As with all appliances, despite the inconvenience, water heaters are susceptible to wear and tear over time. How long they last, though, varies a fair amount due to a couple of significant factors, mainly relating to some specific factors. In the case of a water heater, these factors include the anode rod, and the make-up, electric or otherwise, of the water heater.

The water heater age can be less or more so than the actual length of time you have had the appliance, depending on how well-cared for it has been. Heater replacement is likely to occur sooner if the water heater is not maintained well enough. If you are timely and aware of the maintenance required for the upkeep of your water heater, replacing the water heater will happen later on in its life.

Water Heater Lifespan: How Long do Water Heaters Last?

Water heater lifespans can vary. The most common, traditional water tank-style heaters can last anywhere from 8 to 12 years.

When Should You Replace Your Water Heater?

Replacing your water heater is necessary at some point in time. Keep an eye out for the following symptoms, and if they are appearing in your water heater, then it’s time to replace it before it fails completely. The symptoms include age, rust or corrosion, drain malfunction (i.e., not draining), hot water tank malfunction (i.e., leakage), temperature malfunction (i.e., too cold or staying luke warm).

Repairing Your Water Heater and Watching for Symptoms

Before you replace your water heater entirely, you can opt to repair some of the above symptoms, particularly if you are hoping to lengthen a water heater’s lifespan. If repairs are done properly, sometimes with the help of a professional, you might be able to go so far as to double the lifespan of your water heater. Below are some symptoms to monitor to keep your water heater in good repair.

Watch for Rust

Water tanks are made out of steel and will rust eventually. If your tap water is slightly red when dispensed, it is likely due to rust in the water tank. The tank would then need to be replaced. Once it has begun to rust, it is difficult to slow the process. Rust leads to corrosion, which could cause your water tank to leak. Leakage can damage your home, so it is best to take action quickly in replacing your water tank. This is especially important if the water tank is in your home. If the water tank is in your garage, less damage will come of it, so you do not need to replace it as often.

Monitor for Leaks

If you are worried about leakage and cannot replace your water heater quickly, then you can find alarms online to let you know when there is a leak. Alarms are relatively accurate and inexpensive, with the added benefit of putting your mind at ease.

At the bottom of your water heater’s tank, there is a build-up of sediment that occurs over time. For those with gas water heaters, it’s likely that you have heard a ‘pop’ when the burner is on. This popping sound is a clue that the sediment build-up is significant. Sediment builds up in electric water heaters, as well, but there is no popping sound.

Prevent Sediment Buildup and Clogs

The build-up of sediment can clog the drain valve of the water heater and lead to a breaking down of the steel tank. Once per year, flush your water heater so that the sediment is removed. This will help to prevent any damage to the tank or the drain valve. If you are not regularly flushing the water heater tank, the sediment will cause major issues and shorten the lifespan of your water heater.

If it comes to the point where the drain valve is so clogged that it cannot be drained at all, then you should call for professional help or you might need to replace your water heater entirely.

Replace the Anode Rod

To really extend the life of your water heater, replace the anode rod. The anode rod is a long metal piece that draws corrosive pieces from the water. If the rod itself is corroded, then it cannot properly do its job. Anode rods are made from aluminum and magnesium.

The top of the anode rod can be seen from the top of the water heater, and is shaped like a hexagon. If you can’t see the head of the anode rod, check with your water heater manual. The rod might be hidden slightly under the heater’s top metal sheet or connected to the hot water outlet. Be careful if you are attempting to replace the rod by yourself as the water will be, of course, quite hot.

By replacing the anode rod, the corrosion mentioned above is slowed down. It’s important to replace the anode rod before the water heater is too close to failure or completely in failure. You will likely need to replace the anode rod every five years or so. Aluminum replacement rods for the anode rod can be found at home improvement stores.

When to Stop Repairing and Just Buy a New Water Heater

Heater replacement is more common in older water heaters. If your water heater is edging in on the 12 year mark, or is older than 10 years, then it’s probably time to look at entirely new options for your water heating system. Even with careful maintenance, some water heaters will need to be replaced sooner than you might hope.

It’s possible to make your water heater last longer if you maintain it carefully, whether it’s an electric water heater or a gas water heater. By maintaining your water heater, you can lengthen its lifespan and avoid replacing your water heater too often or too early.