On average, water heaters last roughly 8 to 15 years. Depending on the brand and type, some last up to 25 years! Their lifespan varies greatly based on several factors including hot water heater brand, type of water heater, adherence to a routine maintenance schedule, temperature settings, and more.
Factors Influencing How Long Water Heaters Last
Hardness of Water
Hard water is attributed to calcium and magnesium dissolved into a water supply. While these minerals make water taste unpleasant, they are safe to drink and bathe in. However, hard water leads to mineral deposits in your water heater causing clogged pipes, burnout of the water heater bottom, or scale formation in tankless heaters.
For this reason, hard water is notorious for destroying plumbing systems, causing water heater functionality issues and decreasing the service life of your unit. Check out EcoPure’s study on hard water levels to see if your local area has a hard water problem.
Frequency of Use & Temperature Settings
It should go without saying but the more you use it, the faster you lose it. Water heaters last longer when temperatures are set to the minimum level bearable. If your shower is scalding and unbearable when turned to the hottest setting, you can extend your water heater’s life by lowering its temperature threshold.
Likewise, if you and your family take frequent and/or long showers or if your commercial plumbing system uses hot water for an extended period of time, you may see a decline in its lifespan. Use your hot water as needed but note that the more it’s used and the hotter it is, the earlier you may need a replacement.
Location of the Unit
Crawl spaces and garages are convenient and are common places for plumbers to install hot water heaters. However, these common locations force the heating element to work harder to regulate the water temperature compared to the outdoor temperature during colder months.
Forcing it to work harder by installing a heater in a garage or crawl space will decrease the life of your unit. When Kiddco Plumbing clients install a new water heater, we suggest opting for an indoor location like a utility closet or a basement to extend its lifespan. Nonetheless, some water heater brands and types tend to last longer than others.
Type of Water Heater & How Long They Last
Tankless (or On-Demand)
Tankless water heaters, both electric and gas, are more energy-efficient than traditional storage tank heaters. Additionally, these units last longer than other types of water heaters coming in at an average of 20 years.
Storage Tank Heaters
This is the most common type of water heater with units powered by both natural gas and electricity and models varying greatly. Nonetheless, storage water heaters last an average of 8 to 12 years.
Heat Pump (or Hybrid)
Heat pump water heaters capture hot air surrounding the unit and transfer it heat to the water inside. Using 60% less energy than a traditional unit, this type of water heater boasts an average lifespan of 13 to 15 years.
Solar-powered water heaters attach to the roof of a home or business to capture energy from the sun which heats water naturally and efficiently. These units can be expensive and typically last an average of 10 to 20 years.
Condensing Water Heaters
Like others, this type of water heater is extremely energy-efficient and up to 95% more effective at heating water than other types. However, they don’t tend to last quite as long with an average lifespan or 10 to 15 years.
Water Heater Brands & How Long They Last
Depending on model design and the manufacturing process, water heater life expectancy is variable. Additionally, the type of water heater along with the factors previously discussed all affect lifespan. Below you will find how long water heaters last based on popular brands.
Warranties on A.O. Smith water heaters last roughly 6 to 12 years meaning this brand may persevere up to 24 years with regular maintenance and checkups.
On average, GE gas heaters last an average of 8 to 12 years and electric heaters last anywhere from 10 to 15 years.
In our experience, the common cause for a Kenmore water heater replacement is due to a leak in the tank. However, this brand is known to last anywhere from 18 to 30 years with regular maintenance. On average, Kenmore brand heaters last 10 to 12 years.
Rheem water heaters typically last anywhere from 5 to 10 years but on a 5-year maintenance and cleaning schedule, they may last up to 15 years. Do you have a Rheem unit that hasn’t been serviced recently? Contact Kiddco Plumbing for an estimate.
Signs That it’s Time to Replace Your Unit
Those rumbling, rattling and gurgling sounds coming from your basement or utility closet aren’t a monster, it’s your water heater. If your unit is producing strange sounds, it may be time to schedule a licensed and insured plumber to inspect.
Funky Smells & Colors
Hot water that tastes metallic or has a reddish or yellow tint indicates that the inside of your unit is likely rusted. Likewise, when tanks are exposed to the air via a leak they are susceptible to bacteria. As a general rule, when hot water is discolored or smells unpleasant, it’s time to call a plumber.
Water pooling at the base of your unit is a clear sign that a water heater repair or replacement is imminent.
Limited Hot Water
Does your water get cold mid-shower? If so, you may need to reach out to a certified plumber to discuss your options. Oftentimes, limited hot water can be fixed with a repair and new water heater replacement parts. However, if the source of the problem is ignored, you may end up needing a replacement.
Water Heater Replacement Service Tips
When you spot the warning signs of a water heater nearing the end of its life, here are a few things you should know about getting a replacement unit.
- Explore options – With endless brands, models and types of units, finding the right water heater can be a chore. Consider your hot water usage needs, the location of the unit, and how your unit will be powered (electric, solar or natural gas). Need help making an informed decision? Kiddco Plumbing is happy to help!
- Lead times – Always consider how long it will take a water heater to arrive after placing an order. Calling the manufacturer is a great way to find out lead times but a qualified water heater plumber should be happy to do this for you.
- Size – Finding a properly sized water heater requires consideration of the residence or commercial building’s needs. Check out this article by the U.S. Department of Energy for more information on sizing your new water heater.
Water Heater Repairs in Sterling, Virginia
Our plumbers are licensed, insured and certified to handle all things water heaters. From routine maintenance to repairs, replacements and upgrades, our work speaks for itself. Check out our client testimonials and request a service appointment to receive a prompt response from our friendly neighborhood water heater plumbers.