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When To Replace Water Heater

When To Replace Water Heater

You are ready to shower. You have no hot water. You go to check on the problem. You discover your utility room floor is flooded. As you stand there ankle-deep in water, you think, “When is a good time to replace my water heater?”

That’s a great question, but maybe not the best time to ask it.

Out of Site, Out of Mind

Unless you’ve just run out of hot water, you normally don’t think much about water heaters. But, if you own one, you will eventually need to think about it. The amount of thought we recommend you give to water heaters depends on the age of your unit.

Is your water heater less than 5 years old? If so, you probably still have a few years before you need to consider the “When to replace water heater?” question. The average lifespan of a storage tank-type water heater is 6-8 years for gas units and 8-10 years for electric units.

Water heater more than 5 years old? It’s time to start thinking about the “Replace?” question.

If your water heater is more than 10 years old, it’s definitely time to develop a replacement plan.

Milk It For All It’s Worth

If you properly maintain a tank-type water heater with fairly low usage and soft water, your unit could last 10-15 years or more. However, the problem with keeping major appliances too long is that you lose the benefits of energy-saving technology.

Each generation of home appliances becomes much more energy-efficient than the previous generation. If your current water heater (or refrigerator, dishwasher, etc.) is older than 10 years, it is nowhere near as efficient as a new model. The long-term savings derived from new energy-efficient appliances help offset their inevitable upfront cost.

Signs To Look For

Keep an eye out for these signs that it might be a good time to replace your water heater:

  • Leaky Water Tank: We’ll start with the worst-case scenario first. Your water tank is leaking (and your mopping). A leaky water storage tank is like an injured animal waiting to be mercifully put out of its misery. Nobody has a choice in the matter. It’s just something that needs to be done. You cannot fix a leaky water tank, so you really have no option other than to replace it. And know your old unit is in a better place.
  • Hot Water Is Just Warm: Has it been a while since you were able to take a hot shower that was really hot? One sign that a water heater is on its last legs is that it cannot deliver the goods. If your hot water heater is now really just a warm water heater, you might have a fixable problem or you might have a need to replace your unit.
  • Clogged Drain Valve: Hard water and infrequent tank maintenance can cause sediment to build up in the tank and drain valve. If you cannot drain the tank to remove sediment, the buildup will eventually cause the system to fail. At that point, game over. You lose. Replace water heater.
  • Corrosion or Rust: Is the water coming from your faucets a bit rusty? Do you see some corrosion or rust near where the gauges, valves, and inlet/outlet pipes are connected to the tank? These are indications that rust may be forming on the inside of the tank. When rust begins to spread inside the tank, it cannot be stopped. A leak is inevitable. If you see water buildup on the floor in the tank area, the leak may have already begun. If you detect rust, corrosion or a leak, you can either replace your water heater or grab a mop and bucket.

Dealing With Reality of Replacement

No one likes to buy a water heater. Yet, $2 billion is spent each year on new water heaters. Reality dictates that most people will need to consider buying a water heater sooner or later. So, let’s deal with some realities:

  1. Maintenance Matters: If you do not perform maintenance on your water heater annually, including flushing the tank, you will likely need to replace your unit sooner rather than later.
  2. Home Repairs Ain’t Cheap: The cost to fix the damage caused by a water tank leak can be steep. Especially if it is not in the basement.
  3. Energy Efficiency Is The Goal: Reduced utility bills from an energy-efficient water heater help offset long-term cost of replacement unit. That’s good for your budget and the environment.
  4. Tankless Is Most Energy-Efficient: A tankless water heater is the most energy-efficient type of hot water system. Compared to a tank-type system, a tankless system that has a heater at each outlet could produce up to 50% energy savings, according to Energy.gov.

Right Time to Replace Water Heater

If you are ankle-deep in water and holding a mop, now is the right time to replace your water heater. If you are still on dry land, the best time to replace your water heater is based on a combination of the signs and realities above. The lifetime of any unit depends on its usage, care, and the condition of the water.

If you are faced with a potential repair bill that’s near 50% of the replacement cost, you’re probably better off long-term with a new energy-efficient water heater. If your water tank is not too old and is still in good shape, the right plan for the next few years might be continued maintenance and minor repairs.

An important part of making a decision to replace your water heater at the right time is that you pay attention to it. Show it some love every once in a while, in exchange for those nice hot showers you enjoy so much. If you would like more information about repairing, maintaining, or replacing your water heater, please contact us.