How long do water heaters last? This is a question that worries many homeowners, especially when they’re considering making an investment. No one wants to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for something that will quickly lose in value and end up broken.
Fortunately, water heaters are fairly long-lasting household items and they will serve you for quite some time. However, ‘quite some time’ is not a satisfying answer for most people who are trying to be informed.
So, how long do water heaters last exactly? If this is something you’re wondering about – you’re in the right spot.
How Long Do Water Heaters Last?
The exact longevity of a water heater will depend on many factors. This includes, but is not limited to:
- The brand of the water heater.
- The type of water heater.
- The water quality.
This is why it’s challenging to give an exact answer to how long do water heaters last. In general, though, most standard water heaters will last 8 to 12 years. This isn’t to say that they cannot last longer than that. With proper maintenance, it isn’t unheard of to have a 30 years old water heater!
However, once the water heater is past its average lifespan, it might start to experience certain issues. For example, you might start noticing sulfur-like smells while using hot water. This is why many people prefer to replace their water heater instead of constantly having to repair problems that keep reappearing.
In general, our advice is always to repair first, then replace. However, it’s important to know some boundaries. At a certain point, there is no more use in attempting to fix something that will not just break almost immediately after, but it can be quite dangerous. In fact, according to NFPA, malfunctioning water heaters are responsible for 1 in 10 of all house fires!
This is why it’s essential to understand when you need to replace your water heater, and at what point should you stop investing in repairs and, instead, invest in a new product.
How Long Do Tankless Water Heaters Last?
Tankless water heaters are a modern solution that is becoming increasingly popular. They are perfect for small homes or small bathrooms as they don’t take up much space, and they can help you get your hot water fast.
However, many people still hesitate to get them due to their fairly high price. They don’t feel like tankless water heaters are worth the money.
While this decision is up to you, one thing where tankless water heaters are unbeatable is their lifespan. They last 25 to 30 years on average!
The reason behind their long life is quite simple: They don’t have a tank that might malfunction. In fact, tank problems are the main reason why standard water heaters break.
This is because water is stored inside the tank, and the household water is rarely of the highest quality possible. Sediment build-ups are the result of improper water quality, and they often lead to tank’s failure.
Once the tank breaks, the entire unit needs to be replaced!
Of course, as their name suggests, tankless water heaters don’t have a tank. Still, this doesn’t mean that they are immune to corrosion or sediments. However, they don’t have a tank that can be damaged, and pipes and other elements of all water heaters tend to last longer than a standard tank. This is why tankless water heaters can live longer.
In fact, with proper maintenance, a tankless water heater will last twice as long as a standard heater, or even more!
How Long Do Gas Water Heaters Last?
Gas water heaters are among the most common types of water heaters. As they work differently than electric heaters or liquid heaters, many homeowners think that their lifespan is different, as well. However, this isn’t exactly the case.
As mentioned before, the most fragile component of a water heater is its tank. Gas water heaters use tanks, just like standard water heaters. As such, they have the same limitations.
In other words, gas water heaters will also have an average lifespan of 8 to 12 years.
However, one thing that’s essential to understand is that it’s of utmost importance to repair and replace your gas water heater on time. NFPA has stated that the highest number of fires caused by water heaters were started due to malfunctioning of a gas water heater.
If you have a gas water heater, it’s essential to repair it on time and to make sure it’s working properly. Otherwise, you’re risking great property damage, injuries, or even death.
Which Brands of Water Heaters Are the Longest-Lasting?
As mentioned, not all brands of water heaters will last the same amount of time. This doesn’t mean that the brand with the longest-lasting heater will be the best – there might be some other things that won’t be suitable for your home. However, if durability is your priority, then this is certainly something to pay attention to.
For example, if you’d like to know how long do Rheem water heaters last, according to the manufacturer, most units will last between 5 and 15 years. This depends on the type of water heater, as well as how well you maintain it. In general, Rheem suggests you service its water heaters once every 5 years.
When compared to Goodman, you can see that this is more or less the average lifespan of a heater. This brand also claims that most of its products have a lifespan of up to 15 years.
Similarly, Richmond water heaters typically last approximately 12 years, while Ecosmart claims that it’s water heaters last 10-12 years – with the exception of tankless water heaters that can last more than two decades.
Does Hard Water Affect the Longevity of a Water Heater?
Hard water will affect the lifespan and the functionality of your water heater in more ways than one. This might sound surprising. Water heaters are designed to work with water, and it doesn’t sound plausible that the water can damage them. However, this happens more often than you might think.
Hard water contains a great number of dissolved minerals – or hardiness. These minerals bind with various other substances, leading to buildup. No water heater is designed to be entirely resistant to this build-up, especially not if it has a tank.
