How long should a water heater last?

diyourselferApril 9, 2008

I have a 50 gallon 40,000 BTU water heater that was manufactured in 1988 and installed in March of 1992 in my house. I bought the house 5 years ago and the sticker on the water heater lists the install date and no service calls since.

Am I pushing my luck? Should I just go ahead and replace it before it starts leaking or does it have a few more years. What is the normal life of one of these things?

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Gas or electric?

I installed a 30 gallon fast recovery gas water heater with a standing pilot 30 yrs ago, my son lives there now and its still operating.

This is a Sears/Kenmore model.

I also replaced a boiler at the same time and that needed new burners because it did not have a standing pilot. Burners were heavy cast iron and rusted in the damp basement.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 11:22AM
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"If it Ain't Broken Don't Fix It"
a). Exception; This rule does not apply to Water Heaters.

A Water Heaters life cycle is dependent on many variables like the quality of the original equipment, design, manufacturing, use, water quality, water pressure, thermostat setting and maintenance, Yes maintenance. Draining/flushing sediment on a regular basis and replacing anode rod are maintenance items which should not be overlooked and can greatly increase the lifespan of a tank style water heater.

Your water heater has seen 16 years of use and should be considered at the end of its life. It is always easier to schedule a replacement than do an emergency replacement. Measure the height of the tank (Floor to tank top including legs if there are any)and shop for one that height to make the install easier.

Take Care,

Dan Martyn

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 11:36AM
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It's a gas heater and I have never flushed it or replaced the anode rod. I guess it's time to start looking at replacement costs.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 2:05PM
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Tank-type water heaters frequently fail by leaking. That unannounced and frequently long-undiscovered event can really ruin your life.

Happened to me three times in the last forty years. The last was last summer with an 8-year-old professionally-installed unit. Leak was noticed within hours, luckily. Abatement and repair not including the water-heater replacement itself was over $5,000.00. If it had remained undiscovered for days instead of hours (I wasn't home. Neighbor noticed.) the damage could have been catastrophic.

Short version: replace it. And, when you do, put a pan with drain-line underneath it.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 2:06PM
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Why don't you just have yours maintenanced? It would be cheaper to have an expert take a look and tell you what the real life expectancy is for your particular heater, than to replace one if it doesn't need it yet.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 3:12PM
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It doesn't make sense to pay someone to do any maintenance on a water heater. You'll easily have over $100 in it for service for questionable results. That money could be put towards a new water heater. You can drain it yourself and maybe replace the anode rod. Then you are paying minimal money for service. The major question to ask regarding replacing a working water heater is how much damage will occur if it leaks. If none (garage) then maybe let it go.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2008 at 10:48AM
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I just had a leaking power vent gas water heater replaced after a month short of 10 years. It's a rental. I asked the tech if they should last longer than that and he said 6-10 years is normal in a hard water area like mine. They last longer where there's lake water. Clearly, it's a crap shoot to replace a water heater preemptively if it's located where a leak would cause extensive damage. Mine's in the laundry room on a concrete floor next to the sump pump, but a leak will eventually damage the drywall. It's probably a good idea to have it sitting in a galvanized pan with tubing leading to a floor drain.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 3:57PM
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An additional defense to galv. pan under the tank is to install a water alarm inside the pan. At the first sign of moisture, you would be notified and arrange for replacement. Also, Murphy's law - the pan drain or floor drain could be plugged over time.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2012 at 3:43PM
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According to the report in the Consumers Reports Magazine the average lifespan of a water heater is 12yrs.

Code requires that whenever a water heater is installed over a floor or flooring materials that can be damaged by water the water heater must have an approved pan with a 3/4" drain line terminated into an approved "indirect waste receptor".

The TPRV must also have a full bore line drain line which will drain by gravity flow to an approved indirect waste receptor. (The TPRV may not terminate into the pan).

The preferred method of installing a water heater is to place it near an outside wall on the ground floor and both the Pan drain & TPRV drain lines are extended through the outside wall and terminate on the ground outside in a conspicuous place. The end of the drain lines must point downwards and there can be no fittings or threads on the end of the line. (The drains may not be concealed behind shrubbery.)

Solid, liquid or gasseous fired water heaters may not be installed in a bathroom, bedroom or any room which opens directly into a bathroom or bedroom.

In a situation where a water heater is installed in a basement and the house main drain exits the structure above the basement floor where a gravity flow floor drain cannot be achieved we remove the TPRV valve. For electric water heaters the opening is plugged and for gas water heaters we install a WATT's 210 gas cutoff valve. A Pressure relief valve is then installed at any convenient location on the first floor and it is discharged through the wall outdoors.

When a water heater is installed in an attic space there is a long, long list of additional requirements

    Bookmark   November 26, 2012 at 4:48PM
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It's not necessarily the age of your water heater you should be concerned about but the declining efficiency. Replacing your water heater with a new one will help you decrease your energy or gas bill with new technology. Typically, water heaters should last between 10-15 years and as long as you perform regular maintenance on it, it should last a good amount of time. Some things that you can do to prolong your water heater is drain it annually to remove sediment that may corrode your tank, especially if your city uses hard water.

Here is a link that might be useful: Source

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 10:35AM
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