters by approximately 1-2 years.

Routine Maintenance. A well-maintained water heater can exceed its expected lifespan while a poorly managed one might fail sooner. Many manufacturers actually recommend annual water heater maintenance. 

Quality of Water. Whether you have hard water or soft water can make a difference in the lifespan of your water heater.  If you have a traditional storage water heater you’ll want to opt for hard water as soft water can rapidly corrode the anode rod, a component inside your water heater that protects the metal lining inside the tank to prevent corrosion over time. However, tankless water heaters don’t have an anode rod which makes them a great candidate for water softeners that can help prevent mineral buildup and keep water flowing freely through the heater.

Location of installation. The location of your water heater is an important consideration to make when installing a water heater. Make sure you install your water heater in a temperature-controlled or temperature neutral environment. If you live in a temperate climate and your water heater is installed in a cold area it will need to work harder to maintain the desired temperature of the water which will wear the unit out faster.

 

Common Reasons Water Heaters Break Down

Why do water heaters fail over time? Here are some common reasons:

  • Overpressurization: When the water pressure exceeds the tank’s specifications, the unit will wear down faster. This can occur because of excessive heat or too much pressure at the water inlet.

  • Sediment buildup: When your water heater is in operation, mineral deposits separate and settle onto the bottom of the tank. This sediment builds up over time which reduces the efficiency of your heater and can cause the unit to eventually become damaged and fail.

4 Signs Your Water Heater Needs To Be Replaced

Here are some common warning signs that indicate the need for water heater repair or replacement service:

  • Your water heater stops generating enough hot water.
  • Your water heater is beginning to make noise, which some people describe as banging, gurgling, rumbling, or other strange sounds.
  • The hot water from the tap appears red or brown in color.
  • The tank is leaking water onto the floor.

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