Water heaters are one of the most common appliances in the modern-day household. In general, water heaters are rigorously built to last for years. However, this does not mean that every unit is certain to do so. The lifespan of a water heating unit highly depends on how you use it and how often you conduct its maintenance.
A common misconception when it comes to water heaters is that, once it stops functioning, it has to be replaced immediately. Yes, it is partly true! However, it is not valid in every case. The only part of the water heater that requires immediate replacement is in case of leakage inside the tank.
It is also essential to remember that every water heater comes with a certain lifespan. Even if you use it in the best possible way, check for maintenance in a timely manner, and repair it as soon as the problems arise, else it will stop functioning someday. However, it is not the only time your water heater needs replacement.
So, how long does a water heater last on average?
In this article, we’ll talk about the average lifespan of a water heater and the signs that indicate your unit needs replacement. Also, we’ll help you with a few expert advice along with the details regarding the cost of installing a new water heater.
So, let’s dive into it!
How Long Does Water Heaters Last on Average?
Although most water heating systems are built sturdily, even the premium ones are not engineered to last beyond 10 to 15 years. So, the average lifespan of any water heater depends on how you use it and the way you maintain it.
If you own a water heater, you should know how the backflushing feature operates. If you backflush your unit at least once a year and maintain it according to the manufacturer’s recommendation, the water heater might serve you for more years than expected. Its types can vary from state water heater, navien tankless water heater, ao smith water heater, to rheem water heater. However, even if your system delivers optimum performance, the standard storage tank may fail eventually.
However, a fiberglass water tank can substantially last longer than the standard tanks. In addition to that, high-end models tend to provide a lifetime warranty on the tank. It is always better to invest in such models as a damaged tank cannot be repaired. Regardless of the materials, once the tank is damaged, the only possible option is to replace it.
While it may seem more tempting to buy a low-priced model rather than investing in a hefty water heater, it should be understood that these units only come with a four to five years warranty. It is worth spending slightly more on models that are backed by a 10 to 15 years warranty. The high-end systems often include heavy-duty anode rods, which is an essential component to keep the tank in good shape.
Gas Water Heaters
Gas-powered heaters are often the most preferred type of water heater among the homeowners as they are a more economical and ecological option. However, the lifespan of a gas water heater is much shorter compared to others.
In general, a gas heater can last anywhere from 9 to 12 years. The most common reason a gas heating system fails is due to the faulty corrosion once they age.
Another reason is the anode rod. Located inside the tank, this protection rod is used to attract corrosive particles using the electrolysis method. But it can only take so much! After a couple of years, the rod itself starts to corrode, eventually failing to attract the particles. The corrosive particles will then reach the bottom of the tank, which in due course will cause a leak into the tank.
Electric Water Heaters
Electric tank-type water heaters operate in a similar way to the gas-powered units. But, the average lifespan of these units is 10 to 15 years, slightly more than the gas counterpart.
Instead of using a burner, the electric water heaters includes two heating elements to heat the water. However, the durability of these units is highly dependent on maintenance.
As the heating elements of the electric boilers collect sediment over time, they are the major culprits of water heater failure. Therefore, it is vital that you clean or replaces the heating elements on time to get optimum performance and maximize the lifespan of the unit.
Tankless Water Heaters
Tankless water heaters are far more distinct compared to traditional tank-type units. Instead of having a tank to store the water, this unit works only on-demand.
As you turn on the hot water outlet, the cold water circulates the unit obtaining the required heat from the heat exchanger. Since the tankless models do not need to store any water, these units are spared from the corrosive particles.
Therefore, the average lifespan of a tankless water heater is at least 20 years — some can even last for 30 years.
During the last stretch of a tankless unit, the most common issue you will come across is the leakage in the heat exchanger. Fortunately, coming across this problem is rare before it reaches the 15-years mark.
What Affects the Lifespan of a Water Heater
On average, the life expectancy of any water heater is at least 7 to 10 years. However, there are a few factors that might possibly shorten its lifespan.
Every water heating system needs proper installation. To install properly does not only mean wiring it correctly. It also means where it is placed and how well-ventilated the spot is. For safety purposes, a well-ventilated place is a must for water heaters to prevent carbon monoxide build-up. If your unit is placed in a poorly ventilated area, it can significantly reduce its lifespan.
Another significant thing to consider while installing a unit is the risk of flooding. It is always advisable to install your water heater slightly above the floor-level to prevent floods. If the exterior of your water heater is exposed to water, it might eventually rust the coating, pipes, and lines.
We recommend you to hire a professional to install the water heaters at your home or office.
Even though water heaters are highly durable appliances, they will not guarantee the delivery of hot water forever. Eventually, they will wear out. So, the lifespan of a system highly depends on how you use it.
If you’re constantly consuming large amounts of hot water, the unit will push itself to the maximum limit to deliver the water you desire. Such heavy use can wear and tear your water boiler quicker than expected. In addition, the corrosive effects of hot water will also deteriorate the system in the long run.
It is quite obvious that the life expectancy of any water heating unit depends upon its quality. So, it is always essential that you consider the quality of the product before purchasing a water heater.
