39 year old Hoyt 1977, Replaced 2016
Water Heater Life Expectancy
By Sid Baysinger
Installing and repairing water heaters for almost 40 years has taught me much.
The average water heater life expectancy has diminished over the last 30-35 years.
Thirty years ago you could expect a new water heater to last at least twenty or more years, even without regular maintenance.
How long will your water heater last if you purchase one today?
Tank failure (leaking) is the only reason to trash a unit, everything else can be repaired.
A tank with a 6-year warranty (most common) should last an average of 12-years, 8-year warranty should last an average of 16-years and a 12-year warranty should last an average of 24-years
with proper preventive maintenance by flushing the tank once or twice a year and replace the
sacrificial anode rod every 4-5 years or as necessary.
You can purchase fiberglass or stainless steel tank type water heaters with life time warranties, however the cost is very high. Upgrading to a gas tankless is a much better choice if you have an existing tank type (traditional) gas water heater, plus you will save up to 40% on your gas bill and most tankless can last up to 25-30 years.
Why does a water heater tank fail?
Hard water mineral sediment collects at the bottom of the tank, this separation of caustic minerals is caused by hot water temperatures exceeding 120 degrees and greater, the minerals form layers at the bottom of the tank in the form of a jelly, after about 18 months or so, this jelly starts to solidify (harden), flushing your tank every 6-12 months will remove this jelly (dirty or acid water as known in the industry) before it's too late.
Under sized water heater for the size of home and or family members has also causes excessive overheating leading to premature tank failure.
High water pressure and/or heat expansion is also a distributing factor in premature tank failure.
These are the most common causes of tank failure, over a period of time the glass liner that was applied to the steel tank at the factory will begin to crack, very fine cracks all over start at first, just like an old china tea cup. Once this glass (china) liner is compromised the water comes in contact with the raw steel tank, at this point the tank begins to slowly rust, if the anode rod is spent (used up) eventually the tank will began to leak.
You cannot repair the water heater if the tank is leaking, the water heater must be replaced.
Can a 6-year warranty water heater be made to last longer?
Yes it can. Any model will last longer with proper maintenance, some cheaper models are sold without a sacrificial anode rod. An anode rod (aluminum-magnesium alloy) helps to keep your tank from rusting out. Electro magnetic current always present when water is heated, this magnetic current eats steel like a cancer, however it will attack the sacrificial anode rod first and not your steel water tank, buying longevity.
You can purchase an anode for about thirty dollars. You will want the type that screws into the hot water outlet of your water heater.
Most 6 year warranty water heaters are the same unit as a 12 year model just has a different label attached to it, some do have a second anode rod or other small features but, most are the same.
Follow a regular maintenance schedule (flush the tank every 6 to 12 months) keeping the tank as sediment free as possible.
Remember FLUSH your water heater tank under constant water pressure, do not DRAIN the tank, the idea is to stir the mineral settlement at the bottom of the tank and flush it completely out of the tank though the garden hose under pressure.
When water is heated, it will expand an average of 6% at temperatures of 125 degrees and greater. Hot water can put enormous pressure on the tank and repeated expansion over time will eventually
cause a tank to fail.
To counter this, install an expansion tank above the water heater, this is now required in most areas of Sacramento County.
If you follow these guidelines, you could add many more years of your water heater's life expectancy.
56 year old RUUD 1959, Replaced 2015