6 Signs that Your Hot Water Heater Needs a Replacement

Water heaters are not cheap. This is one of the reasons why many people ask this basic question before purchasing one – how long does a hot water heater last? The answer depends on the brand, model and maintenance.

In many households, hot water heaters play a vital role in everyday living – from bathing, hand washing, laundry, dishwashing, cooking and other basic tasks. You can fully appreciate the benefits of a working hot water heater when the cold season starts. There’s nothing more comforting than taking a warm shower amidst icy weather. That is why it’s important to keep your hot water heater in tip-top shape.

But regardless of how well-maintained your water heater is, a time will come that it will stop working due to normal wear and tear. It helps to know how many years does a hot water heater last to avoid any inconvenience or worse, leaks that can damage your home as a result of a malfunctioning unit.

There are some signs that it’s time for you to look for a replacement water heater:

  1. Age of the water heater

How long does the average hot water heater last? Many people are curious to know the answer to this question. The average is ten years. If your water heater has already hit the ten-year mark, you may want to start looking around for a replacement before serious issues such as leaks or breaks happen. It can be difficult to buy the best water heater for your needs if you are in a rush.

If for some reason you don’t know the age of the water heater in your home, you can get this information by looking at its serial number. The serial number should contain the date when it was manufactured, although it may not look the way a date is normally written. Serial numbers have a date code such as G05XX. G is the 7th letter so it represents the 7th month, July. 05 represents the year 2005. Generally, serial numbers have this date code that can help you identify the month and year when your unit was manufactured.

If your water heater is already 10 years or older with other signs of wear and tear, start checking around for a better model. Places such as the American Home Water and Air and other local stores with water products are a good place to start as they offer a wide array of selections for you.

  1. Rusty water

When the water coming out of your faucet has a tint to it, it indicates rust in your water, which means that your water heater is also rusty.  This is typically one of the initial signs before a water heater starts leaking. Rust is inevitable if the water heater is past its expiration date or one that is more than 10 years old.

However, not all cases of rusty water are caused by the water heater. For instance, if your piping is galvanized, the rust may be due to rusty pipes. A good test to identify the culprit is to drain a few buckets of hot water out of the water heater. If by the third or fourth bucket the water comes clean, then most likely it’s the piping. But if the water is still rusty on your third bucket, there’s a big chance that the water heater is at fault.

  1. Gurgling or banging sounds

Do you often hear a loud gurgling sound as the water is heating up? More often, this noise is caused by sediment buildup at the bottom of the tank. The layers of sediment inside the tank will make your water heater less efficient. This means that it will take longer to heat the water, leading to more gas or electricity usage. And as heating takes more time, it will also cause the metal tank to become brittle. That is when tiny holes may start to appear.

If you start hearing gurgling or banging sounds, keep an eye for small leaks. And before it’s too late, consider getting a replacement.

  1. Moisture buildup or dampness

Any signs of moisture buildup around the water heater could be a sign of intermittent leak or fracture in the tank. As the water heats, it also heats all the metal components, causing them to expand and expose tiny holes and fractures. This, in turn, causes moisture to build up.

However, dampness should not be your sole consideration for replacing your water heater. In some cases, the dampness is due to leaks in the fittings or connections to the tank or pipe. But if all these parts are dry, then you can safely say that the dampness is due to water heater failure.

  1. Water pooling around the base

It’s also a sign of bad news if you see water pooling on the base of the water heater. It’s a different story though if the leak is coming from the valve or fitting that just needs tightening or replacement. However, if the leak is from the tank itself, then it’s a sign that the tank is already cracked or corroded.

  1. Lack of hot water

It’s frustrating when cold water comes out of the faucet when you are expecting a warm bath. If your water does not heat up as it should, it can bring a lot of inconveniences. But before you fret, check if your thermostat is just misadjusted or if there is a broken heating element. These two issues are easy to rectify or resolve in no time and with little to no cash involved.

However, in some cases, the reason why the water heating stops working is that it is nearing the end of its service life. If the water still heats but is not warm enough, your water heater may be too small for your household. In both cases, you’ll inevitably be needing a replacement.

Knowing how long should a hot water heater last or how long does a gas hot water heater last can give you an idea when it’s time to shop around and look for a new water heating system. While there are clever ways on how to make a hot water heater last longer, you can’t deny the fact that when it is the end of its life, it will stop working no matter how much time you dedicate maintaining or fixing it.

If your unit is less than 10 years old and you notice any of the above signs, it’s a good idea to hire a professional who will check your heating system and make the necessary recommendations.


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