Time to replace water heater?

splatsJanuary 11, 2014

The house we just bought seems to have a water heater that is 21 years old. It is a 62 gal Rheem-Ruud gas WH the also operates an AquaTherm heating system for the house. It seems ok, but there is some rust spots and paint peeling spots on the outside of the tank. This is partly caused by pretty high humidity in the tank cabinet, but I'm thinking a WH this old is just asking for trouble. Opinions?

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yes, it's asking for trouble.

replace it.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2014 at 3:15PM
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Expected life of a water heater is 8-12 years. That said, my suggestion would be to set aside the cabbage for the new one, but to wait until there's a problem. Test the pressure release valve, to be safe. If it isn't leaking and is delivering adequate hot water, then it ain't broke so maybe don't fix it.

When we moved in to our home ~7 years ago home inspector told me water heater would likely go first, then furnace. He was right, but we got a couple of years out of the water heater before the dip tube broke off.

If you had an inspection done maybe the report mentions the condition of the water heater?

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 11:28PM
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I called Ruud. They said it was not uncommon for their WH's to last 20 yrs. this 62 gal unit is 23! But they said don't panic, if it is still working fine just keep an eye on it. May get a few more. Go figure.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 11:56PM
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" but to wait until there's a problem"

This is the worst piece of advice I've heard in a long time.

What if the problem occurs when you're out to church and brunch on a Sunday? How about away for a long weekend ? Your week's vacation at the beach ?

How many gallons of water do you think will spill out into your basement, crawlspace, attic, or garage during that time till you return to put your eye back on it ???

That advice is just plain stupid, don't tempt fate bleeding a turnip dry. You're gonna pay the $1000 +/- to replace it anyway, so why risk THOUSANDS of dollars in property damage or an insurance claim , not to mention the grief over something you are going to do anyway ???

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 12:26AM
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xedos - maybe my experience is atypical but I've had 2 water heaters go over the years and in both cases I had a little bit of water leak onto my basement floor - not a massive flood. Neither of these water heaters were close to 20 years old so your advice may be correct - but in my case I wasn't looking to replace them until I had a problem.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 12:33AM
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I'm not a plumber so I've never heard of actual cases of water heaters flooding homes. I would be mortified to learn that I could've prevented a flood but didn't.

However, I would also be mortified to learn that my advice cost someone nearly $1,000 for unneeded maintenance. If a water heater could last 24 years but is replaced after 8 there would be 2 unneeded replacements. That's $2,000 down the drain for no reason. Add that up over all the other joys of homeownership & pretty soon your new home is the poor house. So yes, even if someone is eventually going to do it anyway, it does not make sense to replace it too early.


You should factor in the damage that an undetected leak could do. My water heater is in a basement with a drain. Even an all out flood would cost me little more than some clean up and inconvenience. But if the closet for your water heater is on an upper floor or near finished space, perhaps it makes sense to have someone that knows what they're doing examine it and assess the risk of a catastrophic leak.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 2:28PM
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I'm not talking about an 8 year old heater , I'm talking about one that is more than two decades old.

Also - your economics are off a bit. People with Quality water heaters don't need them replaced after 8 years.

Those with $499 installed coupon optional with a free duct cleaning models should seriously consider it though.

this is not something a broad, blanket statement will cover .

Splais , or anyone else in that position, needs to decide for themselves how much risk they are willing to take on. You can run the motor oil in your car for 10,000 miles easy. 25,000 if you put in a quality synthetic type. Would you do that ???

You can, though.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 8:48PM
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No, I change the oil after recommended mileage, though I don't see how that is a relevant metaphor to the above discussion.

The economic example I wrote above was to illustrate the broader point. If you want to criticize the # of years used in the example, then please substitute in your personal recommendation, so long as you understand the basic point. If you think water heaters should be replaced after 10, 12 or 15 years you would still lose money in the long run by replacing water heaters before their maximum economic life--_provided_ that the expected damage from a catastrophic failure is sufficiently small. (A water heater bursting and causing a deluge is beyond my limited experience with water heaters, though I acknowledge there is such a theoretical risk.)

The manufacturer, which has an interest in selling more water heaters, says its fine, but to keep an eye on it. If you have empirical information that catastrophic failures are frequent enough to disregard the manufacturer's advice, please share it.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 10:20PM
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If you go the route of wait and see, perhaps a water alarm connected to WiFi to email you if water is noted is a good idea. We had to do a huge basement do-over because of a WH failure.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 10:24PM
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Thanks NightOwlRN. Good info. What happened?

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 9:56AM
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Our water heater had a few corrosive areas to the base of the unit when we purchased a 12 year old home. The previous home owners never installed a water softener so by the time I did the damage was already visible to the irrigation lines and water heater. Our well water's ph was 5.?. I was awaiting the cost to replace the water heater when we found the water heater leaked a 300 sq foot area in the basement. THe plumber emptied the residual water from the unit on the rear lawn burning a huge swath.

SImple change the water heater asap.
Wait on this and be prepared for a major clean up hiking up those trousers. I had an unfinished basement so I was soaking up water off the cement floor. If your water heater area is finished change the unit asap.

The replacement bill was a little over a grand.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 11:19AM
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