Water Heater Lifespan: How Long Does a Water Heater Last?

Water Heater Lifespan: How Long Does a Water Heater Last?
Understanding your water heater and how long it's expected to last can help you maintain it and decide when to purchase a replacement. Traditional water heaters with tanks typically cost less than other water heater models. Tankless water heaters last longer and save homeowners money on their energy bills. No matter what type of water heater you have in your home, it's important to maintain your system properly.

Types of Water Heaters

Water heating is responsible for approximately 15%-20% of residential energy consumption, making water heaters an essential part of households. Different types of water heaters operate differently and offer various benefits. To understand your water heater better, it's important to know what makes each system type different.

Conventional Water Heaters

Conventional water heaters are also known as traditional storage tank heaters. They are the most common type of water heater in residential homes. They were the first type of water heaters to enter the market. A conventional water heater is a tank with a specified storage capacity that heats the water it stores. The size of a conventional water heater's tank determines how much hot water a family can use at once. A smaller tank may mean shorter hot showers, while a larger tank may provide enough water for nice, long hot showers. Water heater tanks are well-insulated, which keeps water warm after the tank heats it. However, conventional water tanks only provide a fixed amount of water at a time, and they take time to heat the water. If you use all of your available hot water, you may have to wait up to an hour or longer for your tank to provide more hot water. Conventional water heaters are affordable, simple to install and easy to use.

Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless water heaters lack a hot water tank and instead heat water using coils. As water fills the coils, they become hot enough to provide instant hot water. Since they can heat large amounts of water rapidly, they are one of the most energy-efficient types of water heaters. With the right size tankless water heater, a homeowner can enjoy endless hot water supply. Tankless water heaters can operate on electricity or gas. Smaller ones typically operate on gas, and larger ones generally operate on electricity.

Heat Pump Water Heaters

Heat pumps are also referred to as hybrid electric water heaters. They heat water without using direct heat generation, so they consume less power than conventional water heaters and can save homeowners money on energy bills. Instead of using direct heat generation, heat pumps transfer heat from the ground or air to water. They only use electricity while transferring heat from the source to the water. Most heat pumps are located on top of a water heater tank, requiring at least eight feet of accommodating space. Since heat pumps depend on external heat sources, they operate better in warmer climates. A heat pump may not be the best choice for a home located in a cold climate or one with a cold basement. Heat pump water heaters entered the market in the 1940s and increased in popularity during the 1970s.

Solar Water Heaters

Solar water heaters are energy-efficient and eco-friendly because they operate on sunlight. Homes with solar panels can accommodate this type of water heater, and it is ideal for homes in sunny areas. Heat-conductive materials transfer heat from solar panel cells to a solar water heater's tank that heats a home's water. Since solar panels can only provide heat when sunlight is available, homes with solar water heaters require backup energy sources on rainy days. Homeowners can enjoy abundant hot water with a solar water heater on sunny days. Another benefit of this type of water heater is that the government provides tax credits, financial incentives and utility rebates to households that use them. Solar water heaters often cost more than other types of heaters, but they are incredibly beneficial. Solar water heaters became widespread during the 1930s in Florida and California, but their popularity has spread even wider. Today, Solar water heating is a popular method across the entire country.

Condensing Water Heaters

Condensing water heaters operate on gas rather than electricity, making them an energy-efficient water heating solution, especially in homes that run on natural gas. A condensing water heater contains a tank similar to conventional water heaters. These tanks expel gas through a flue and store heat extracted from the gas. It then sends the heat through a coil at the base of the heater and preheats the water inside the boiler. Condensing water heaters are usually found in households that run on natural gas or require 55 gallons or more of hot water at a time. They provide plenty of water, so homeowners can enjoy the comfort of having hot water as long as they need it.

What Can Impact A Water Heater Lifespan?

It's vital to understand which factors impact the life of your water heater. Understanding your water heater's potential lifespan can help you properly care for it and estimate when you may need to replace it. A water heater lifespan depends on the following factors:

Type of Water Heater

Different types of water heaters have different lifespan estimates. Water heaters with tanks typically last 8 to 12 years, while tankless water heaters can operate effectively for 20 years or longer. Tankless water heaters can last longer because they work on demand instead of continuously like other water heaters.

Type of Water

Hard and soft water affect water heaters differently. Both hard and soft water can deposit minerals in water heaters, but harder water tends to contain higher mineral content. Over time, mineral buildup can cause corrosion and reduce a water heater's efficiency, shortening the water heater lifespan.

Level of Usage

The volume of water a household uses also affects a water heater lifespan. Using less hot water can extend a water heater lifespan because it doesn't have to work as hard to heat smaller volumes of water. Additionally, using less hot water causes less corrosion, protecting a water heater's components from damage.

Location

A water heater's location is also important. Installing a water heater in a cold location within a home forces it to work harder to heat the incoming water. Cold locations can cause water heaters to wear out faster, but installing a water heater in a temperature-controlled room can help it last longer.

Maintenance

Maintenance schedules can also extend or shorten water heaters' lifespans. Regular water heater maintenance can help a system operate efficiently and prevent damage, so well-maintained water heaters will typically last longer than others.

