How Long Do Water Heaters Last And How To Extend Their Use
June 14, 2022
Water heaters are among the most heavily used appliances in a modern home. Even if you live in a temperate or tropical zone, you will probably want to have hot water available from time to time.
Of course, these devices are even more frequently used in cold climates. So when they break down or function less than optimally, it can be quite distressing.
All this brings to mind the question: “how long do water heaters last?” And just as importantly, how can you prolong their useable life?
Average water heater lifespan
Most water heaters are designed to last from eight to 10 years. With care and preventive maintenance, you might even get more years of use out of a particularly durable model.
But past the 12-year mark, you should consider yourself lucky if your system is still functioning without a hitch. Even so, you should be especially vigilant about telltale signs of damage and wear that could indicate a replacement is long overdue.
Factors that may affect a water heater’s longevity
Many factors could affect the usable life of your water heater, including:
- Type. Simply put, some water heaters last longer than others. Gas-driven models usually last about eight to 10 years or so. You can generally expect electric and tankless models to last longer.
- Water quality. Water with a high mineral content leaves plenty of sediments. This can impair system performance and reduce the life of your water heater.
- Maintenance. Preventive maintenance goes a long way in prolonging the life of your water heater.
- Usage. All factors being equal, a water heater used every day will break down much sooner than a system used only occasionally.
Prolonging the life of your water heater
The good news is that you can extend your water heater’s usable life via preventive maintenance. Many of these steps can be performed easily at home, even if you don’t have much prior experience maintaining water heaters.
Keep in mind that some procedures are more useful than others depending on the condition of your unit and how you use it. In any case, these steps should be helpful for most water heaters:
- Flush your tank every four months or so.
- Test the temperature relief valve every year.
- Replace the anode rod every three to five years.
- Clean the tank every year.
- Check the burner every year.
Flushing the tank is useful for clearing out the sediments that accumulate in the tank over time. Experts recommend flushing the tank every four months or so, but you should also have a professional plumber flush it out thoroughly yearly to ensure maximum efficiency.
Gas water heaters and tank-style models are especially prone to sediment buildup. You must flush these out periodically to prevent your unit from developing hissing noises. Remember that sediment buildup can result in a host of problems and reduce your unit’s efficiency. Leave the particles in the tank long enough, and severe corrosion could result.
How to flush a water heater tank
Here are the steps for flushing out a water heater tank:
- Turn off the gas or electricity before proceeding.
- Drain the water completely by attaching a garden hose to the drain valve and directing the other end outside or down the drain. If necessary, use a colander to collect the sediments to prevent blocking up your plumbing.
- After the tank is emptied, fill it with cold water.
- Empty the tank again.
- Refill and empty the tank repeatedly until the water comes out clear.
When you are done, remove the hose and close the drain valve. You can then turn the power back on.
Other ways to prolong the life of your water heater
Consider insulating the pipes connected to your water heater. This is a particularly effective strategy for frequently used units and works equally well for electric and gas-powered models.
Try to keep the operating temperature below 120° F. This will reduce the risk of overheating your system and prevent damage.
Remember to clean the tank periodically. Aside from regular flushing, cleaning the interior and exterior will help prolong the life of the tank and heater.
Keep an eye out for rust, leaks, and puddles. In older units, this could be a sign that replacement is warranted.
At some point, you will have to accept the reality that your water heater needs to be replaced. Despite your best efforts at maintaining it and preventing damage, years of regular use will take their toll. Hopefully, the tips above will help you prolong the life of your unit so you can get many years of service out of it before you have to spend for a new one.
J.A. Bertsch Heating & Cooling offers professional residential air conditioning services throughout Kootenai County. Our licensed A/C technicians cover all of North Idaho and our neighboring cities. Experience superior, award-winning service 24/7. Call us at 208-635-5480 to schedule an appointment.