When Should You Replace Your Hot Water Heater?

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Quick question: When is the last time you got a new hot water heater?

If your answer is either “never” or “I don’t know,” it may be time for an upgrade. Doing so can mean big savings on energy and water bills.

Here are a few factors to help you determine whether to replace or repair your current water heater.

Determine Your Water Heater’s Age

A good rule of thumb is the 10-year rule. If you’ve lived in your current home for 10 years or more, and you’ve never replaced your water heater, it’s a great idea to consider doing so. 

That’s because newer models are up to 20% more efficient. When you consider the fact that heating water consumes about 18% of your household energy use, the savings can add up quickly.

  • Mineral deposits build up inside the tank over time. This causes the heater to operate less efficiently, and can eventually cause a leak. 
  • Newer tank water heaters feature improved insulation for better heat retention and glass liners to protect against corrosion. Both of these improvements reduce energy consumption. 
  • A new water heater may also come with other upgrades, such as improved venting systems, drainage and piping. 

But if you’re not sure how old your water heater is, how can you find out? Here’s a two-step process for looking up the year, and possibly the month or week, when your water heater was made: 

Step 1: Write down the manufacturer and serial number listed on your water heater. There are six major manufacturers: 

  • American Water Heater
  • A.O. Smith
  • Bradford White
  • Lochinvar
  • Rheem
  • State Industries

Step 2: Look up your manufacturer, brand and serial number style at the following link: https://www.waterheaterhub.com/water-heater-age-lookup/

Inspect Your Water Heater

If your water heater is less than 10 years old, it’s still a good idea to inspect for signs of trouble a few times per year. 

Contact a plumber for a closer look if you notice any of these issues.

  • Look for signs of rust. Check the piping where water enters and leaves the tank. If you notice a tell-tale reddish color indicating rust, have it checked out. 
  • Listen for strange noises. If you’re hearing things go bump in the night — or any other time of day — take a look at your water heater. Sediments build up inside your tank, and they harden over time. Sometimes this causes rumbling or banging noises as the metal heats up. And the noise is the least of your problems. Sediment build-up causes the heater to work less efficiently and increases the risk of a leak. 
  • Check for leaks. Look around the floor underneath the water heater. If you see moisture or a puddle, investigate to determine where it’s coming from. Once your water heater springs a leak, it cannot be repaired and you will need to buy a new one. 

Do You Need a New Water Heater – Or Just a Repair?

Even if you don’t see any obvious problems, your water heater may still have less extensive issues in need of repair.

  • Pilot light burning out on a gas heater
  • Tripped circuit breaker
  • Failure of the burner or heating element
  • Thermostat malfunction
  • Valve that becomes stuck

You can also extend the life of your water heater by flushing the tank once a year to remove sediment. 

If you need to buy a new water heater, or you’d like to have your current model check out, contact Elite Renovations and Design. Our plumbing experts will identify any problems, recommend whether to repair or replace, and help you choose the best model for your home.

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