How Long Does A Hot Water Heater Last?

Ben Leonavicius
By Ben  • Updated:   February 9, 2024
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As with most appliances in the home, once you start asking questions about how long your hot water heater should last, it’s probably time to buy a new one.

This article will provide you with information to help you determine whether or not it is time for a new unit, as well as some tips on how to improve the life expectancy of your current water heater.

How Long Does A Hot Water Heater Usually Last?

One of the most common questions homeowners have is how long should their water heater last.

Unfortunately, there’s no “one size fits all” answer to this question – it depends on a variety of factors, including your personal usage patterns, local climate, energy costs, and the quality of your hot water heater to name just a few.

If you’re curious to find out how long your hot water heater has left, the following list is a general guide.

In general, you can expect the following hot water heater life spans:

If your water heater is less than 10 years old

Your water heater should last another 5-10 years if you maintain it well and replace the anode rod when necessary.

It will need replacement much sooner if it’s corroded on the outside or inside, has sediment build-up throughout the tank, emits an unpleasant odor when heating water, leaks rusty water, or is more than 15 years old.

If your water heater is between 12-15 years old

Your water heater should have at least another 3-5 years until replacement depending on maintenance. You should start seeing some rust or sputtering during use which usually indicates that it’s time for a replacement.

If your water heater is older than 15 years

Replacing the hot water heater might not be necessary if you maintain it well and drain the sediment frequently (about once per year).

However, there is no way to determine how long your unit will last at this point. Water heaters over 17-18 years old should be replaced even if they work OK because of safety concerns. If left unattended, corrosion can lead to dangerous leaks or worse—bursting tanks.

Another good way to prevent this would be investing in tankless water heaters.

7 Signs You Need to Replace Your Water Heater

There are a number of ways to know that it’s time to replace your water heater. Here are the most common signs.

1. Rusty color or odd smell in hot water

If you see rust in the tank, it means sediment has built up. That means the tank is rusting from the inside out and could burst at any time.

If the water smells of rotten eggs, it means that bacteria have grown. Sediment can also contribute to bad odors.

2. Sediment in the tank

When sediment builds up, it sticks to the bottom of your water heater tank. Eventually, this can clog the drain valve or restrict gas valves.

That means you’ll have to replace them eventually too.

3. Hot water is not as hot as before

When sediment builds up inside a water heater, it insulates the hot water heater tank. The burner will have to work harder to produce enough heat, which means increased energy costs as well as less hot water out of the faucets.

4. Hot water is not available at all

The most obvious sign that you need a new water heater is when there’s absolutely no hot water coming from any of your taps. If this happens, it could mean sediment has completely clogged up the tank.

If you’ve done all regular maintenance cleaning and there’s still no hot water, it might be time for replacement because rust or other debris may have caused damage within the tank.

5. Leaks or damage around the tank

Leaking will cause extensive water damage and mold growth which you don’t want anywhere near your home. Tank corrosion can also lead to large chunks falling out.

If whatever’s supporting your water heater is no longer strong enough, you could have leaks or a complete collapse of the tank.

6. Extremely high energy costs

If you notice an increase in your energy costs, it might be time to replace the water heater. Sediment build-up can lead to higher energy bills because the unit will have to work harder to produce warm water.

7. Drain pan overflows

A drain pan overflowing is another sign that something’s not right with your hot water heater. The tank should be drained every six months (at least) and even more often if you see signs of rust or other damage.

Drain pans overflow for many reasons, but one of the most common causes is sediment clogging drain valves or restricting gas valves. 

This can happen when sediment builds up due to infrequent cleanings – so regular maintenance cleaning is crucial.

What Happens If You Don’t Replace The Water Heater?

If you ignore the signs of an outdated or malfunctioning water heater, it could have some serious consequences for your home. 

Cracks in the tank caused by corrosion can result in gas leaks and rust can cause extensive water damage. If it continues to be used, sediment will clog drain valves so completely that they won’t work at all – resulting in no hot water. 

A ruptured tank can also flood your house with thousands of gallons of boiling-hot water which would be extremely dangerous!

The price of a new one might seem scary but it isn’t really as much as you think. It’s definitely more affordable than the cost of dealing with major problems if you ignore issues with your existing unit.

5 Tips On How To Make Your Water Heater Last Longer

There are quite a few simple steps you can take to help prolong the life of your water heater. Here are a few things you should do:

1. Clean it regularly

Cleaning a hot water heater isn’t exactly among the most fun activities, but it’s crucial if you want your unit to last as long as possible. Sediment won’t just clog up your system, it’ll also reduce the lifespan of the tank.

You don’t have to pay a plumber to do this – just pop by any local superstore and pick up a cleaning kit. Follow the instructions carefully for the best results!

2. Inspect regularly

It’s not enough to clean your water heater once every few months – you should inspect it at least that often too.

If there are signs of rust or leaks, you need to immediately call in professional help. Especially if you’ve noticed that the hot water is not as hot as before (it may even be nonexistent) – make sure to act quickly!

3. Make sure drain valves are working properly

One way to ensure that sediment doesn’t accumulate too much inside the tank is to make sure the drain valves are draining properly. You should also check that they’re not clogged or covered in sediment. 

Drain valves are usually located at the bottom of the tank – you should be able to see them clearly if you look.

You can easily replace drain valves that aren’t draining as they should, but it’s a good idea to first check out how much sediment has built up around them and how effective your cleaning kit is against such problems.

4. Clean the pan regularly

The hot water heater drain pan is there to collect any excess water that may overflow from the tank or drain valve.

If this happens too often, there might be some trouble with the unit and you may want to call in professional help. It’s also a good idea to clean out the pan so sediment doesn’t build up and affect performance!

5. Install a high-efficiency water heater

A new high-efficiency water heater may cost more than your old model, but it’ll definitely save you money in the long run because of reduced energy use.

High-efficiency units can save up to 10% compared to older models which can really add up over time!

In Conclusion

Although a water heater may seem like a rather dull appliance, it’s an integral part of any household. 

If you follow the steps mentioned in the article above, your water heater will definitely last much longer and work more efficiently. Remember that hot water heater maintenance is essential if you want it to serve you well – not only while using it but also when something goes wrong!  

However, if the time comes that you need a new one, use the chance to invest in a more efficient model to really make a difference in your monthly bills.

Hey there! I am Benas, the founder and content editor at Home Caprice. Thanks for reading the article. I hope you were able to find what you were looking for. I and my team are here to simplify heating and cooling for everyone. Please have a look at the About page for more details about our website and feel free to check out our editorial process.