How Can You Care for Your Water Heater?

Regular water heater maintenance is important because it can extend your system's lifespan and prevent it from malfunctioning. Without maintaining your water heater, you may experience extremely hot water temperatures, increase your energy bill or notice your water heater begin to fail.

Test the Pressure Release Valve

A water heater's pressure release valve releases when the heater's water temperature or pressure becomes too high. To ensure your pressure release valve continues operating efficiently, you should check it periodically and replace it if needed. Lift the pressure release valve's handle until water flows out. If the water stops flowing shortly after you release the valve, it is working effectively. However, if water continues to flow, you should replace the valve as soon as possible.

Drain Your Water Heater Periodically

Flushing your water heater at least once a year removes sediment and mineral content, which corrodes and rusts your system. Since both hard and soft water can deposit minerals in systems, you should drain your water heater either way. You can drain your water heater by opening the pressure release valve, connecting a garden hose to the drain valve, and running the hose outside your home.

Replace the Anode Rod

A water heater's anode rod attracts particles such as chlorine, magnesium and fluoride to prevent them from corroding the system's tank. Anode rods extend water heater lifespans, but they do need to be replaced every few years. You can contact a professional to replace your anode rod and extend your tank's lifespan.

Troubleshooting Common Water Heater Issues

If your water heater is not operating efficiently, you may be able to preserve it with some troubleshooting and repairs. Consider possible solutions if you experience any of the following issues:
  • The pressure relief valve is leaking: If you notice your system's pressure relief valve leaking, you should replace it as soon as possible.
  • You hear loud sizzling or hissing noises: If your water heater is making sizzling or hissing noises, you may need to drain sediments out of the tank.
  • The water supply pipes are leaking: If your water heater's pipes are leaking, try to tighten the fittings. If the leaking continues, you may need to replace the fittings or the entire water heater.
  • Your home's water isn't hot enough: If your water isn't as hot as usual or not as hot as you prefer, you can check your system's heating element or thermostat.
  • Your home's water is too hot: If your water is too hot, the system's thermostat may be set too high. You can readjust the thermostat on the water heater or replace it if the water temperature remains too high.
  • You have low water pressure: If your water pressure is low, you can install modern piping to accommodate a greater water flow.
If your water isn't hot enough, make sure your water heater is connected to the power or gas and reset its thermostat or raise the temperature on the thermostat. You may also need to flush the tank or insulate your hot water pipes. If the issue continues, you may need to replace your water heater's thermostat or heating element. You may need to clean your system's gas burner and replace its thermocouple if you have a gas water heater.

When Is the Best Time to Replace Your Water Heater?

The best time to replace your water heater depends on the type of water heater you have and whether or not you notice any issues. Most homeowners find they need a water heater replacement after 10 or 11 years if they have tanks. Most homeowners with tankless water heaters can wait 19 or more years before they replace theirs. The best time to replace a water heater is before winter, when you will need it the most. It's also essential to replace a water heater as soon as possible if you notice any issues.

Should I Replace My Water Heater Before It Fails?

There's no way to predict exactly when you will need to replace your water heater, so you must watch for signs that it may be failing. Replacing your water heater before it fails can help you avoid inconveniences and save money with a newer, more efficient system. You may need to purchase a new water heater if you notice any of the following signs:
  • Loud rumbling or banging noises: Rumbling and banging noises indicate that sediment buildup has hardened and formed a thick crust in the tank.
  • Tinted water: If your hot water has a yellow or red tint, your water heater may have rust.
  • Odd smells: Your water heater may be contaminated by bacteria or metal if you notice your water has a strange smell or taste.
  • Low water temperature: If you try the previously mentioned troubleshooting tips for low water temperature and still notice your water is cooler than usual, you may need to replace the water heater.

How Much Does a New Water Heater Cost?

A new water heater replacement can cost between $600 and $3,500. This depends on the type of water heater and the installation. New water heater units can cost between $300 to $2,000, before professional installation costs. Traditional water heater installation costs can range from $200 to $1,000. Installation of a tankless water heater can vary from $300 to $2,500.

Can a New Water Heater Save You Money?

A new water heater can save you money because newer models operate more efficiently than older models. While purchasing a traditional water heater with a tank can save you money on the upfront unit and installation costs, purchasing a tankless water heater can help you save money on your monthly energy bills for a higher return on investment. You can also save money with the following tips:
  • Insulate your hot water tank and the water pipes connected to the tank.
  • Add a timer to an electric water heater so it shuts off when you are not using it.
  • Lower your hot water temperature.

Stay Cozy With Ingram's Water & Air Equipment

Proper maintenance can prolong a water heater lifespan, but a replacement may be necessary if your water heater has reached its final days. A well-maintained tankless water heater can last 20 years or more, so it's an excellent option for any household. Installing a tankless water heater can save money on your energy bills and ensure plenty of hot water. Ingram's Water & Air offers high-quality tankless water heaters that operate efficiently and provide plenty of hot water for families to use and enjoy. We also offer free lifetime technical support to help you understand your water heater and properly maintain it. Browse our wide selection of water heaters to keep your home cozy and comfortable.
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