Most models should last between eight and 12 years. I’ve been told by plumbers that you’re doing well if 10 years can be squeezed out of a water heater these days. I’ve also been told to check your water heater every now and then for leaks, which is the most common failure of residential heaters and requires replacement.
Besides proper insulation, which reduces heat loss, make sure you’re flushing the tank and checking the anode rod each year. Those basic tasks ensure the inside remains efficient and rust-free.
When to replace your water heater
A sudden leak is an obvious sign that your water heater needs replacing, but that’s the worst-case scenario. If your heater’s already leaking, you’re in serious trouble. Here are some other warning signs:
- Rusty water typically indicates the unit is (spoiler alert!) rusting internally. But it could mean galvanized piping is a bit rusty, too. Draining the water from your heater can indicate where the problem lies.
- Cold water is a nasty surprise, especially in mid-February. While this might just mean a repair is needed, make sure to call an expert immediately—the entire unit may need replacing.
- Rumbling from built-up sediment lining the tank’s bottom might mean you need a new heater ASAP.
- Leaks are an easy visual indicator that something is not right with your water heater.