We all have our routines. We get up in the morning, turn on the shower, and come fully awake under the warm, steady spray. A nudge of a hot-water tap and the tea kettle is filled. With a twist of a dial, our toughest laundry is scrubbed clean.
It’s easy to take hot water, as well as the hot water heater that supplies it, for granted. But like any other appliance, water heaters have a limited lifespan. Eventually they’ll show signs of wear that can lead to failure or even a catastrophic leak.
So how long are hot water heaters good for?
The traditional and most common type of water heater is the tank heater. How long it lasts will depend on a number of factors, including the quality of the unit, the level of maintenance, and the acidity and/or hardness of the water. In general, a tank water heater lasts between 8 and 12 years.
Tankless Water Heaters
Tankless water heaters provide hot water on demand. Because they don’t have to continuously heat up a reserve volume, they are not as prone to the same level of corrosion as the super-big kettles we call tank heaters. Tankless water heaters, well maintained, can last up to twenty years.
If your hot water heater is aging into its maximum lifespan, you may want to keep an eye out for warning signs that it’s time for a replacement. These include:
- Rust On The Heater. If you see rust around the water inlet pipe or the pressure relief valve, there’s likely more rust inside the tank as well.
- Rust In Your Hot Water. If you have turbid, hazy, or discolored hot water (but not cold), then your water heater probably has a buildup of rust inside.
- Strange Noises. If your water heater is making rumbling, creaking, rattling, or booming noises, it may be due to sediment build-up in the tank being agitated whenever the water is heated.
- Heater Doesn’t Heat To Proper Levels. If a water heater fails to do its most basic function, you may need to replace the thermostat or the heating element. In either case, it’s a sign that your water heater is aging.
- Leaks. If water is pooling around the base of your hot water heater, don’t panic right away. Check all the tank’s fittings as well as the pressure overflow valve first. You may just need to replace these fittings. However, if the fittings aren’t the problem, the tank may have sprung a leak. The sooner you can replace the unit, the better, to avoid a catastrophic flood.
If you’re considering a purchase of a new hot water system, consider a tankless unit. Not only do tankless systems have a longer lifespan and provide endless water on demand, but they’ll save you money over the long term because of their energy efficiency.