It's Getting Watery In Here

Should You Wait To Replace Your Conventional Water Heater?

Conventional tank-style water heaters are fairly simple appliances. Although modern models contain numerous components to improve efficiency and lifespan, the core design remains straightforward: a tank full of water and something to heat it. The vast majority of components in your water heater are replaceable except for the tank itself.

Like many appliances, it's often time to replace a water heater when these repairs exceed the replacement cost. However, the tank presents an additional problem. Once a tank fails, the entire unit becomes unrepairable, and you may also have a significant mess on your hands. If your water heater is beginning to show its age, does it make sense to wait for the worst to occur before replacing it?

Understanding Your Water's Heaters Lifespan

You can find plenty of estimates for water heater age online, and your manufacturer's warranty will also provide some clues as to its expected service life. Still, there's no reason that a water heater can't last for more (or less) time than you might expect. In most cases, the useful lifespan of the unit usually comes down to the interior condition of the tank.

Water heaters typically use steel tanks, and manufacturers take numerous steps to prevent the steel from rusting. Modern tanks use an inner lining of glass or plastic and a sacrificial anode rod. The rod oxidizes before the metal, drawing away minerals that would corrode the steel. Meanwhile, the liner physically protects the tank from corrosion.

Unfortunately, both of these methods will inevitably fail. Anode rods are replaceable maintenance items, so changing them out every few years can help extend the life of your tank. On the other hand, you can't change or repair the inner liner. This lining will eventually crack and allow water to contact the tank, starting the clock on eventual replacement.

Deciding When to Replace Your Water Heater

Water heater lifespans will vary with maintenance and operating conditions. In general, a water heater should last for around ten years, with well-maintained units with minimal exposure to hard water potentially lasting longer. Once your water heater approaches this age, it's time to consider a potential replacement.

A good rule of thumb is to ask some questions about your water heater's maintenance and repair history. Have you changed the anode rod at least once since installing it? Do you flush minerals from the tank at least once per year? If so, you may be able to squeeze a few more years of life from your existing unit, although you shouldn't expect it to last another decade.

On the other hand, a poorly maintained water heater may fail unexpectedly, causing you to lose hot water and creating a significant mess. If you haven't kept up with maintenance or your water heater has a spotty repair history, you may want to consider a premature replacement. Replacing your unit now will save you time, frustration, and money by avoiding an expensive and messy tank failure.

For more information on a water heater replacement, contact a company near you.