Replace Your Old Water Heater – Problems Associated With Older Heaters

Replacement Hot Water Heater Is your old water heater giving you signs that it might be time to replace it?

In general, storage-style electric and gas water heaters last between 8-12 years. Before they near the end of their service life, they may work like a clock, without any issues.

However, at some point, you may start noticing problems that were not there before, and if its an old heater, it makes more sense to replace rather than repair it.

This guide will help you decide whether replacing your old hot water heater is the best option.

Signs that your hot water heater is nearing the end of its service life

Here are signs that your water heater may need to be replaced. On average you should expect to spend $700-2,500 on a new tank-style water heater (including installation).

1. Frequent problems that require repairs

Tank-style electric and gas water heaters can experience the following problems:

-Bad smell of the water
-Water leaks (if the tank itself is leaking, its a sure sign that it has corroded as a result of old age and needs to be replaced)
-No hot water
-Water is there, but its not hot enough/there are frequent temperature fluctuations

While each of these problems does not indicate on its own that its time to get a new heater (in fact most can be fixed), if you start experiencing issues frequently, its a very telling sign that the device is old and needs to be replaced. Moreover, if you find that your repair bills start to add up, it may be a smart financial decision to replace the heater, rather than continue dumping money into repairs.

2. Age of the water heater

If you know the age of your water heater, and its nearing the end of its service life, you may want to consider replacing it, BEFORE it starts giving you major trouble. It often happens that a heater works perfectly well, and just before due to expire, it gives a major leak, which is more like a flood. If this happens, you may encounter costly repairs from water damage, in addition to the cost of replacing the device itself.

3. Rusty color water coming out of faucet/shower

If there is rusty color water coming out, when you turn on hot water, it may be a sign that your heater has started to rust from the inside due to old age. To make sure that this is the case is to drain your hot water heater. If by the third bucket, the water is still coming out rusty, its most likely the heater’s problem. If the water starts to get clear, it means that the heater itself is functional, but the piping is rusty.

Loud Rumbling Noises

If you start to notice that your frequently hear strange rumbling noises from your heater, it is an indicator that due to old age, sediment has built up at the bottom of the tank. Over time, as a result of constant heating and reheating, this sediment hardens and when it comes in contact with the heating element, it makes the loud noise.

Having this hardened sediment in your heater will cause it to be a lot less efficient, because more gas or electricity will be needed to heat the water. Its possible to drain this sediment by performing regular maintenance, but if there comes a point when the sediment can no longer be drained, its time to replace the unit.

Keep in mind that if the water in location is hard, or poor quality, it will increase the rate at which the sediment builds up inside the tank, and will thus shorten its service life.

Corrosion and Rust

Due to the natural wear and tear process, the tank itself (most are made of steel) will start to corrode and rust. If you see rust on the walls of the tank itself, this process is irreversible and cannot be fixed. It will not be long, until the tank will start to leak. In this situation, its best not wait for the leaks to come and replace the old unit.

Lack of Regular Maintenance

A hot water heater’s life can be prolonged if regular maintenance is performed, such as yearly flushing. However, if you have not been doing this for many years, (or you bought a house and you have no idea whether the device has received appropriate maintenance), you can expect the heater to develop problems and fail even before its expected end of service life.

Heavy Usage

If you have a large/busy household that uses a lot of water, your hot water heater will experience a lot more wear and tear than a heater that services a 1-2 person household. Thus, when you are thinking about the age of your device and whether you should replace it, take into consideration the fact that due to excessive usage, it may start to fail/give you problems much earlier than you would expect from a heater that has not been used so much.

Bottom Line: if you decide that you don’t want to replace your old but still functional heater, its recommended to hire a pro to do an inspection and maintenance, just to make sure that you will not be slammed with a sudden problem, when you least expect it.

6 thoughts on “Replace Your Old Water Heater – Problems Associated With Older Heaters

  1. Marthedal Solar, Air & Heating

    Knowing the age of the existing heater will greatly help in determining whether to buy a new unit or not. But it’s also important to pay attention to common signs that may point to a systematic issue, especially when there are leaks, no matter how small it may be.

  2. Scott

    I appreciate that you suggest to have regular maintenance done in order to increase it’s lifespan. My wife and I just moved into our house a couple months ago. We have no clue how long it has been since the water heater was flushed. I’ll have to call in a plumber and have him do this for us.

    1. Water Heater Leo Post author

      Scott, it is very easy to flush the tank yourself. Just turn off the thermostat, attach long garden hose to the drain valve (on the bottom), run the hose outside your basement and open the drain valve.

      After a minute or two, close cold eater inlet valve.

      Let all water drain, close drain valve, open cold water, fill up the tank and repeat the drain process couple more times.

      No need to pay $150-300 to the plumber, for something you can do in 30 minutes.

      Good luck

  3. John Mahoney

    I agree that in order to have an effective water heating system you need to make sure your heating unit stays up to date. It makes sense that an older model would start loosing its touch over time and you would need to replace it. It is important to remember that maintaining your system properly can help ou save money and make sure you enjoy your investments for a long time.

  4. Baxter Abel

    I appreciate your tip to be aware of the age of your water heater so that you can know when the water heater is due for a replacement before there are any major issues or malfunctions. I also like what you said about the role of regular maintenance on the longevity of your water heater. I’ll be referring to your article the next time I take a look at my water heater to see if it’s time for a replacement yet.

  5. James Bergman

    I have noticed some rust in my water when I turn on a faucet. However, it normally only happens when I have been away for the weekend. This probably means that I don’t have to worry about my hot water heater yet, but it does make me a little concerned for it and my pipes. If either of them is rusting then I would like to replace them.


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