Most experts recommend that instead of saving the initial cost on the low-quality products, you spend a little extra up-front for premium water heaters — and for all the good reasons. Investing in cheap water heaters means you will have to replace the unit within a few years.
While expensive models may not necessarily mean reliability and durability, but they usually are made out of high-quality materials, which tend to last a lot longer. Another benefit of investing in a quality product is a longer warranty period. The longer the warranty, the better the construction.
In addition to that, always look for a water heater that has thick insulation. It is better to have a water heater that is equipped with a highly durable heating element and glass-line casing.
One of the most significant factors that affect the lifespan of water heaters is maintenance. If the place you live in has hard water, your water heater will require frequent maintenance. Hard water can significantly reduce the life expectancy of water heaters as they contain a high amount of minerals. Higher mineral content can wear out the system rapidly and also decreases the efficiency of the water heater.
However, even if you live in places with soft water supply, sooner or later, mineral deposits are bound to happen.
Therefore, it is essential to perform timely maintenance of your water heater to counteract the sediment and mineral deposits. Backflushing the unit frequently will reduce the possibilities of such build-ups. If you’re not one of those who are keen on timely maintenance, we recommend you to invest in newer water heater models that are equipped with a self-flushing technology.
5 Signs Your Water Heater Needs Replacement
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It is very rare for a water heater to stop functioning instantaneously. If you pay close attention, you might notice a few signs indicating that the service of your water heater is about to end.
Here are five common signs that indicate your water heater needs replacement:
It is quite obvious that the older water heaters are more likely to break down than the newer ones. As a rule of thumb, tank-type units are expected to last for 8 to 12 years on average. If your water heater is running on its tenth year, there’s a high chance that it might need replacement.
With proper maintenance and a lot of luck, it is possible to double the lifespan of your water heater. However, at times, even with all this, a water heater may require replacement only after a few years.
It is always better to use a scale inhibitor as it can add a few years of service to your water heater. These filters help to prevent scaling in your water heater by reducing the limescale build-up. If your water heater does not have it already, we highly suggest you install one in your water heater.
Rust and Corrosion
Most water tanks are built out of steel that is bound to rust eventually. Rust or corrosion in the storage tank is a good indication that your tank needs replacement. It is always essential that you check for corrosion or rust in your tank. In worse conditions, you might even notice rusty water when it’s drawn from the faucet.
The most common places you need to check for rust or corrosion is the hot water tank, the T&P valve, and the water inlet and outlet connections. Once your tank starts to rust, there is no way you can repair it. Even if your rusty water tank has not started leaking yet, it might only be a matter of time before it does. And, once it does, there is no other option but to replace it.
It is always better to replace the water tank before it starts leaking because the water leak can cause hundreds of dollars worth of damage at your home. Therefore, to prevent unnecessary damages, it is best to replace the storage right away.
It is handy to use a sensor alarm as it will alert you as soon as your unit starts leaking.
Drain Valve Malfunctions
It is beyond doubt that, over time, the sediments will build up inside the bottom of the water tank. If you have a gas boiler at your home and have noticed a strange popping sound, it may be due to sediment build-up.
Regardless of which unit you use, sediment build-up is a significant issue for both gas as well as electric water heaters. If the sediment begins to pile up, it can eventually clog the drain valve. And over time, this might cause the interior of the steel tank to break down.
Backflushing the water heater at least once a year will eliminate the sediment and prevent damage to the water tank. But, if you have not been backflushing your tank regularly, your tank might be in serious problems.
In most cases, it is possible to unclog the drain valve. However, if you have been noticing such malfunctions frequently than before, it might be high time you replace the water heater.
A leak in the water tank is mostly caused by internal problems of the unit and is rarely repairable. If you notice water under the hot water tank, the first thing you need to do is determine the point from where the water is leaking.
Some leaks might be repairable, especially if it’s from the pipes or valves. However, if the leak is coming from your water tank itself, you’ll most likely have to replace the entire unit to fix the problem.
It is advisable that you replace the water heater as soon as possible if you notice a leak in the tank. We also recommend you to turn off the water supply as well as the power supply to the water heater to prevent further damage after noticing a leak. Make sure to contact a professional to install the new water heating system.
Water is Cold or Lukewarm
If you find the water coming out from your water heater is not as hot as it used to be, or even worse, is not hot at all, something is clearly wrong. It might be because of the faulty heating element or the electric thermostat. It is not really uncommon for these parts to malfunction or fail over time. However, if the problem is not solved when you replace these parts, it might be an indication that you need to replace the water heater.
Another possible reason for a water heater to deliver cold or lukewarm water is due to a broken dip tube. A dip tube is basically a plastic pile that passes to the bottom of the tank from the cold water inlet. If this tube is broken, the incoming cold water will dilute the outgoing hot water, resulting in lukewarm water.
It is fairly easy and inexpensive to change a dip tube. However, if this isn’t the case, you might want to contact a professional to inspect your system.
Troubleshooting Common Issues
Well, the most common issue regarding water heaters is that the temperature of the outcoming water is not hot enough. It is usually caused by two reasons — a defective heating element or a faulty thermostat.
