If your morning shower wasn’t exactly hot, you may be wondering if it’s time to replace your water heater. And if it was installed around 10 years ago, you may be right. A tankless water heater will last longer, maybe 20 to 25 years.
Obviously, busier households will wear out a water heater on the faster side, maybe in 6 to 8 years. Imagine a large family and all those hot showers, loads of laundry, and sinks full of dirty dishes.
Then think of a bachelor who is at an office most days, eats dinner out a lot, and takes most of his clothes to the dry cleaner. His water heater may last 12 to 14 years.
Extending The Life Of Your Water Heater
You can increase the life expectancy of a water heater with proper use and regular maintenance.
First of all, set the temperature at 120 to 125 degrees Fahrenheit, since hotter water is not only dangerous and inefficient, it can increase the rate of corrosion in the tank.
Also, sediment build-up in the water heater tank can reduce efficiency, contribute to corrosion, and clog your lines, valves, and plumbing fixtures, so drain your tank at least once a year to remove any sediment. Flush the tank more often if you see a lot in the water.
To drain the tank, follow the instructions from your water heater’s manufacturer, or take Bob Vila’s advice.
If you don’t feel confident enough to do it yourself, you can always hire an HVAC professional to provide regular maintenance.
Maintaining The Parts Of Your Water Heater
Maintenance involves checking parts and replacing any that are corroding.
If you just took a shower with inadequate hot water and your water heater is electric, you may need to replace one of the heating elements. Master plumber Richard Trethewey of This Old House explains how an electric model works and how to replace a heating element. He suggests replacing the thermostat at the same time.
Once a year you should check the anode rods inside the tank. They are intended to corrode so that the other parts do not, which is why the rods are often called “sacrificial.” Our good friend Richard Trewethey is back to show us how to replace anode rods.
And make sure that the all-important temperature and pressure relief valve is in good shape. Check it at least once a year. Sometimes called a T&P or TPR valve, it releases the built-up pressure if the tank overheats. This is a crucial safety feature.
If there is a drip from the valve, it may be time to replace it, especially in light of the fact that a failing or plugged pressure valve has been known to cause a water heater to explode. Yes, explode. This link has a video.
Dave Jones, master plumber at Roto-Rooter, explains how to check the pressure valve.
Even if you perform regular maintenance and replace parts, at some point it will make sense to get a new water heater.
When replacing a water heater, the tank should be stainless steel (most expensive) or steel lined with a material that won’t rust, such as “glass” (actually porcelain enamel). Rust can cause corrosion and shorten the life of the water heater.
Find out if a tankless system makes sense for you. This type of heater might be needed if you sometimes have two showers running at once.
Should I Go Tankless?
The initial cost for tankless may be higher, but the energy cost will be lower and the heater will last much longer.
Some of the considerations are the cost to purchase, cost to run, existing plumbing and gas lines, available space, and water quality. These twin plumbers (really) explain these issues.
Getting back to the longevity of your water heater, a tankless model should last 20 years or more (about twice as long as a tank system), as long as you take good care of it.
Especially if you have hard water, you will need to flush the tankless heater occasionally to maintain it, just as you do for a tank water heater. So the moral of the story is… if you give your water heater a little love, it will reward you by working for you longer than the standard 10 years.
If you have any questions or comments, or if you just found this article about water heaters helpful, please write in our comments section. And share this with your friends and family!