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Is Your Water Heater a Time Bomb?

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If your water heater is nearing the end of its lifespan, it might be a time bomb. Traditional, tank-style water heaters typically last 10 to 15 years, though we are seeing a trend toward even shorter lifespans. We have compiled a few questions to help you diagnosis the condition of your water heater and the likelihood that it will fail soon.

1) How Old is Your Water Heater?

Though conventional wisdom says traditional tank-style water heaters last 10 to 15 years, we are seeing a trend toward lifespans as short as 6 to 10 years. If your water heater is approaching ten years old, you should keep a close eye on it and begin the process of considering replacing your unit.

The regularity with which maintenance was performed will affect the lifespan of your unit. With regular and proper maintenance, your unit is more likely to last 10 years or more. Tankless water heaters will work effectively for as long as 25 years with regular and proper maintenance.

2) Is Your Water Heater in Your Attic?

If your tank-style water heater is in your attic, you should consider moving it to the first floor or basement regardless of its age and condition. If your water heater experiences catastrophic failure while in your attic, you are likely facing major and extensive water damage repairs.

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Even if your water heater develops a simple, slow leak, water may seep into your walls, flooring, and in some cases all the way into your basement or crawlspace. With this kind of slow developing water damage, mold is likely to develop and require extensive remediation. Our earnest advice is to have your water heater removed from your attic as soon as possible.

3) What Do You See Around Your Unit?

If your water heater is aging, look around your unit for signs of:

  • Leaks around water lines and fittings
  • Condensation on or around unit
  • Rust and corrosion
  • Rusty or discolored water

Any of these signs are indicative of a water heater that may be a ticking time bomb until it is repaired or replaced.

4) Has Your System Been Properly Maintained?

Irregular and improper maintenance will shorten the lifespan of your unit. Read more about water heater maintenance here. Required maintenance includes:

  • Flushing the system every six months
  • Checking the sacrificial anode rod
  • Testing the pressure release valve
  • Setting temperature at 120 F

To find out more about water heater maintenance, or what to do if you are not sure if your unit has been properly maintained, contact us.

5) How is Your Water Heater Performing?

Are you running out of hot water sooner than usual? Is your unit making strange noises? Is your water discolored? These could be signs your water heater is nearing the end of its lifespan. Contact a professional, licensed plumber if you are experienced inconsistent performance from your water heater.

6) Is Your Home’s Efficiency Suffering?


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Have you noticed increases in your water or electricity bills? Lower energy efficiency may indicate issues with your plumbing system or your water heater, especially if you know it is nearing the end of its lifespan. If it is time to replace your water heater, consider upgrading to a high efficiency tankless or hybrid heat pump system. To find out more about the differences between traditional, tankless, and hybrid units, check out our Water Heater Decision Guide:

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If you suspect your water heater is a ticking time bomb, or you want to find out more about water heater maintenance, contact us.