Water heaters, like any household system, wear out and require replacement. How long a water heater lasts can depend on several factors, but most make it 10 or 15 years. Here’s a look at how to extend the life of your water heater and what common problems make it wear out before its time.
Gas vs. Electric
Gas heaters tend to be more environmentally-friendly and economical but wear out one to two years sooner than electric models. On the flip side, electric heaters have more parts that can prematurely age or fail altogether. When considering a replacement, most experts recommend sticking with what you have, as changing from electric to gas (or vice versa) can be time-consuming and expensive.
Water heaters will stay healthier the more you keep up with standard maintenance. Depending on the type, these tasks can vary, but most include annually flushing the tank. Although you can do this job yourself, it involves several complex steps, so having a professional plumber do it for you can save time and stress.
Why Water Heaters Fail
If your water heater malfunctions, it could be one of two common problems:
- Sediment Buildup – The most common cause of failure is corrosion/rust inside the tank caused by chemicals and other contaminates in the water. Eventually, the damage causes a leak, and pressure inside the tank increases its force with time. To avoid this issue, make sure you buy a high-quality tank with an anode rod. This component draws pollutants from the water, delaying corrosion. Of course, this part ages, but the cost of replacing the anode pales in comparison to buying a new water heater.
- Overpressurization – If the pressure inside the tank exceeds unit specifications, overpressurization occurs. This unfortunate scenario can be caused by overheating or excessive pressure at the inlet. To prevent overpressurization, the water temperature should stay about 140 degrees Fahrenheit and an adjustable valve at the inlet should be installed to decrease flow.
Signs It’s Time to Replace
The only component that will force you to replace the unit is the tank. All other parts can be replaced on their own. If you notice any of the following symptoms, call a professional right away:
- No hot water – If you can’t get hot water and you’ve tried other options (flushing the tank, replacing the thermostat), it might be time for an upgrade. In fact, the most common symptom of water tank failure is lack of hot water.
- Excessive noise – If you hear popping or creaking noises coming from the unit, you might need a new water heater. These sounds usually come from mineral buildup or pockets of air in the tank.
- A leak – If you see a puddle beneath the tank, nothing good can come of it. Have a professional plumber come in as soon as possible.