For example, if you have an electric water heater, sediments can build up on the heating elements. This will prevent the heater from warming up your water.
On the other hand, if you have a gas water heater, the sediments will build up at the tank’s bottom. This will create a barrier that the burners (the heating element of a gas heater) will struggle to go through.
As such, hard water will create numerous problems for your heater, such as:
- It will reduce its efficiency.
- Due to a higher amount of build-up, you’ll have to flush your tank more often. In fact, even tankless water heaters will require flushing!
- It will reduce the water heater lifespan due to the extra effort a heater has to put in order to operate properly.
Not even tankless water heaters are resistant to sediment buildup from hard water! Limescale can build not just inside the tank, but on the heat exchanger. This will reduce its efficiency, and it can even lead to overheating. This will cause your tankless water heater to turn off, or even to malfunction entirely.
In fact, the water quality might be a great reason why it seems that water heaters last longer in some areas than in others. For example, the answer to How long water heaters last in Florida might be quite different than if you wondered how long they last in Texas.
Can You Prolong the Lifespan of a Water Heater?
Now that you know how long water heaters last with hard water and without it, you’re probably wondering whether there is something you can do to prolong the lifespan of your unit. Fortunately, this isn’t an impossible task. With proper maintenance – many of which you can do on your own – your water heater might work without a hassle for 15 years, sometimes even more.
Some of the most beneficial things you can do for your water heater include:
- Flushing the water heater at least once a year – although twice a year would be the best.
- Clean the heater yearly.
- Make sure to check whether the temperature relief valve is working properly at least once a year.
- If you have a gas water heater, make sure the burner is working properly yearly.
- Replace the anode rod every few years, even if it’s working properly.
In general, regular maintenance is the best possible thing you can do for your unit. When everything is working properly and the buildup is cleaned on time, the water heater can reach the maximum of its lifespan.
How Do You Know When a Hot Water Heater Needs to Be Replaced?
Knowing how long do water heaters last is essential for understanding when you need to replace them. Otherwise, you are risking severe damage.
In general, only a professional can say for certain whether a water heater can be salvaged or not. Still, even the best of the best water heaters end up needing a replacement eventually. Usually, this happens after a decade. However, as you’ve already seen, just looking at the age of a water heater is not enough.
Sure, you can prolong the lifespan of your heater for a while. Despite this, you’ll end up needing to buy a new one eventually. As such, it’s essential to understand the signs that can tell you the time has come.
Other than age and a few other minor factors, this is what you need to look for:
Water discoloration is one of the telltale signs that there’s something wrong – whether that be with your pipes or your water heater. If the water is reddish or brown in color, this is usually a sign that something has rusted or corroded.
If you notice your water turned to this color, it’s essential to do something about it. To understand whether your heater is at fault, look at the exact moment when the water turns red. Does it happen all the time? If so, then there’s probably something wrong with the pipe.
However, if the water is discolored when you turn the hot water on, it’s more than likely that your water heater has corroded and needs replacement.
Noise from the Heater
Is there weird noise coming from your water heater? If so, chances are that your heater needs replacing.
Whether you hear a hissing noise coming from your heater or if there are cracks, this is a bad sign. It usually indicates that you have sediment buildup and that your heater requires flushing.
However, once this sound starts appearing more often than not, it’s time to replace the heater.
Old water heaters are known to leak. This will result in water appearing on the floor or the wall next to the tank.
Leakage can lead to severe water damage, which is the main reason for property loss. While these leaks might not seem dangerous, even the smallest dripping can accumulate and cause structural problems. 
Leaks usually indicate that you have an issue with the following components:
- Tank structure (the metal expansion causes leaks).
- The temperature overflow pipe.
- Pressure overflow pipe.
Lack of Hot Water
If the heater is turned on but there’s no hot water coming from it, it means that the heater is not functioning properly. No one needs a heater that’s not heating water, and this is likely the main reason why most homeowners ask for a professional help.
The loss of hot water usually comes down to one of these reasons:
- A faulty thermostat.
- Too small tank.
- A malfunctioned heating element.
Fortunately, the first and the third cause are usually easy to fix. However, if the tank size is the issue, the only solution is to replace your heater.
Understanding how long do water heaters last is essential for every home owner. Without such knowledge, you might not know when to call a professional, which will result in severe problems.
This isn’t just a matter of money. A faulty heater can lead to extreme damage or even death. Sure, replacing it is expensive, but the hazard it can cause will end up costing you much more.
While some issues can be dealt with, don’t be afraid to ask a professional for help. In the end, it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially with such severe issue at hand.