If your water is not hot enough, here are a few ways to troubleshoot the possible problems:
Electric Water Heater
- First, make sure that the power to your water heater is connected. Then, reset the thermostat. If you are unsure about how to reset your water heater, here are the 5 simple steps to do that.
- Backflush the water tank to remove the sediment build-up.
- Then, insulate or cover hot water pipes to prevent burns.
- Carefully replace the thermostat or the heating element of the water heater.
- Finally, adjust the temperature setting on the thermostat as per your needs.
Gas Water Heater
- Similar to the electric water heater, make sure the gas supply is connected to the unit, and the pilot light is lit.
- Black flush the water to get rid of all the sediments from the tank.
- Wrap the hot water pipes to stay protected from burns.
- Gently clean the gas burner and then replace the thermocouple.
- Adjust the temperature setting on the thermostat as per your needs.
Some Other Common Issues and Their Possible Solutions
- Hissing Sound: It might have been caused due to the sediment build-up in the tank. To fix this, first, drain the entire tank. Remove the elements and soak it with white vinegar for about an hour. Then, scrape off all the scales that are collected in the element.
- Leaking Pressure-Relief Valve: It might have possibly caused due to extreme pressure inside the tank or due to excessively high temperatures. The only way to fix this issue is by replacing the valve.
- Leaking Water Supply Pipes: If you’re facing this issue, try tightening the pipe fittings first. If that does not work, turn off the water supply and replace the fittings.
Choosing a New Unit
You might want to upgrade your water heater for several reasons. It may be because the lifespan of your water heater is coming to an end, or because the size of your water heater is not sufficient for your household. But, with so many brands manufacturing so many different models, it might be bewildering to choose the right unit for your home.
Upgrading from a conventional water heater to an energy-efficient unit will reduce your power consumption and save you a lot of money. Water heaters these days are capable of heating the water much faster than the traditional models and are up to 20 percent more efficient. Most units have not broken the trend of fiberglass insulation and have started using a foam version, which is more efficient as well as effective.
While it is no surprise that the Energy Star water is more expensive than regular models, with higher performance and energy consumption, these models turn out to be more economical in the long run.
Also, we recommend you to look for water heaters that have a heavy-duty anode rod. A unit with a high-quality rod is often durable and long-lasting as it protects the water heater from corrosive particles.
In addition to that, make sure to look for a water heater that can fulfill the hot water demands of your household. It is always better to calculate how much hot water you and your family would require every day and invest in a unit that has even more capacity. In doing so, you’ll no longer have to worry about running out of hot water.
How Much Does it Cost to Install a Water Heater?
The cost of installing a new water heater depends on several factors. The major factors include the type of water heater, its size, and the total installation charge. The cost of labor may also differ from one location to another.
Normally, the average cost of installing a brand new hot water heater ranges from $767 to $1,446, depending on the type and size of the unit. However, this figure may vary depending on your location.
The total cost of a new water heater is typically divided into two parts — the actual cost of the appliance and the cost of labor. The labor service includes disposal of the old unit, installation of the new one, and adjustment of the pipes as required. Unless you have prior experience of installing the water heater and are confident in your skills, it is best to hire a professional to install the water heater.
Average Costs to Replace a Water Heater
|Average Cost of a Water Heater||$1,117|
|Typical Range||$797 to $1,495|
|Cost of Low-End Models||$350|
|Cost of High-End Models||$11,000|
What Affects the Cost While Installing a Water Heater?
While there are several factors that can affect the cost of installing a new water heater, here are a few major ones:
Gas vs. Electric
An essential factor that affects the cost of installing a water heater is its fuel source. There are basically two types of water heaters in this regard — gas water heater and electric water heater. The costs for tank-style water heaters are pretty similar, though a gas-powered system may cost $50 to $100 more than an electric one.
Tank vs. Tankless System
The cost also depends on which unit you choose to buy. Whether you choose to buy a tankless unit or a water heater with a storage tank also significantly determines how expensive your water heater will be.
Tank-style water heaters are far cheaper and easier to install. However, the tankless units are the most cost-effective in the long run. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, tankless gas water heaters can save up to $108 per year while an electric tankless unit can save up to $44 per year.
Size of the Water Heater
The conventional tank-type water heaters range from 20 gallons up to 80 gallons. It is no surprise that larger water heaters tend to cost more money than smaller ones. For example, a 60-gallon storage tank may cost about $100 more than a 50-gallon storage tank.
The size of the tank depends on the number of people in your household. If the size of your household is more than two, you’ll at least need a 40-gallon storage tank. And, if it is more than five, you should consider buying a tank in the range of 60 to 80 gallons.
Well, a high-quality water heater can potentially last more than a decade or two. Besides, if you take proper care of the unit, it might operate even longer. The lifespan of a water heater basically depends on its quality, how you use it, and how often you perform its maintenance.
Table of Contents
- How Long Does Water Heaters Last on Average?
- What Affects the Lifespan of a Water Heater
- 5 Signs Your Water Heater Needs Replacement
- Troubleshooting Common Issues
- Choosing a New Unit
- How Much Does it Cost to Install a Water Heater?
- What Affects the Cost While Installing a Water Heater?